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Suggestions for improving feed efficiency in swine operations

In order to improve the nutritional efficiency of feeding swine, one must provide the correct amount of nutrients for the size of pig, in the correct mixture, and in a manner that the pig will consume without wasting feed. Sometimes swine producers are tempted to compromise feed quality, or place less emphasis on the grower and finishing diets in their nutritional programs. Growing and finishing diets make up approximately 75 percent of the feed cost in a farrow to finish swine operation. With more pigs being sold on carcass merit buying programs and grower/finishing diets making up the greatest volume of feed in a farrow to finish operation, additional attention to these diets may provide an opportunity of improving profits.

Diet Formulation

The goal of a feeding program is to maximize lean growth at the least cost. Nutritional requirements of pigs vary from one farm to the next and change as the pigs mature. Pigs of all genetic potential need less lysine as they get closer to market weight. Determining the exact nutritional requirements of each group of pigs is difficult. Many producers attempt to feed diets suitable for the average of the group. The more genetic and weight variation a producer has within the pig group, the more some animals will be over-fed while others are under-fed, nutritionally.

Emphasis should be placed on following a breeding program, keeping accurate records, so pigs produced will be genetically similar, and grouping pigs of similar weight and age. Environmental stresses such as overcrowding or high temperatures reduce feed consumption. Higher lysine levels should be fed to pigs under these conditions. Listed below is a suggested guideline for determining the need of feeding higher levels of lysine or diets for a high lean pig:

  • If your pigs average less than .8 inches of backfat at 240 lbs
  • If your herd average percent lean is 49 percent or better

If your pigs average performance does not meet the above listed criteria, the high lean diets may not be cost effective since feed cost will be increased without improving efficiency. However, other factors may be influencing total percent lean such as pig health status, feeder space, overcrowding, ventilation rates, availability of fresh water, weight variation within pens, and parasites.

Feed Mixing

Proper dietary formulation does not guarantee the pig will succeed meeting its genetic potential. For on the farm feed mixing, there are several things that can happen to a well-balanced diet between formulation on paper and the pigs digestive system.

If you invest the time and effort to develop well-balanced diets, you should insure the feed available to the pig is as good as the diet formulated on paper. Random samples of each diet should be taken at least twice a year and sent to a laboratory for chemical analysis.

If the chemical analysis of the feed does not meet your expectations, then you need to determine where problems occur. Several areas that you should consider are: quality of feed ingredients, calibration of feed mixing equipment, wear of equipment, mixing time, particle size, weight of feed ingredients, proper weighing of each ingredient, length of feed storage, feed contamination, and knowledge of person mixing the feed.

Inadequate levels of nutrition will prevent pigs from reaching their full genetic potential. If your pigs are not performing as well as you expect, check your feed by chemical analysis to insure the pigs are consuming the proper level of nutrients. If you desire to submit feed samples for analysis, contact your County Agent's Office for information regarding feed sampling and analysis. Allow 2–3 weeks for the results of a routine feed analysis.

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News

Pigs and hogs feed at Palo Alto Farms in West Point, Mississippi in this file photo. Consumer preference is one reason interest has been growing in people in the state raising pigs on pastureland for their own consumption. (File photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Swine September 18, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Low feed costs and steady demand are keeping the playing field level for Mississippi swine producers, but the bottom line at year’s end will be down from 2014 totals.

Mississippi’s value of production for hogs was $153 million last year. No estimates are available for 2015, but hog prices have been much lower than they were in 2014, while hog numbers were higher at the first of the year.

Palo Alto Farm near West Point grew this and many other pasture-raised pigs to meet the increasing demand for locally grown foods. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Swine September 17, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Specialty markets in pork production are cropping up across the U.S. in response to a growing interest in pasture-raised pigs.

Before the 1960s, most U.S. pork was raised in outside lots or on pasture systems. Commercial pork production today generally relies on large warehouse-like buildings or barns that house sows and pigs in stalls or pens.

Mississippi 2014 Estimated Value of Ag Production
Filed Under: Catfish, Corn, Cotton, Rice, Soybeans, Sweet Potatoes, Agricultural Economics, Forages, Beef, Poultry, Swine, Forestry December 19, 2014

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Despite low prices for many commodities, the overall projected totals for Mississippi’s crop values should top $7 billion for the third straight year and essentially match the record set in 2013.

John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said his preliminary estimate of 2014’s agricultural production values, excluding government payments, is over $7.7 billion.

Mississippi cattle, such as this one on the Beaverdam Fresh Farms in Clay County, Mississippi, on July 8, 2014, eat less and grow slower during the hottest months. While Mississippi has not faced extremely dry conditions in recent years, the state's herd numbers are still down, just like those in drought-stricken regions. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Swine, Beef July 11, 2014

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cattle and hog prices are soaring to record highs, causing producers to debate whether to sell their valuable animals or expand their herd sizes for the future.

“It’s hard not to sell when prices are this good and the pull of the feedlot is so strong,” said John Michael Riley, an agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

As producers continue to reduce herd sizes nationally, prices should remain strong, but the result will be fewer animals available to sell in the future.

William White works to install pig-handling equipment in a multipurpose building being readied for swine nutrition research at Mississippi State University's H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Scott Corey)
Filed Under: Swine October 18, 2013

MISSISSIPPI STATE – A partnership with Prestage Farms Inc. is allowing Mississippi State University to improve its swine research facility as university scientists prepare to resume swine-related studies.

John Blanton, head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at MSU, said there is a need in the Southeast for science-based information on swine production.
“We are addressing that need of our stakeholders through our swine research program,” Blanton said.

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