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Saturday, 10 January 2009 13:36

Feeding pigs

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General
  • It’s tempting to think that you can make money from pigs by feeding them kitchen scraps and garbage. Pigs will love this diet, but they won’t grow and reproduce as well as when fed correctly balanced diets.
  • High performance pigs have very specific nutritional needs (for energy, protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals). Consequently these commercially prepared diets are expensive and make up over 80% of the costs of producing a pig.
  • Profit in commercial pig operations is driven by Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE). This is how many kg of feed it takes to produce a kg of pig meat.
  • With weaner pigs of high genetic merit housed in optimal conditions, you can now get a FCE of 2:1. This shows how far technology - genetics and nutrition has come in recent times. But don’t expect anything like this with pigs kept on small blocks or running outside on pasture - a system the pigs would probably prefer despite the lower performance.
  • Exotic diseases like Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) have now made the feeding of garbage a very high-risk business. There are large quantities of bakery waste that are low risk, but any waste that has animal contents is risky.
  • Feeding household food scraps that contain meat or have been in contact with meat is against the regulations unless the waste has been boiled for an hour, and it's best to avoid food waste from other sources altogether if you don't know exactly what's in it.
  • Food waste is a very variable feed and can include such hazards as broken glass, tooth picks, cutlery and excess ingredients of all sorts.
Creep feeding suckling piglets to weaning
  • Piglets should be offered special creep feed, ad lib, from a few days after birth. This will encourage them to eat dry feed to help them to grow, and take pressure off the sow’s milk supply so she doesn’t get too thin before her next pregnancy.
  • The most important qualities of a creep feed are palatability and digestibility. It must be attractive to get the piglets eating.
  • Creep feeds are made in pellets or crumbs to be more attractive. They must be rich in energy and protein to supplement the sow’s milk.
  • Piglets will eat about 0.45 - 0.68kg/head/day, and a total of 1.8-2.26kg/pig with 5-6 week weaning.
  • Piglets should not be weaned under 5.5kg weight or 4 weeks of age.
Fostering
  • Where sows farrow in batches, you can adjust litter size by moving piglets from one litter to another.
  • Rub any added piglets with the sow’s afterbirth to make them more acceptable.
Rearing orphans
  • Make sure any orphans get colostrum from their own mother or another sow.
  • Offer the piglets starter meal from 3 days of age.
  • By a week old they should be taking early weaning starter feed.
  • After a week, feed them starter meal ad lib.
  • When feeding orphan piglets check with your vet clinic for the latest recommendations.
  • Orphan piglets need to be kept warm, (27-32C), in a draught-free and clean area. Keep all feeding equipment clean to avoid infections.
Lactating sows
  • Sows normally produce 6-8 litres of milk/day with an average litter of 8 piglets.
  • Milk yield peaks at 10-12 litres/day in the third week of lactation.
  • Milk production also rises with the sow’s age, up to 5-6 litters if she lasts that long.
  • Feed sows as much as they can eat when feeding their litter, because it they get too skinny it will adversely affect the next lactation.
  • An old rule of thumb was to feed the sow 2kg/head for herself and 450g/piglet to a maximum of 6kg/day, as she won’t be able to eat any more.
  • Generally milking sows will eat about 4.5-5.4kg/day of balanced lactation ration with 5-6 week weaning, and 2.7-3.6kg/day with 3 week or earlier weaning.
  • To get them to eat these large amounts, feed them twice daily. Tempt a sow with her favourite tidbits now and again.
  • Lactating sows must have access to clean water at all times.
  • Feed troughs must be kept clean to help prevent feed going sour.
Dry sows and gilts
  • The aim is to build the sow up during pregnancy, but not let her get too fat.
  • Pregnant gilts must never be allowed to get too fat.
  • Controlled rather than ad lib feeding is best, based on the sow's condition.
  • Feed intakes of dry sows range from 1.8 - 2.3kg/day of balanced ration.
  • Breeding boars
  • Daily feed intake should be around 2.3 - 3.1 kg/day of a balanced diet.
  • Mature animals with a high work schedule will eat at the top end of this range.
  • Again avoid obesity and provide exercise opportunities.