Pig producers need to keep lid on food waste
Pig producers could be
losing enough money each
year in wasted feed to pay
for the cost of replacement
gilts or two years worth
of vet and medical bills.
Simon Wragg reports
FEED losses can account for a cut of up to 6% in gross margin on many pig units.
So believes Yorks-based vet John Carr. "When pig prices are low, producers knee-jerk reaction is to stop buying in replacement gilts to cut costs. I would check feeders for losses which can cover the cost of replacement gilts without handicapping future performance."
Dr Carr believes feed wastage goes unnoticed or is accepted on too many units. "If you had the choice of picking up a small pile of feed or two £ coins, which would you go for? You would pick the coins, but the feed is worth more."
Avoiding feed losses starts at delivery, he says. Bulk bins should be numbered to stop feed being del-ivered and given to the wrong pigs.
"Dont over-estimate feed requirements. This will avoid over-filling of bins which encourages vermin and leads to the temptation to put surpluses in neighbouring, and possibly unsuitable, bins."
Bulk bins should be serviced twice yearly, including washing, treating with a mould inhibitor and fumigating. "Mouldy feed is unpalatable and can lead to infertility and abortion," he warns.
Bagged feed stores should be dry, cool and vermin free. "Store bags on pallets and follow manufacturers storage instructions," he says. Avoid storing feed in warm pig housing – some feeds can go off quickly, particularly creep because it is milk-based.
Feed barrows and scoops should also be cleaned periodically. Never leave loaded barrows exposed to the elements and vermin, says Dr Carr. Checks augers and delivery pipes for leaks and ensure that sensors are working.
"Recalibrate scoops regularly as pelleted and meal feeds vary in weight by volume – slight over-feeding, for example, of dry sows, can lead to problems such as difficult farrowings," warns Dr Carr.
Feed hoppers in pens should be checked daily. Broken, poorly maintained or badly calibrated hoppers are a root cause of feed wastage. "Imagine if a hopper is split over a slatted floor – the waste could be substantial without being noticed."
Where feed builds up in a the corner of the hoppers feed bowl where it cant be reached it degrades, releasing mycotoxins, and encouraging flies and vermin. Theres also the risk of carrying over of antibiotic treated feed between batches of pigs, warns Dr Carr.
Feed bowls that look full should be cleaned thoroughly before recalibrating the feeder so only a small amount is available at any time.
Hoppers should be sited on the edge of the sleeping area with no more than 15 pigs/single-spaced feeder through to finishing. Floor feeding increases the risk of feed waste, says Dr Carr. Also, check drainage holes in the bottom of outdoor hoppers They release rainwater, but can also leak feed, he adds.
"Ideally feed shouldnt be carried over between batches of pigs for health reasons. Manage hoppers to run out as pigs finish. If feed is left over, bag it up before washing out."
Where hoppers are open to the elements, birds and vermin feeding and spoilage can be responsible for a change in feed efficiency from 3.3:1 down to 2.9:1. "A simple plywood cover can stop the loss – worth up to £10/finished pig in extreme cases," says Dr Carr.
Contamination by bird faeces can also cause illnesses such as chronic colitis (diarrhoea) and leptospirosis, he warns.
"Pigs have a very sensitive sense of smell. Stale or contaminated feed suppresses appetite. If better feed management can improve intakes and growth rates by 5g to 160g/pig/day it is a saving of £1 a finished pig," he says. *
• Costs up to 6% of GM.
• Check equipment regularly.
• Clean feed optimises appetite.
Would you pick up two £1 coins or this piece of leaked feed? The feed is worth more, says specialist pig vet John Carr.