Editor’s note: This is the first article in a three-part series on the impacts of management factors on swine feeding success.
By Lynnea Courtney
Poor management and environmental conditions can have a large impact on pig performance. Many performance-limiting factors are avoidable, but they are often overlooked. Proper management of feed, water, and the environment can help achieve optimal swine health and productivity.
Poor feed intake or insufficient feed provisions to each animal can result in poor performance and leave pigs vulnerable to health challenges.
Dr. Leah Gesing, Vita Plus swine technical sales and support specialist, said it is critical to have the appropriate feeder size and number of pigs per feeder for nursery and finishing pigs. Providing feeders with a sufficient number of appropriately sized feeder holes ensures all pigs have a chance to eat comfortably and minimizes competition at the feeder. Research suggests feeders should be adjusted to allow 30- to 60-percent pan coverage to maximize feed intake, minimize feed wastage, and limit the number of out-of-feed events. This will vary depending on the size of the pig. For smaller pigs, a larger pan coverage is suggested, and for larger pigs, a lower pan coverage is suggested.
Inspecting and clearing feeders of any inedible material, such as feces or caked feed, helps optimize feed intake and decrease disease challenges. Feed should also be fed at a rate to prevent spoilage and adjusted depending on the season. For example, spoilage is higher during the summer months due to heat and humidity. Increasing the feeding frequency, while staying vigilant on feeder adjustments, may increase feed intake because fresh feed will be more available.
Feeding frequency continues to be emphasized in all phases of swine production. For instance, group-housed sows may see a decrease in pen aggression when feeding frequency is increased. More frequently fed sows will consume smaller amounts of feed at one time, which means less body heat is generated and dissipated, resulting in a lower overall energy expenditure.
Increasing the feeding frequency also reduces the incidence and duration of out-of-feed events. Research suggests frequent and multiple out-of-feed events have a larger negative impact on younger pigs versus older pigs. Although some studies show pigs can undergo some compensatory growth following an out-of-feed event, it is never a good idea to expose pigs to numerous out-of-feed events as it can lead to serious health issues, including ulcers and hemorrhagic bowel syndrome.
Neglecting proper feed management in any production phase can be costly. Paying closer attention to proper feed provisions can easily rectify the situation and improve pig health and performance. Contact your Vita Plus consultant to discuss your goals and ideas to improve your sow and pig performance.
About the author: Lynnea Courtney is the Vita Plus swine formulations and support specialist. Courtney grew up on a small farm in eastern Iowa raising beef cattle and hogs. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science and agribusiness in 2003. She has been with Vita Plus since 2004.