18 February 2000

Progress in wet and dry pig feed use

WET and dry feeding research will be catered for in a new £320,000, three-year project at the MLCs Stotfold pig development unit.

But the UK is lagging behind Denmark and Holland in using cheap liquid by-products.

MLC pig technical manager, Pinder Gill, says 75-80% of UK pigs are given dry feed. "In Denmark, 60% of pigs are on wet feeding systems and in Holland the figure is 50%."

Proving an economic benefit for wet feeding through research will make a case for producers to invest in the technology, he believes. But wet feeding can be complicated, especially where inoculants are used to ferment feed. "Fermen-tation helps stabilise feed through natural acidification. Using beneficial bacteria to promote fermentation can also improve pigs gut health leading to better performance. But when fermentation goes wrong, it can lead to serious problems.

"I would not advise producers to experiment, especially with young pigs, as poor fermentation can lead to complete feed refusal," he says.

Unravelling the mysteries of fermentation will be a major facet of trials due to begin at Stotfold in September. The trials will take place in two new buildings, one straw-based and the other, fully slatted. These different environments will allow health, welfare, ammonia and dust levels to be monitored, as well as allowing comparisons between wet and dry feeding.

"Technology used in wet feeding trials will allow us to treat protein, cereal and by-product portions of the ration separately. Usually all three are mixed in the same tank.

"Separation of ingredients means inoculants can be added only to the cereal portion as fermenting proteins can lead to production of toxic, unpalatable compounds. Ingredients are mixed just before feeding," says Dr Gill. &#42