With the high cost of feed, pork producers are searching for any feed efficiency advantage they can find to reduce costs as well as save feed. Many are taking a closer look at feed pelleting as a cost effective alternative to conventional meal.

“We are seeing a renewed interest in pelleting, especially in late-nursery pigs ranging in body weight from 30 to 80 pounds. ” says Ernie Hansen, Hubbard Feeds swine group leader, “We have conducted a number of trials over the past five years and our research has consistently shown feed pelleting provides a 5 percent improvement in feed conversion.” According to Hansen, the improvement in feed efficiency translates to an additional $.50 to $1.00 per pig return over feed costs (ROF) after accounting for the additional cost to pellet feeds.

Pelleting is one of the easiest ways to improve feed efficiency, according to Bob Thaler, Extension swine specialist, South Dakota State University.  Thaler cites a 5 percent to 8 percent improvement in feed efficiency and 3 percent to 5 percent improvement in average daily gain with pelleting. “It’s a smart thing to do if there are pellet mills close enough to work with,” he says. “With a pelleting fee of $10 per ton, all you need is a 3.2 percent improvement in feed efficiency to pay for it.”

Pelleting feed increases nutrient digestibility and availability which improves daily gain and feed efficiency, according to Hansen. However, quality plays a crucial role. Poor quality pellets can partially or completely disintegrate into powder, or fines, which can quickly erase the advantages that are possible. “Poor quality pellets don’t improve performance so make sure you’re getting a good quality pellet,” Thaler says.

A study conducted by Hubbard Feeds showed that nearly all the economic advantage of a pelleted diet is lost if fines exceed 25 percent. “A high quality pelleted diet produced an additional $1.06 per pig, compared to the identical diet in meal form,” Hansen says. “However, a pelleted diet that contained 25 percent to 50 percent fines in the complete feed did not produce a significant return to pelleting.”

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