Since feed costs represent the largest portion of hog production costs, it also represents the greatest opportunity to reduce costs — especially in the grow/finish barn. Feed efficiency can have the single biggest impact on feed cost per pig. With feed prices moving to higher levels, there has been a greater push toward managing feed efficiency within operations.
Of course, several factors play a role when examining feed efficiency, according to Ken Engele, information services manager at Prairie Swine Center.
Engele offers this list of factors:
- Feed-particle size: The industry standard for feed-particle size is 600 to 800 microns. However, for every 100-micron reduction in particle size, a 1.2 percent improvement in feed efficiency can be gained.
- Feeders: Ensure feeders are checked daily and adjusted for 40 percent pan coverage in order to maximize performance and minimize feed waste.
- Dietary energy level: Use of alternative feed ingredients typically provides a lower energy density within the diet, thereby increasing the amount of feed required. Pigs will typically compensate for lower energy diets by increasing intake, subsequently having a significant impact on feed efficiency. Poorer feed efficiency may be offset by cheaper diet cost. It’s important to monitor this relationship.
- Environmental temperature: Ensure pigs are kept within their thermal-comfort zone. Cold temperatures increase feed intake while hot temperatures reduce it.
- Disease challenge: Healthy pigs grow faster. Pigs are able to utilize nutrients for growth rather than to fight disease. Disease challenges also can increase mortality in the finishing phase and can significantly impact whole-herd efficiency.
- Breeding herd productivity: On average, a sow will consume approximately 1 ton of feed per year. The greater the number of pigs produced per sow will improve whole-herd feed efficiency.
- Market weight: Feed efficiency worsens as pigs get heavier. Ensure that pigs are marketed at their optimal weight to minimize feed cost and maximize profit potential.