19 May 2000

Liquid feeding ups pig growth

By Marianne Curtis

FERMENTED liquid feeding has the potential to improve piglet growth rates by 22% compared with dry feeding. But understanding the basics of the process and attention to detail is essential to get the most from the technology.

Speaking at a Pig and Poultry Fair Talking Pigs seminar, Peter Brooks of Seale Hayne, University of Plymouth, explained why fermented liquid feed is more acceptable for piglets.

"Sows milk is only 20% dry matter so when pigs switch to a solid diet it can have an adverse effect on the gut causing scours. This has been overcomeby a liberal use of in-feed antibiotics," he said.

Liquid feed is more acceptable to piglets than dry feed leading to higher intakes, which is beneficial for gut health, he added. "Piglets may not eat dry feed for a day or two. This dramatically reduces the absorptive capacity of their guts, which has an adverse effect on growth. Liquid feed encourages continuity of intake."

The acidity of fermented liquid feed is also important for excluding coliform bacteria which cause digestive upsets, he said.

But fermentation is not a straightforward process and Prof Brooks explained how research is overcoming problems experienced on-farm. "Feed conversion ratios can be low due to loss of nutrients when fermentation goes wrong or, more importantly, feed wastage.

"Maintaining a temperature of at least 25C in the fermentation tank ensures favourable lactic acid bacteria dominate rather than yeast, which reduces nutrient value. Feed must also be allowed to ferment for 36 hours."

Adding antibiotics or topping up fermenting liquid feed with cold water should also be avoided as both kill the process, he added.

Once feed reaches pigs, appropriately designed troughs minimise waste, he said.

"Piglets love standing, wallowing and shovelling liquid feed out of troughs. Installing trough dividers and a step so piglets have to commit to feeding prevents these activities. A design which scrapes the piglets chin as it leaves the trough also reduces waste."

Taking account of piglet behaviour is also necessary to get the most from the system, said Prof Brooks. "Piglets respond to feeder valves discharging as a signal to feed and all will rush to troughs.

"When there is insufficient trough space, even though feed is available 24 hours a day, subservient pigs may starve. The longer the trough, the better, so piglets can all feed together."


&#8226 High growth rates.

&#8226 Need correct fermentation.

&#8226 Check trough design.


&#8226 High growth rates.

&#8226 Need correct fermentation.

&#8226 Check trough design.