The ideal method we use to feed our hogs is a question as old as commercial farming itself, and while there are a few options, they all have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to balancing three important variables:feed cost, labor cost, and equipment cost. It can greatly impact pig health, growth rates, and overall productivity. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of different methods for feeding pigs:
Ad Libitum Feeding
Ad Libitum feeding is a popular method of feeding, particularly in sow applications, where pigs have unlimited access to feed. It can be used with both dry and wet feed, and pigs are allowed to eat as much or as little as they want, with the aim of promoting rapid growth and maximizing feed efficiency. Usually the feeding equipment is individualized (i.e. a single feeder per pig) since this method is used in conjunction with gestation or farrowing crates.
- Improved Growth and Productivity: Ad-libitum feeding can help pigs to reach their full growth potential by allowing them to eat as much as they need to support their growth and development. This can result in healthier pigs that produce more meat.
- Reduced Stress: By providing pigs with constant access to feed, ad-libitum feeding can help to reduce stress and aggression in the herd. This can create a more peaceful and harmonious environment for the pigs.
- Lower Labor Requirements: With a properly designed and operating fill system and appropriate feeders, Ad-libitum feeding requires less labor than traditional feeding strategies, as the pigs are able to regulate their own intake of feed. This can free up time for farmers to focus on other tasks.
- Risk of Obesity: Ad-libitum feeding can increase the risk of obesity in pigs, as they are able to eat as much as they want. This can lead to health issues such as joint problems, lameness, and respiratory diseases.
- Increased risk of digestive disorders, such as bloat or gastric ulcers
- Increased Feed Waste & Cost: Ad-libitum feeding can result in increased feed waste, as pigs may eat more than they need and waste the excess. This can increase the cost of feeding the pigs and result in environmental issues.
PT-2529B-201810 Chore-Time Ad-Lib Sow Lactation Feeder Fact Sheet-EM
Restricted feeding is probably the oldest and most common method you’ll see in wean to commercial finish applications, since feeding equipment that supports this method is cheaper and can support a larger quantity of hogs. Restricted feeding is a feeding strategy where pigs are given a limited amount of feed at scheduled times throughout the day. This means that the pigs do not have constant access to feed and are only fed a set amount of feed each day. The amount of feed given to the pigs is calculated based on their age, weight, and other factors. The goal of this feeding strategy is to control the pigs’ intake of feed and prevent overeating.
- Lower Feed Costs: Restricted feeding can be more cost-effective than ad-libitum feeding, as it requires less feed overall. This can help to reduce the cost of feeding the pigs and improve profitability for farmers.
- Controlled Intake: Restricted feeding allows farmers to control the pigs’ intake of feed and prevent overeating. This can help to reduce the risk of obesity and other health issues (such as digestive disorders).
- Improved Feed Efficiency: Restricted feeding can help to improve feed efficiency in pigs, as they are only given the amount of feed they need to support their growth and development. This can result in healthier pigs that produce more meat.
- Increased Stress and Aggression: Restricted feeding can cause stress and aggression in the herd, as the pigs may become anxious or competitive over the limited amount of feed. This can create an unhealthy environment for the pigs.
- Potential Higher Labor Requirements: If feeder filling and adjustment is not automated, restricted feeding requires more labor than ad-libitum feeding, as the pigs need to be fed at scheduled times throughout the day. This can increase the workload for farmers.
- Reduced Growth Potential: Restricted feeding can limit the pigs’ growth potential, as they are only given a limited amount of feed. This can result in smaller and less productive pigs.
Phase feeding is a method of feeding where pigs are given different types and amounts of feed based on their stage of growth. This method is great for maximizing growth rates and feed efficiency, however in an age of hard-to-find/high labor costs and houses that specialize in certain stages of growth, this method has gone out of fashion in recent years in favor of the other, more “hands-off” methods of feeding. Such systems as Chore-Time(R)’s Meal-Time(TM) system would implement Phase feeding by separating feeders into 3 “Stages”, where stage 1 was for a weaned pig, stage 2 was for a medium/roaster sized pig, and stage 3 was for finished pigs. A feeder that matched the size of the pigs would operate on a precise feeding schedule on a time clock to make sure pigs would eat no more and no less than they were supposed to, with the ideal amount of room to do so.
- Improved Growth and Productivity: By providing animals with the right nutrients at the right time, phase feeding can help to promote optimal growth and productivity. This can result in healthier animals that reach market weight faster and produce more meat.
- Cost Savings: By providing animals with diets that are specifically formulated for each stage of their growth, phase feeding can help to reduce feed waste and improve feed efficiency. This can result in cost savings for farmers, as they can optimize feed usage and reduce the overall cost of feeding their livestock.
- Health Benefits: By providing animals with the right balance of nutrients, phase feeding can help to support their overall health and wellbeing. This can help to reduce the risk of health issues such as digestive problems, lameness, and respiratory diseases.
- Increased Complexity: Implementing a phase feeding program can be more complex than traditional feeding strategies. It requires careful planning and management to ensure that animals are receiving the right diets at the right time, which can be challenging for some farmers.
- Higher Costs: Developing and implementing a phase feeding program can be more expensive than traditional feeding strategies. This is because it requires the formulation of multiple diets and careful management of feed inventory.
- Increased Labor Requirements: Phase feeding may require more labor to manage the different diets and feeding schedules. This can be a challenge for farmers who have limited labor resources.
In conclusion, there are various methods and schedules of feeding pigs, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Ad libitum feeding can promote rapid growth and reduce stress among pigs, but can also lead to overeating and higher feed costs. Restricted feeding can reduce feed costs and improve pig health, but can also lead to increased aggression and competition among pigs. Phase feeding can improve feed efficiency and growth rates, but requires more advanced nutritional knowledge and management skills. Ultimately, the choice of feeding method and schedule will depend on a variety of factors, including the specific needs and goals of the pig farming operation.