Feeding and Growth Performance
A systematic approach to feeding and management of pigs will set the stage for realising the genetic potential of the fast-growing DanBred piglets. Additionally, this will lead to production with high growth rates, optimal feed conversion and excellent meat quality. This will make a positive difference in total economic profit.
The below benchmarks have been achieved in production setups based in a temperate zone. With the correct systematic approach, the production results are fully achievable in other climate zones too.
|Benchmark||Top 25 % herds
(Wean – 30 kg)
|Average for Weaners
(Wean – 30 kg)
|Top 25 % herds
(30 kg – slaughter)
(30 kg – slaughter)
|Weigh out, kg||31.6||31.0||115.9||114.8|
|Average daily gain, g/day||506||463||1,103||1,039|
|FCR, kg feed/kg growth**||1.66||1.79||2.51||2.66|
|Feed per day, kg||0.84||0.83||2.77||2.76|
|Feed per animal, kg||41.9||43.7||212.3||222.1|
|Lean meat, %||–||–||62.5||62.4|
|** Based on a feed energy level of 1.05 Danish feed units/kg feed.
***Including pigs that were for any reason discarded at the abattoir.
* The table shows Key Performance Indicators from Denmark in 2022. Source: SEGES Innovation – Danish Pig Research Centre, Efficiency report 2022
Feeding essentials from wean to finish
Achieving the ultimate performance on-farm includes careful attention to the feeding levels as well as feed composition.
Using DanBred’s nutritional requirements and guiding energy levels for finishers will set a prime starting point on the road to releasing the genetic potential.
The table below shows the recommended content of energy and selected nutrients per kg feed in different weight stages. SID refers to the Standardized Ileal Digestible content.
|Energy, per kg feed||20-45 kg||30-45 kg||30-60 kg||30-75 kg||45-75 kg||60-115 kg||75-115 kg|
|MJ ME/kg feed||13.8||13.6||13.5||13.2||13.2||13.1||13.1|
|MJ NE/kg feed||9.8||9.7||9.6||9.4||9.4||9.3||9.3|
|Danish Feed Units, FU/kg feed||1.10||1.09||1.08||1.06||1.06||1.05||1.05|
|Basic nutrients, digestible per kg|
|Protein. SID min g/kg||145.2||140.6||138.2||136||131||121||117|
|Lysine. SID g/kg||10.7||10.0||9.6||8.9||8.5||7.8||7.5|
|Digestible phosphorus. g/kg||3.0||2.8||2.7||2.5||2.4||2.2||2.1|
|Calcium without phytase. g/kg||8.6||8.3||8.0||7.6||7.4||7.0||6.9|
The recommended standards for amino acids, protein and macro minerals within the different weight ranges of finishers depend on feed utilisation throughout the growth period from 30-115 kg.
Mineral and vitamin supply should be adequate to ensure general optimised growth and health. Soluble, as well as insoluble fibres, should be added to maintain gut health.
Different feeding systems: pros and cons
Feeding systems for swine involve both feed type and form, as well as how it is supplied to the pigs. In some parts of the world, feed is delivered in dry form, where the cereal grain has been ground and mixed with other dry ingredients to form a complete feed. In other areas of the world feed via a liquid feed system is the popular choice. Every system and feed form and feeder type must be managed differently and has its pros and cons.
Pellet VS mash
Heat-treated and pelleted feed supplied through dry feed dispensers without water supply in several tests was shown to give statistically better feed utilisation compared to mash feed. The best feed utilisation was obtained with finely ground feed that was heat-treated and pelleted. It is important to always be aware of especially gut health when choosing the coarseness of the grinding. The balance between grinding and optimal gut health will differ from one herd to another but our general recommendation for grinding can be found here.
Liquid feeding VS Dry feeding
Restrictive liquid feeding provides good opportunities for regulating feed intake compared to ad libitum dry feeding systems. Liquid feeding requires enough feeding places for all pigs. Find the feed space requirements for each animal group here.
When using tube feeding dispensers, single animal feeding automates with water or liquid feeding in short troughs, and feed intake will often be high this can though have an undesirable effect on feed utilization. Feed utilisation can be improved by making some restrictions on feed intake in systems designed for ad libitum feeding, this should though be approached with caution as a negative side effect can be behavioural problems among the pigs if the feeding dispenser is empty or the breaks between feedings are too long.
|Dry ad libitum feed|
|Simple, with no big demands concerning feeding management.||Ad libitum feeding can increase the feed conversion rate.|
|Supply the possibility of good feed hygiene.||Animals are inactive making daily supervision harder|
|Smaller Investment||Dust from the feeders can reduce air quality.|
|Good gastrointestinal health, when managed correctly.||Complex feeding principle.|
|Easy supervision as all animals are active around feeding time.||Risk of fluctuating feed quality.|
|The possibility of restrictive feeding from 70-80 kg increases feeds utilisation and lean meat percentage.||A bigger investment in equipment and higher space requirements.|
Phase feeding will follow the nutritional need of the pigs as they grow. Using one type of feed, will often under-supply specific nutrients at the beginning of the growth period. By changing the feed as the pigs grow the nutritional needs can be optimised accurately to support each growth stage. The content of nutrients per energy unit can be decreased slowly as the pigs grow. Thus, the average nutrient concentration is optimised which decreases the feed costs.
|Phase feeding: Pros and cons|
|Lower feed price due to optimal use of raw materials, amino acids and minerals.||Requires management skills in making the mixes and knowing when to change from one to another.|
|Increased possibility to feed for optimal gut health among the younger pigs.||Risk of inadequate nutrient supply due to mixing mistakes or quality of raw materials.|
|Optimising feed conversion and meat percentage among older pigs.||Smaller pigs can be prone to under-supply of amino acids according to competition in the pens.|
|Environmental advantage due to a slight decrease of N and P content in the manure||Higher one-time investments for the feed mills.|
To ensure a high feed intake it is important to ensure high feed quality, this includes factors such as taste, structure and freshness of the feed. Good production results can be attained with a feed of a very simple composition, however, the health of the pigs and especially weaners should always be of the highest consideration, why feed entirely based on grain and soybean meal is not recommended for pigs between 7 and 30 kg.
Usage Rate of Feed Ingredients
Diet formulation involves an accurate knowledge of the energy level and nutrient composition of feed ingredients. In addition, it is important to realize that some feed ingredients contain elements that, if fed in excess, can decrease growth and can impact carcass composition and quality.
The below table shows the advised maximum percentage of selected feed ingredients. An extended list can be found here.
|Raw material||Weaners from 3 weeks||Weaners from 5 weeks||Finishers below 40 kg||Finishers above 40 kg|
|Soy protein concentrate (SPC)||15||15||10||10|
|Rapeseed cake and meal||5||5||10||15|
|Palm kernel cake/expeller||0||0||10||10|
|Corn, gluten meal||0||10||10||30|
Grinding is the most common method of feed processing and nearly all feed ingredients will be subjected to some type of particle size reduction before being fed to the pigs. When reducing particle size, the surface increases, which increases the access for the digestive enzymes, hence improving feed efficiency and daily gain. However, fine grinding can have negative consequences for gastric health so the balance is to set a grinding that will improved feed conversion without compromising animal health.
|Below 1 mm (measured in volume)||1-2 mm|
|Distribution (wheat, rye and barley only)||60% – 75%||25 – 40%|
These recommendations are based on trials within DanBred herds. Plan how to follow the development of feed efficiency, daily gain and gastric health in the herd. An easy evaluation can be done by regularly having the abattoir do post-mortem examinations of some stomachs. If findings suggest an issue make sure to adjust the coarseness of the grinding accordingly.
Feeding and the influence on health
Any transition throughout a pig’s life can influence production and health. When pigs transition from a piglet diet to a slaughter pig diet it is often connected with a simultaneous physical transferral from a weaner unit to a slaughter pig unit. This can entail a mild stress reaction in the pigs, as the intestinal flora needs to adjust and stabilise to the new feed and environment. If a disease is latent among the pigs, the transition may influence the progress, why any stress factor should always be at an absolute minimum.
Diarrhoea is a health issue that may occur during the transition. When transitioning to a high protein slaughter pig diet the amounts of non-digested protein entering the hindgut of the pigs increases. As nitrogen from the undigested feed protein will be fermented in the hindgut it may create an environment in which pathogenic bacteria can proliferate, which may lead to diarrhoea and reduced intestinal health
Several solutions are available to withstand or reduce the issue:
- Reduce the content of crude protein feed.
- Reducing crude protein can reduce the risk of diarrhoea and may have beneficial effects on intestinal health by improving intestinal morphology.
- Add 0.5-1.0 per cent organic acids
- Adding formic acid, lactic acid or a dry product of organic acids can reduce the negative effect of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. Always ensure that the use of organic acids follows local legislation and is carried out according to the directions for use given by the manufacturer.
- Ensure a composition of raw materials which does not compromise gut health.
- Follow the advised maximum content of feed ingredients and optimise the feeding according to the pig’s growth stage.
Pigs can become infected and act as reservoirs of Salmonella. The risk of salmonella can increase in case of malfunctioning in the slurry system and/or if the internal biosecurity is not optimised.
The following solutions can help decrease or remove the risk of salmonella:
- Good biosecurity and external protection of the herd.
- Adding some organic acid to the feed thereby lowers the pH value.
- Always ensure that the use of organic acids follows local legislation and is carried out according to the directions for use given by the manufacturer.
The on-farm feeding strategy can affect the gut health of pigs either positively or in an undesirable way. Ensuring growth without compromising gut health is important for productivity and the overall economy.
The feeding strategy, feed composition, grinding degree and grinding approach all affect gut health, and the effect of each element is different from one herd to another, why it is important to follow and adjust according to the production results and general health status in the herd.