Achieving better feed efficiency can be a challenging objective and may require a review of the full scope of your operation, beginning with the basics of barn management and feeding practices. The time period between groups of pigs offers a prime opportunity for you or your barn employees for cleaning and making needed repairs. The effort can pay off in improved feed efficiency of the incoming group of pigs.

By reviewing the following routine tasks with your staff, you can get a jump start on reducing feed wastage and improving feed efficiency.

“Clean out the feed bins to ensure getting newly-arriving pigs started on the appropriate diet,” says Mike Tokach, professor and Extension swine nutritionist, Kansas State University. “Often, this is the only chance you will have to clean the bins to remove spoiled, stale or moldy feed.” The comments were made at the International Conference on Feed Efficiency in Swine held recently in Omaha, Neb.

“Thoroughly clean the facility,” Tokach says. "It can make a difference in reducing the presence of pathogens which can end up reducing feed efficiency.”

Tokach recommends checking and repairing feed handling equipment as well as heating and ventilation equipment before bringing in new pigs. Items that may require maintenance or repair include leaking bins, broken feed lines, fan covers or louvers, heaters, sprinklers, waterers or curtains.

Tokach points out that in a 1,200-head barn, over 800,000 pounds of feed can be used per turn. “On an annual basis, that’s about $12,000 of feed going through each feeder in a barn, or about $290,000 for a barn’s total. “Checking, repairing and adjusting feeders can help reduce feed loss which is getting increasingly important with high feed costs,” Tokach says.

When filling the barn, do not sort into tight weight categories. “Data consistently shows that when pigs are sorted into weight categories, the average growth rate of those pigs is lower than the growth rate of unsorted pigs,” Tokach says.

Some feeders are likely to waste feed when pigs are placed on only one side of the feeder. “Some feeders don’t work well with partially filled pens and extra wastage may occur,” Tokach notes.

Following feed budgets closely provides assurance that proper amino acid and energy levels are used at all times. “Managing DDGS withdrawal can also have a tremendous impact on feed efficiency when calculated on a carcass basis,” Tokach says.

Kansas State University offers an online feed budget calculator.