20 October 1995

Pigs respond to choice of flavours in their diet

By Jonathan Riley

OFFERING pigs diets with a choice of different flavours can improve feed intakes by 20%.

So says Mike Baker, manager of MLCs Stotfold pig development unit.

Speaking at a conference organised by Forum feeds at Stapleford, Leics, Mr Baker said: "Feed, labour and housing costs are all related to how quickly you can get pigs to reach your chosen sale weight.

"By improving feed intakes from birth the number of days to finishing can be reduced from 177 days to 120, saving £10 a pig in total feed costs.

"Pigs are omnivores which means they have many different taste receptors and could get bored with the same taste, limiting intakes," said Mr Baker.

Two flavours

At Stotfold pigs offered the same diet, but in two flavours had a higher total consumption than pigs fed a single diet and appeared to like fruit flavours.

From these initial findings a feeding system for weaned pigs known as Menu feeding was developed in association with Trouw Nutrition and compared with a normal commercial feeding system.

Pigs on the commercial feeding regime were offered a succession of single low density diets changed abruptly according to their age.

Pigs on the Menu feeding system had access to two diets, with different flavours and of differing planes of nutrition.

At 27 days old, Menu fed pigs were simultaneously offered Trouws highest energy starter diet (diet 1) and a lower energy diet (diet 2) with a different flavour. At 34 days old, diet 1 was substituted by a lower energy diet of a different flavour again (diet 3).

Pigs then had access to diets 2 and 3 of different flavours. Further substitutions were made until six diets had been fed up to 63 days of age.

"This allowed access to higher energy feeds for longer periods for those piglets that needed them and a choice of diets and flavours to improve total feed intakes," said Mr Baker.

"It also allowed the piglet to decide when to change to lower density diets as its growth and digestive capability developed, eliminating stress caused by dietary change," he said.

Pigs on the Menu system recorded intakes of 629g a pig a day, compared with the commercial regimes at 507g a pig a day – a difference of about 20%.

Daily gains

"Daily liveweight gains were 501g a pig a day for Menu feeding compared with 407g a pig a day, which would lead to a saving of 21 days to 90kg by Menu feeding over normal commercial practice.

"This, in association with earlier work at Stotfold on improving weaning weights, could mean reductions in days to slaughter at 90kg liveweight from 177 days to 120 days," he said.

By improving feed intakes from birth the number of days to finishing at 90kg liveweight can be reduced from 177 to 120, saving up to £10 a pig.