Low feed cost decides award

10 December 1999

Low feed cost decides award

By Marianne Curtis

LOW feed costs clinched this years MLC National Pig Award for one Hants unit. Home-mixing all feed, including piglet creep, and extending wet feeding to pigs of all ages lies behind its 27.4p/kg liveweight gain feed cost.

Wheat from the arable enterprise at the 480ha (1200 acre) Whitewool Farm, East Meon, Petersfield, Hants, forms the basis of pig rations. Other ingredients such as wheatfeed, soya, fishmeal, fats and minerals are purchased by director, Jamie Butler.

He is in regular touch with commodities markets, and has market reports sent through on a weekly basis to assist purchasing decisions. To minimise the effects of volatility in the market place, 50% of feed is purchased on forward contracts and 50% spot.

Feed on the unit has always been home-mixed and finishers have been wet fed for the last 15 years, according to Jamies father Nick. But Januarys stall and tether ban provided the impetus for an overhaul of buildings and the opportunity to extend wet feeding to pigs of all ages. The feeding system is fully automated with wet and dry ingredients weighed – using load cells – to produce the correct formulation. It is then mixed in a tank and dispatched to the relevant part of the unit. About 20 batches of feed a day are required to supply all pigs.

Wet feed ingredients include yoghurt, whey and Guinness. "Wet feeding reduces costs. Guinness seems particularly cheap at £3/t but we havent tried drinking it. It contains high levels of yeast and is included in the ration at low levels so pigs dont get drunk."

Versatility is also a key advantage of wet feeding, adds Jamie. "We used to have three different rations, from weaning to finishing. Wet feeding allows different rations to be readily mixed, allowing a more gradual transition from one feeding stage to the next, optimising growth rates." Growth rates for growers increased from 530g/day to 720g/day when they moved from dry to wet feeding. But growers were also moved to improved housing at the same time.

"Undoubtedly, wet feeding has had an impact on growth rates. I guess 30% of the improvement has been due to wet feeding and 70% to better ventilated housing."

A clearer indication of the effect of wet feeding on growth can be seen by looking at weaners which have remained in the same environment. Previously offered only dry feed, weaners have been offered both dry and wet feed for the last three years and growth rates have improved from 380g/day to 450g/day.

Offering both wet and dry feed to weaners is essential, believes Rob Barnett, who runs the unit. "Some weaners refuse to eat wet feed. For all to perform at their best they need to have a choice of wet and dry feed." But older pigs happily eat wet feed, he adds.

Baby piglets are offered dry feed. Home-mixed creep includes micronised wheat and maize, full fat soya and whey-based milk powder.

"Home-mixing creep gives savings of about £200/t on bought in creep. Many home mixers are reluctant to produce creep but we havent experienced problems." &#42

Cost comparison

Ration Dry (£/t) Wet (£/t)

Service sow 129 102

Dry sow 106 73

Grower 120 102

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