Swine Feeder Management

Doug Richards, Swine Grower-Finisher Expert, OMAFRA

Today what we're going to be looking at is tips for feeder management in a grow-finish barn. Feed accounts for anywhere from 65 to 75 per cent of your cost in a finishing operation. So what we want to look at is ways that we can reduce the amount of feed or the loss of feed that we have.
One of the areas that we do know is that when the pigs come and eat, if the feeder isn't set properly then there's either going to be too much feed and we'll get feed spillage, or there could be not enough feed and the pigs won't get the amount of feed that they take.
One of the first areas that we want to look at is the feeder adjustment. If we don't have have the feeder adjustment properly, we'll get feed wastage. And as you can see in this feeder, if the feeder isn't set properly, you can waste anywhere from 2 to 5 per cent from an improperly managed feeder. The spillage occurs of course, if there's too much feed. The pigs grab the feed, nose it out to the sides and you get spillage. As is evident here across the front and the feed of course can drop down through the slats and cause you problems in your manure pit.
One of the areas that we are going to look at is the feeder type and design. This feeder here is a wet/dry feeder. Studies have shown, by using a wet/dry feeder you can gain anywhere from two and five per cent in efficiency through its design. The other area that we should look at is, is the feeder sized properly for the amount of pigs we have.
Studies have shown that between 10 and 20 pigs is optimum for the type of feeder. But always check with your feeder manufacturer to make sure you have the proper sizing. The problem we have if it isn't sized properly, you have too many pigs and they just can't access the feeder in the numbers that they should to get the gains that you would like to see.
If you have feed wastage, 2 per cent can equate to 6 kilograms of feed. That can result in quite an expense to an operation. So, when you're looking at feed management, the wastage, spillage or wastage of feed can go anywhere, let's say, from 2 to 10 per cent. And the cost of that to your operation can be significant.
The thing that we will look at is how much feed wastage it is. When you do have feed spilling on the floor or you have feed not making it to the feeders, it's all costing your operation money.
Some of the areas we want to look at is the feeder adjustment - how the feeder can be adjusted to manage the amount of feed that is dropping down and the pigs are accessing. Some of those tips include: proper adjustment of the feeder; making sure that the feeder's in good repair; the other area is checking for spillage in the front of the feeder, and seeing if the corners are cleaned out, and if the feed is fresh and not stale.
Proper feeder management would include your maintenance in looking at the different areas that your feed is delivered by. We have to remember that feed wastage can go all the way from the bin outside, through our conveyor lines down into the feeder. We want to make sure that connections or joints are tight. We aren't getting feed loss. When it comes into the feeder, we want to make sure that when the feed comes down it is be livering. We want to make sure we don't get plugs down along the feeder bar, the nose bar, or down into the trough. We want to make sure that if the feed is not coming down that we adjust it properly. If there's too much feed, we want to make sure that we tighten it up. Ways to tell that you maybe have feed spillage is, once again, look in the trough is there too much? Is there feed starting to cake? Is there actually signs of feed along in front of the feeder of dropping down into the slat?
One of the areas we're going to look at is the adjusting the wet/dry feeder. The wet/dry feeder, on models they have the adjustment bars, the adjustment mechanisms on both sides. By adjusting the feeder bar, the nose bar here, you actually adjust the gap between the feeder bar and the feed plate. The adjustment that we should look at for grower-finisher pigs up to 90 kilograms is 3.2 centimetres. As the pigs get heavier, over 90 kilograms, we should take the adjuster and we should actually tighten it down to 1.9 centimetres. The reason being, the pigs get older, they're more aggressive, and they can work the bar. They don't need as big a gap. If we don't do that; if we don't adjust the feeder then what we're going to have is we're going to have feed spillage; which, once again, is going to cost the producer dollars because the feed is being wasted by those animals.
One of the areas, when we're adjusting the feeder we have to look at is the amount of pan cover down in the bottom where both the mash meet up with the water. One of the areas we do is if we don't have enough feed down in the pan then it means we have our feeder too tight; we've adjusted the bar down too tight. If we have too much feed and the whole pan is covered, then of course we have too much feed. The problem is what is the amount that we should have. Some of the research that we do have shows it's about 57 per cent which is just a little over half. You come in the barn; if you can see the pan is not shiny or it's just not overflowing, then I guess what you'll have to do is you'll have to gauge that in each operation. But just remember, is that, you do have to adjust for the size of the pig.
One of the areas we have to look at is water. We have to make sure that we have enough water, it is not restricted. Research has shown that if you don't have enough water, you can limit the gain. So that is also going to decrease your feed efficiency.
Water is a very important need for the growing pig. In this feeder here, this wet/dry they have three waterers in the feeder. You have to make sure that they're free, they're free-flowing. And you have to make sure they have enough flow rate.
For grow-finisher it's 700 milliliters or the size of a pop bottle - that has to be 700 milliliters in one minute. So not only do you need water, you need a flow rate.
We have the waterers in the feeder but we should always have waterers on the side wall. That should be within two metres of the feeder. The reason being, research has shown that any more you do lose some feed. You do have feed wastage because the pigs have to eat and come to the waterer.
We do have the waterers in the feeder but we should also look at the placement somewhere else.
We also have to look at the placement in the pen of pigs. It should be no more than two metres from the feeder. The reason being the pigs, if they frequently have to go back and forth when eating, then it will cut down on your feed gain. The other reason is you do not want to limit the amount of water that pigs have that they can access.
One of the areas that we also want to make sure is feed spoilage. It's very easy to come in, look at the feeder and say, yes, everything's all right. But two of the three compartments - especially in the summertime - the feed is starting to get moldy and pigs won't eat it. It's imperative that you go through at least once a day and make sure that the feed is fresh and that feeders are cleaned out.
One of the areas we also have to look at is space for the pigs. You want to make sure that you do not overcrowd.
If you overcrowd pigs in a finisher-grower barn, you can reduce your growth performance by 10 percent. We're raising them to heavier weights. We're going from 115 to 130 kilograms live weight. That means that we have more pigs in the pen. Crowding can become an issue.
One of the easy ways to look is all the pigs should be able to lay down and still access both the dunging area and the feeder area without crawling over their neighbours. If not, then you're crowding your pigs
It will result in reduced gains for the pigs. Bottom line, you're losing dollars.
Another area we have to look at is automated feed systems. You have to make sure that they're in good state of repair. You want to check for leaks, for breaks in the line. You want to make sure that your limiter switches are working.
Loss of feed events can occur and sometimes it can be a day or more before you get back and realize that feed was not delivered to your pigs.
You also want to make sure that all the drops are working. And that all of the feeders are actually getting fresh feed.
Some of the results from out-of-feed events are: the pig's welfare, the gain and productivity loss which will all cause losses to the bottom line.
The areas that we've looked at today involve feeder-management. The tips needed to make sure our feeders are properly adjusted. The feed is delivered properly in the required amounts. That the feed systems deliver the feed to the feeders when needed so we don't have out of feed events. We want to make sure when we're operating our finish-grower barns, we maximize the use of our most expensive commodity - which is feed.
So take some time, review your feeder management to increase your profits in your grow-finish barn.

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