Five-phase feed in action
Putting MLC phase feeding
research into practice on a
new high health pig unit
shows promising results.
Jessica Buss reports
FEEDING pigs in five phases from weaning to finishing helps keep feed costs to just 25p/kg liveweight gain on a Glos unit, by closely matching nutrient supply to pig requirement.
Sunhill Pigs partner John Tingey says pigs are liquid fed from purchase as 7kg weaners and all rations include a phytase enzyme to minimise feed costs.
Each week 140 pigs enter the unit at Poulton, Cirencester, from a single breeder to maintain the units high health status.
The greenfield-site unit, completed last November, was designed to put phase feeding, researched at MLC Stotfold, into practice.
Researchers at Stotfold fed one group of pigs a single diet and another three diets during the growing period, explained Paul Blanchard, pig specialist from feed suppliers Frank Wright.
Phase feeding is based on the fact that as pigs grow their feed intakes increase, so the energy density of diets can be reduced, says Mr Blanchard.
"The benefits of phase feeding are improved animal performance, reduced costs, fewer digestive disorders in young pigs and less nitrogen excretion."
True phase feeding would supply each pig with the ideal diet for its weight.
Pens at Sunhill are all supplied by two feed pipelines, so in theory a different ration could be fed to each pen, by feeding different amounts of feed from each pipeline, explains Mr Tingey.
This would be achieved by one pipe supplying a high energy diet, for the youngest pigs, and the other providing a lower energy final finishing diet: Mixing feed from both pipelines can produce the ideal diet for each pen, says Mr Blanchard.
But this full phase feeding has not yet begun because of computer software concerns, says Mr Tingey.
"We also want to see pigs performance on five rations, then try full phase feeding and see how performance improves.
"But the maximum we feed a ration for now is a 25kg growth period. This means we are not far off the ideal ration at any time, and closer than most units."
The five liquid rations (see table) are formulated from up to three dry ingredients, including home-grown cereals, and four wet by-products, such as yogurt by-product, depending on availability.
Rations are calculated by Liz Shilton of McT nutrition and formulations are changed frequently as new ingredients become available.
"Because we can monitor the effects of a ration on weekly growth rates and intakes, we can introduce a by-product and pull it out quickly when it doesnt work," she says.
Mr Tingey adds that it takes about half a day, with two people needed for about two hours, to weigh all pigs each week. But he feels that is time well spent.
Ms Shilton formulates least-cost rations using the enzyme Natuphos to release phosphorous, calcium and protein locked up in cereals. She believes Natuphos is cost-effective where rations usually include 6kg of dicalcium phosphate to supply inorganic phosphorous. Phosphorous is a vital ingredient for pig growth.
Natuphos typically reduces the cost of weaner rations by £6/t, and allows 6kg of inorganic ingredient to be replaced by an energy source, she says. The saving in the first grower ration is typically £2.50/t and other rations £2/t.
Sunhills feed conversion ratio (FCR) for June was 2.4:1. This compares well with MLCs top third at 2.37:1, but there is room for improvement, says Ms Shilton. Weekly weighing has allowed her to identify that growth rates slip just before pigs move to finisher pens, and she hopes moving pigs earlier once a new finishing house is completed may help.
Pigs are finished at 100kg liveweight with some reaching this after just 14 weeks on the unit.
• Five rations fed.
• Matches supply to need.
• Growth rates good.
Ration Pig weight (kg) DE (MJ/kg)
Weaner 7-20 15
Grower 1 20-35 14.1
Grower 2 35-55 13.8
Finisher 1 55-75 13.65
Finisher 2 75-100 13.2