Feeding pigs different diets based on their individual daily nutritional needs could slash feed costs and vastly improve the sustainability of the pig industry, according to scientists.
Researchers at the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Canada said that feed costs could be reduced by as much as 10% by using precision farming techniques to ensure pigs are only given the nutrients they need.
While traditional three-phase feeding attempted to maximise growth by ensuring the top-performing animals had the nutrients they required, the technique did not take into account that every pig has different nutritional needs on different days, said the Department’s Candido Pomar.
Often pigs were given too many nutrients which were ultimately excreted in faeces and urine, resulting on a negative impact on the environment and a farm’s feed costs.
Instead investing in technology which would allow pigs to receive formulations based on their real-time needs would vastly improve efficiency, he said.
“Precision technologies help get the right amount of feed, to the right pig, at the right time,” Dr Pomar told delegates at the recent BPEX innovation day at Stoneleigh Park.
“It is a total shift in pig nutrition,” he said. “Instead of basing their nutritional requirements on estimations collected from data, feeding with technology depending on an individual animal’s health, genetics and nutritional status, as well as external factors such as stress and management systems.”
In experiments run by Dr Pomar and his team, 60 pigs were fed diets with varying amounts of lysine from automatic feeders.
Each pig was tagged and identified by the feeder, and given a serving of 15-25g of feed. The pigs could return to the feeder as many times as they liked.
The researchers found that pigs visited the feeder up to 110 times a day, but the overall amount of feed they consumed was 8-10% lower than traditional three-phase feeding.
Further trials had discovered that typical lysine use could be reduced by as much as 27% without having any effect on growth performance, resulting in a 50% reduction in nitrogen excretion.
“Precision farming is an effective approach to improving efficiency, reducing nutrient excretion and reducing costs” Dr Pomar said.
“The key to economic and environmental sustainability of the pig industry depends on more farmers adopting the technology to ensure their animals needs are met in a more targeted and effective way.”