29 October 1999

Electronics caters for individual diets

ELECTRONIC sow feeders offer considerable potential for fine-tuning sow feeding on an individual basis.

Data on individual rationing is difficult to find, but can be worthwhile, permitting feed savings and improving sow condition, according to Plumptons Dan Leggett.

"ESF manufacturers offer plenty of help and advice on how to install feeders and building design, but once sows are introduced, its up to you to figure out what to feed them."

ESFs can be programmed with up to 50 feed curves which take account of a sows weight or parity, air temperature and body condition. Sows are logged into a computer when they enter the system. Transponders in their ears allow feed amount to be automatically adjusted through pregnancy to maintain condition and piglet growth.

"Some units only use one feed curve for all sows. I was previously feeding dry sows 2.5kg a head a day, but wasnt sure that this was the right amount," says Mr Leggett.

Determined to find out how to make the most of the new feeding system, he contacted breeding company, JSR for advice on the nutritional needs of Genepacker 90s and 120s on the unit.

JSR supplied a book on the nutritional requirements of its genotypes, which he was surprised cost £50. Energy requirements varied according to parity (see table). Once he had established nutritional requirements, he contacted his feed supplier, Countrywide to find a ration which met them.

"I used to feed a 16% protein dry sow ration, but based on the JSR figures Countrywide recommended a 14% ration. This saves about £15/t." Reductions of up to 200kg of feed a year were also possible for younger animals.

Sow condition is checked at day 70 of pregnancy. "Lean sows are switched to a feeding curve which provides an extra 0.4kg a head a day and over fit sows are given 0.4kg a head a day less."

Different curves are also programmed into the computer for winter and summer. "Sows move on to a winter diet between late October and April which supplies an extra 0.3kg a head a day."

Mr Leggett has observed an improvement in sow condition since switching to more accurate feeding. "Sows are not losing as much condition as they used to, yet we are making savings on feed." &#42

Plumpton College

dry sow feeding

Parity LWT MJ energy Kg a head

a day a day (ave)

1 150 32 2.4

2 190 33 2.5

3 230 34 2.6

4+ 270 36 2.7

*Based on 13.2MJ, 14% protein dry sow nuts.