Feed particle size influences the pig’s ability to effectively utilize feed nutrients. New research shows that particle size reductions beyond current common practice may help lower feed costs.

“Producers have been grinding to an average particle size between 650 and 700 microns,” says Hans Stein, University of Illinois Extension swine specialist. “This particle size was based on research showing that if grain is ground to a smaller particle size, then ulcers in pigs may increase.”

However, Stein notes that research also shows that energy and nutrient digestibility will increase if particle size is reduced to smaller than 650 microns. Because of this increase in nutrient and energy digestibility, less feed is needed to produce 1ne pound of gain if grain particle size is reduced. He points to newer research that shows feed conversion may improve by 3 percent to 5 percent if corn particle size is reduced from 650 to 450 microns. This could lead to substantial savings, he adds. Because of this, many producers are now grinding to an average particle size of 450 to 500 microns.

Ulcer problems don’t seem to be as much of an issue now, Stein notes. He believes this is because diets contain more fiber than they used to due to distillers’ dried grains with solubles. Including more dietary fiber such as DDGS or wheat middlings reduces the risk of pigs getting ulcers.

He does note that there are producers who don’t use DDGS and have reduced the particle size of the grain without experiencing ulcer problems.

“With the increasing costs of feed ingredients, it’s necessary to look at all opportunities to reduce feed costs — and reducing grain particle size is an easy way to start saving,” Stein says.