September24 , 2022

5 options to help minimise pig feed costs

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5 options to help minimise pig feed costs

Pig producers are facing pressure from all sides, with farmgate prices continuing to decline and feed prices cripplingly high.

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There are concerns prices are likely to remain high in the coming months, with a relatively tight supply of grain globally.

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Added to that is the challenge of farmers being forced to keep pigs on farm longer.

Read also: Coping with pig feed cost in Nigeria

This is due to multiple factors: Covid-19 is affecting processor capacity, there is an oversupply of pork in Europe, and new checks at ports following Brexit are delaying shipments from the UK to the EU.

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Depending on the starting point, dietary adjustments can save up to £5/t of feed across the lifecycle of the pig, as long as it’s not at the expense of performance,” says Dr Phil Baynes of Baynes Nutrition.

“Although not easy to achieve, this equates to savings of £1.25 a pig sold.”

Given that feed makes up about two-thirds of the cost of producing pigs, producers are encouraged to take a fresh look at how they could reduce feed costs.

Dr Baynes outlines the key areas to consider.

1. Reduce feed waste

The first step is to examine the amount of feed waste on the farm.

Many producers make this a routine part of management, but it is always worth checking again.

Up to 10% of feed may be wasted on a typical farrow-to-finish unit.

Feeding the wrong specification of diet will also impact on feed efficiency and growth.

Tips

Make sure there isn’t any wasted feed on the floor around the bulk bin due to damage or leaks.

Check all feed hoppers are set to the correct flow rates, in good repair and that feed isn’t left in them when the pen is empty and being washed out.

Make sure the hopper mechanism isn’t damaging or crushing feed, as dust or lumps of clogged feed will affect flow rates and feed intake.

Clean out feeders thoroughly in between batches to ensure fresh, unspoiled feed is presented to new groups.

Minimising feed spillages also helps reduce the risk of rodents and the potential for disease transmission.

2. Consider if you can lower diet specification

Nutritionists focus on achieving a least-cost formulation that delivers the required nutrient composition for the specific system and class of pig.

“There can be a temptation to go for a cheaper diet, but this is often a false economy as it reduces performance.

“In normal circumstances, all diets should be designed to help pigs grow as efficiently as possible,” says Dr Baynes.

But given that currently there is a higher number of pigs staying longer on farm than usual, Dr Baynes says it may be worthwhile reducing the specification of some finishing diets to slow down growth.

This is something he is practising on the farms he advises.

A nutritional consultant can help identify where changes can be made to improve cost efficiency.

Read also: Skin conditions in pigs

3. Consider feeding alternative feeds and additives

Alternatives to wheat and barley, such as rye, oats, or triticale, are worth investigating.

If they are available, and as long as they are clean and safe, nutritionists will be able to incorporate them in rations.

Protein sources are all very expensive, with peas, beans and rapeseed all following the soaring price of HiPro soya.

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Feed and nutrition

This means it becomes more cost-effective to supplement diets with a greater portfolio of synthetic amino acids to meet protein needs.

“The four synthetic amino acids normally used in grower and finisher feeds – lysine, methionine, threonine and tryptophan – have recently been joined by valine, however, they still need to be used carefully,” Dr Baynes says.

“There are 11 essential amino acids we need to supply in the diet, but while it is really useful to be able to provide five of those in synthetic form, we need to make sure we also provide correct levels of the other six via other ingredients.”

Feed enzymes are another valuable option to improve the nutritional value of feeds.

For example, non‐starch polysaccharide (NSP) enzymes aid the digestibility of cereals, improving the release and absorption of energy.

It has been more difficult to source co-products for wet-feed systems in recent months. Co-products can offer greater cost-effectiveness and feed-efficiency benefits.

“The closure of the Roquette food processing plant, which supplied a wheat derivative widely used in pig diets, contributed largely to the problems, combined with Covid restrictions on other plants over Christmas,” explains Dr Baynes.

“While the situation has improved slightly, consistency of supply remains a problem and there are also anaerobic digestion firms competing for products.

While wet feeding co-products had been a cheaper option for some in the past, that’s not really the case at the moment.”

4. Buy more effectively

Co-operatives and buying groups enable farmers to work together to increase purchasing power and help them decide when and how much to buy ahead.

They reduce the time and stress involved in following feed market trends and decision-making, with dedicated teams buying feed on members’ behalf

“Each producer needs to look at their own situation and judge the level of risk they can afford to take when buying ahead,” says Dr Baynes.

“It’s a matter of watching global prices and the way the weather is affecting crops in the major exporting regions.”

Read also: what do pigs eat: pig Feeding guide for beginners

5. Home-grown feed

Pig producers should consider using more home-grown feeds in pig diets, where they have the land availability and providing their agronomist agrees.

Protein price volatility will remain a challenge, with sustainably sourced soya in high demand.

Retailers will also be increasingly looking to improve sustainability in their supply chains, Dr Baynes predicts.

“Home-grown rye, beans and peas are all worth looking at. We know they can be successfully included in pig diets from a performance point of view, and home-grown feed materials give producers greater control over supply and price.”

He encourages producers to try growing more peas where possible, as they are kinder on pigs’ guts than beans, with lower tannin levels.

This means they can be included in younger pigs’ diets, although they do have a lower protein content than beans.

Cereals-wise, there’s likely to be an increase in rye grown during the 2021-22 season.

It has a higher lysine content (relative to protein) than other cereals and lends itself well to cultural weed control.

But he warns producers also need to make sure they work agronomically and that the costs of growing them are covered.

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