Even with record-high feed costs, make sure you keep the feed flowing, say industry experts. Out-of-feed events only compound the problem of high-priced feed by reducing pig performance and slowing time to market.

Keeping pigs consuming feed without interruption is key in keeping them healthy and on schedule. However, in an effort to reduce feed costs and improve feed efficiency you may be grinding feed to smaller particle size which in turn may be increasing the risk of feed bridging in bins or feeders, causing out-of-feed events.

“Everyone is pushing their micron size down to the minimum to improve feed conversion,” says Bob Baarsch, president, HerdStar. “Our observations suggest that the most common cause of bridging feed is a result of putting new feed on old feed.  Feed bin management with an emphasis on getting bins empty before the next delivery is paramount.”

Producers and barn crews need to manage their feed bin inventories and time delivery schedules appropriately.  “Too early and you may dump new feed on old feed and also unnecessarily reduce feed freshness causing bridging,” Baarsch says. “Too late and then you simply have no feed.” 

According to Baarsch, ordering feed too early and not managing tandem bins is a much bigger problem than many producers realize. “Just drive up to your finishers and if both bins of a tandem set of bins have slides open, you have problems, unless there is less than one day’s feed inventory in one of the bins.”  

HerdStar research shows 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent death loss for every 24 hour-plus out-of-feed event a group experiences. “We cannot afford out-of-feed events that cost us death loss,” Baarsch says. “With high feed costs, getting each pig to market increases in importance.”

“Out-of-feed events can have devastating consequences on pigs,” says Mike Brumm, Brumm Swine Consultancy, Mankato, Minn. He adds that producers should pay close attention to bin and feeder cleaning and maintenance to help prevent feed bridging. Finally, pay close attention to maintenance of feed delivery components such as motors, and keep spare parts on hand.

Keep feed fresh and delivery lines and feeders in good repair. “Moldy feed is bad for the health of the pigs and can lead to bridging as well as feed wastage as pigs root more of it out of the feed cups,” Baarsch says.