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How feed manufacturing impacts pig feed efficiency

July 3, 2023
Feeding pigs, feed manufacturing

(Editor's note: This is the final blog in our three-part series on feed efficiency in pigs.)

Feed represents most of the cost of producing a marketed pig and it can be affected by a variety of factors, including genetics, health and management. One factor that is often overlooked is the manufacturing of the feed. It may seem simple, but there are several areas to consider and various measures available to improve feed efficiency.

Before making the feed

Feed that is designed for best feed efficiency starts with the use of high-quality ingredients. Alternative ingredients are often used to lower feed costs, but they may increase the variation in quality going into the feed. Ingredients should be visually evaluated for damage before using them. A hidden concern is mycotoxins, particularly in corn and distillers' dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Corn should be tested for mycotoxins in geographic areas where mycotoxins are known to be present. (Alltech's regional harvest analyses and Mycotoxin Management program are good sources for that information.) If DDGS are used as a feed ingredient, always test them for mycotoxins.


The formulation software should contain correct nutrient values for ingredients and correct nutrient specifications for each phase of production, so that accurate feed formulas can be created. This includes using nutrient values for digestible amino acids, available/digestible phosphorus and net energy. The use of enzymes should be considered as a method to increase digestibility of feedstuffs and improve feed efficiency in swine production.


Making the feed

One of the largest impacts on feed efficiency is the particle size of the grain. Typically, corn is processed to be 500–700 microns in size, with a standard deviation of less than 2.2, to help ensure consistency of particle size. Both roller and hammer mills can achieve this, but roller mills usually provide a more consistent grind with fewer fine particles. Research has shown that for every 100-micron decrease in grain particle size, feed efficiency improves 1.0–1.2% in grow-finish swine. The goal of maximizing feed efficiency with a uniform, finely ground feed must be balanced against the energy cost, feed flowability and increased risk of gastric ulcers.

A mixer efficiency test is a good way to ensure that all ingredients are being mixed correctly to make a uniform final feed. Improperly mixed feed can result in poorer feed intake, growth and feed efficiency.

Pelleting feed will improve feed efficiency if the pellets have good durability. Research has shown that as the percentage of fines increases, the feed conversion improvement decreases, and with 60% fines, there is no benefit of pelleting over mash.

After making the feed

A good quality assurance program, including retained feed samples, will help with evaluation of feed quality as well as providing samples for later analysis if needed. Feeds should be analyzed for at least protein, calcium, phosphorus, salt and one trace mineral on a regular basis to ensure that an accurately formulated and manufactured diet is delivered to the pigs.

A major potential source of decreased feed efficiency is poor feeder management that allows for increased feed wastage. The feed pan should have about 50% coverage with feed to balance easy intake with decreased feed wastage. If pelleted pig diets are used, the variation in percentage of fines can create a situation where more time management is needed in the barn to minimize feed wastage.

A feed budget that accurately prescribes the amount of feed for each phase of production will balance desired feed efficiency with feed cost per pig. Perform a closeout evaluation to compare the actual intake of each diet phase with the projected amount and then adjust as needed to move the pigs to the lower-cost diets.

Feed manufacturing for economical feed efficiency is an important part of an overall pork production plan. The number of factors involved in accurate, high-quality feed being delivered to pigs reminds us that diligence to the details can help improve profitability.

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