Without correct feeding, a farmer won’t be able to run a profitable pig production business.
To raise healthy pigs, farmers must ensure that their animals receive a nutritious, well-balanced diet at every stage of production.
- Nutrition is a fairly specialised branch of pig production.
- Farmers are encouraged farmers to enlist the help of nutritionists to determine suitable rations for their herds.
Rations usually contain an energy source such as maize, wheat or sorghum; protein; vitamins and minerals; and fibre.
- Feed should be formulated based on a pig’s stage of production, energy and protein requirements.
- Certain raw materials should not be used in excess.
- For example, if there’s too much sunflower oil cake, the fibre content will be too high.
- Keep a close eye on the feed conversion ratio (FCR) of your pigs.
- FCR means the quantity of feed a pig needs for every kilogramme of carcass mass it produces and that the farmer ultimately sells.
- Farmers know the average daily growth (ADG) of pigs.
- Knowing these things will tell you what your profit margins will be.
A breeding herd needs a proper diet for good reproductive performance.
- A breeding herd requires different rations during pregnancy and lactation.
- Pregnancy rations should contain lower energy ingredients with a relatively high fibre content.
- Calcium, phosphorus and minerals should also be included in the diet.
- Lactation rations are fed to sows after they’ve delivered their litters and should be designed to meet the needs of milk production.
- This diet should have a high content of calcium, phosphorous and protein, and lesser quantities of fibre.
NEWLY WEANED PIGS
- Balanced nutrition for newly weaned pigs is crucial, particularly for enzyme production and acid control.
- This phase in the production cycle lasts four to 10 weeks.
- This is one of the most important phases in the production cycle, from a nutritional point of view.
- The ration needs a high milk or whey powder content, as the pigs will still be accustomed to receiving the milk they had as piglets.
- Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained and is a by-product in the manufacture of cheese.
- This formulation will help their digestive systems with enzyme production.
- As the piglets get older, their enzyme system will change so that they can better digest carbohydrates and starches.
- If the diet doesn’t match the abilities of the pig’s digestive system, it won’t perform properly. And undigested food in a pig’s stomach can lead to disease.
- Pigs in this phase of production should receive a different ration every 2 to 3 weeks.
- This is necessary to cater for the growing pig’s changing energy and protein needs.
- If you feed only one type of ration, you’ll either under- or over-provide essential nutrients.
- Grower-finisher rations are designed to optimise the growth and carcass quality of pigs.
HOME-MIX OR PRE-MIX?
- On-farm mixing can be more cost-effective, as farmers don’t have to pay additional milling and mixing costs.
- But it must be done accurately for the pigs to get maximum benefit from the feed.
- If your feed requirement is 100 tons or more a month, it would be viable to put up your own mixing plant.
- The texture of the feed is also important and has a great influence on pig performance.
- Feed should not be too finely ground, otherwise it will cake, and if it is too chunky it will be difficult to digest.
- A good rule of thumb is 700 microns to 800 microns – this is roughly the size of a pinhead.
- If the budget allows, farmers could also consider buying pelleted food from feed mills.
- This will reduce dust in the sties (which can cause respiratory irritation in pigs).
- It will also reduce wastage and improve feed efficiency.
- Install the correct type of feed dispensers and you’ll avoid wasting feed.
- Farmers should use single-space feeders, instead of multi-feeders.
- This will ensure that only one pig eats at a time.
- Multi-space feeders could effectively cause you to lose about 20% of your feed through wastage.
- Although single-space feeders may cost more, you’ll waste less feed.
FEEDING DO’S AND DON’TS
- Farmers should not to feed pigs kitchen, restaurant or hospital waste.
- The energy and protein content of rations will not be consistent and it can bring disease on to a farm.
- This is crucial for biosecurity on the farm.
- But it is acceptable to feed rejected breakfast cereal, dog biscuits or brewers grain to pigs, as there is usually nothing wrong with product quality and consistency.
- This is one option to help reduce overall feeding costs.
Pork production: Getting the basics right
How to keep disease off your pig farm
- This article was written by Wilma den Hartigh and first appeared in Farming SA.