With pork production margins coming under increased pressure by high feed prices, producers are searching for ways to improve pigs’ feed efficiency. By considering feed processing strategies such as feed particle size or feed pelleting, improvements are possible that can accomplish that important objective.

Feed processing is an important on-farm management strategy to lower costs and improve feed efficiency. “Pork producers can achieve improved feed efficiency of pigs by decreasing feed particle size in swine diets,” says Bob Goodband, Kansas State University Extension swine nutritionist. “With every 100 micron reduction in feed particle size, we see a 1.2 percent improvement in feed efficiency."

Particle size reduction increases the surface area of the feed particle and allows for greater interaction with digestive enzymes which improves feed efficiency.

For many years producers have been grinding to an average particle size of 700 microns. This particle size was based on research showing that if grain is ground to a smaller particle size, then problems with ulcers in pigs may increase.

Newer research indicates that feed conversion may be improved by two to three percent if corn particle size is reduced from 700 to 500 microns. This could lead to substantial savings. Because of this, many producers are now grinding to an average particle size of approximately 500 microns.

“Our recommendation is to grind feed as finely as your equipment can manage while making sure the feed can still flow through bins and feeders,” Goodband says.

Problems with ulcers do not seem to be as much of an issue now. This is due to diets containing more fiber because of the inclusion of distillers’ dried grains with solubles. Inclusion of more fiber such as DDGS or wheat middlings in diets reduces the risk of pigs getting ulcers.

Pelleting feed is another strategy that can pay off in better feed efficiency. “Pigs fed pelleted diets grow about four percent faster in average daily gain and have about four percent improvement in feed efficiency, Goodband says.

Increasing the quality of pellets will further improve feed efficiency. Strive for high-quality, durable pellets that are free of excessive particles and dust, commonly referred to as fines. According to researchers at Kansas State, pigs provided higher-quality pellets via dry feeders had increased growth performance compared with pigs fed meal diets. If pellet quality was poor, feed efficiency benefits associated with pelleting were lost.

It is important that the pelleted feed remains in pellet form, and does not disintegrate into fines.