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Pig Production: Feeding Your Pigs

Cost of feed represents the highest cost in pig production. About 70 to 80 percent of the total cost of production is spent on feeds if pure commercial feeds are used. Commercial feeds are used to produce good quality fatteners at the shortest possible time. Thus, close attention on proper feeding should be observed, particularly on the amount, type of feed given and the methods used to attain maximum growth and high feed efficiency. However, proper feeding should be coupled with proper health care and management along with good environment to achieve the target of producing quality finishers.
Types of Feed
There are three types of feed available in the market. Each type differ in the proportion of nutrients in the feed. The change in nutrient proportion is important to address the needs of the pig at different stages of growth. The shift from one ration to another should be done gradually in order not to upset the normal feeding behavior of the pigs. Always allow a transition period of at least one week.
Starter Feed A starter feed is given to 10 to 20 kgs weaners until the pigs are about three months old and weigh 30 to 35 kgs. A starter feed contains 18 percent crude protein (CP) and 3,250 kilocalories (Kcal) of digestible energy (DE).
Grower Feed Next to starter feed is the grower feed. This is given until the pigs reach a weight of 60 kgs. Grower ration contains 16 percent CP and 3,200 Kcal DE.
Finisher Feed At 60 kgs, the pigs’ ration is shifted to finisher feed. It is given to finish pig up to 80 to 90 kgs ready for the market. The ration contains 14 percent CP with 3,200 Kcal DE.
Feeding Methods
The growth performance of the pigs is not only affected by the quantity and quality of feed given but also by the methods of feeding. The three basic feeding methods for finishers are restricted feeding, ad libitum, and combination of ad libitum and restricted.
The level of feeding can vary from restricted feeding (about 80% satisfaction) to ad libutum level (100% satisfaction).
Restricted Feeding In restricted feeding, the amount of feed given is controlled or limited to a certain amount just to satisfy the appetite of the pig.
  • better feed conversion ratio (FCR) (lower feed cost and better performance)
  • good carcass quality
  • better health control
  • less digestive problems
  • lower Average Daily Gain
  • unequal growth especially if feed trough is not long enough to accommodate all pigs
  • more laborious
  • less chance of coping up with higher market price
Restricted feeding is done through the use of a long feeding trough where all pigs eat at the same time. However, the length of the trough should be long enough to accommodate each fattener during feeding time.
A good criterion for restricted feeding is that the trough should be empty after 15 or 20 minutes if given as a slop. For dry mash or pelletized feeds, it is normally consumed in 20 to 30 minutes. The level of feeding is based on the growth rate of the pigs. Refer to Table 1 for the suggested feeding scheme of pigs.
Ad libitum Feeding Ad libitum feeding is feeding without restrictions and feed is made available anytime. This feeding method should be practiced if pigs finished have high growth potentials and they are in good health.
Dry feed should always be used for this feeding method. Fresh feed improves the feed intake and feed efficiency, thus self feeders should be emptied and cleaned at least once a week to prevent microbial spoilage. Pigs find infested feed unpalatable thus, wastage of feed is high. Continuous supply of fresh and clean water is important in ad libitum feeding because water intake increases when this method is practiced.
  • higher ADG is achieved
  • less feed competition
  • less laborious
  • thicker back fat
  • higher feed conversion ration (higher feed cost)
  • more digestive problems in younger pigs
  • less control on health problems
Combination of ad libitum and restricted feeding Pigs are fed ad libitum until they reach the weight of 50 kgs and fed restricted until they are marketed. With this feeding method, the growth potential of the animal can be maximized during its first 50 kgs of growth. Restriction is practiced to reduce back fat thickness with a corresponding increase in lean cut yield.
  • higher ADG with good carcass quality
  • lower feed cost
  • better use of good feed (better FCR)
  • higher possibility of digestive problems if shifting is not properly done
  • less control of health problems and feed intake at the start
Factors to consider in choosing a feeding method
Genetic potential of the pig
Genetically improved animals require quality feed and suitable environment to achieve maximum growth. Profitable pig keeping does not necessarily require the best breeds but more importantly, it is the matching of the genetic quality of the feed and its environment. If the genetic quality of the pig is good, ad libitum feeding is recommended to take advantage of the growth potential of the pig. Thus, if the genetic potential is poor, restricted feeding should be applied.
Quality of the feed (Kcal of the feed)
Growth performance is primarily influenced by nutrient intake. The increasing nutritional requirement of the grower should be met to achieve the maximum growth performance at a certain period and at given number of fattening days. If the feed is of good quality and the growth potential of the pig is high, ad libitum feeding is recommended.
Environment: housing and climatic condition
Extreme temperatures stress the pigs, thus, it affect the feed intake, weight gain and feed efficiency. It also affect the pigs’ susceptibility to diseases and infection.
Proper housing and ventilation can control these extreme temperatures to occur. Close attention in the construction of pig houses should therefore be given to attain maximum growth of the pigs.
In a cold temperature, the pigs consume more feed because their energy requirement for maintenance is increased to maintain normal body temperature. Generally, growth rate is not affected, but feed efficiency is poorer. When restricted feeding is practiced, pigs cannot voluntarily adjust energy intake. Thus, the feed level must be increased based on the temperature. As the temperature rises above the thermoneutral zone, feed consumption declines and extreme heat stress causes drastic reduction in feed consumption. Wet feeding can also be done to stimulate the appetite of the pigs. Providing shower could also help reduce stress and increase feed consumption.
Availability and price of feeds If there is irregular supply of feeds in the area,restricted feeding is recommended to ensure continuous feeding . However, if feed is readily available and at the same time the price is low, ad libitum feeding is more practical.
Carcass quality
If preference of lean meat is higher, it may be necessary to limit feed intake. However, if the market is insensitive to fatness and ad libitum does not result in worse feed conversion, then the clear choice is to practice ad libitum. Wet vs Dry feeding
Wet feeding Wet feeding means mixing the dry feed with two to three times its weight to water (1:2-). Water should be added just before feeding. This method is only suitable for feeding regimen were the pigs are able to consume the feed given, otherwise, the feeds will likely ferment and attract flies and vermin. Table 2. Comparison between wet and dry feeding
Feeding scheme
There are three important points to consider in determining the amount of feed to be given daily.
  • The lower the starting weight, the higher the quality of starter feed should be used.
  • If the genetic potential of the pig is good (fast grower), starter feed can be given till the pig reaches 45 to 60 kgs.
  • The feeding scheme should be based on the average growth performance of the pigs, referto Table 1 for details. Changing of feeds should be done gradually.
Weight estimation
Since weight is necessary to determine the feeding scheme to be used, weight estimation is more practical rather than actual weighing. Weighing of pigs every now and then causes stress to the pigs.
One way of estimating is by looking and getting the average weight of the biggest and smallest pigs. The distribution of weights should also be considered. If their sizes are closer to the heaviest (biggest) pig, then the estimated weight should be between the calculated average weight and the weight of the heaviest pig. The calculated average weight will represent the weight of finishers in a pen. Feed Density
Different kinds of feeds have different densities and weights. The use of a similar feed scoop on different feeds may not give the ration one hopes to give.In the absence of a feed scale, necessary adjustments can be made on the feed scoop used for the exact amount of feed if feed densities are known.
Feed density is the relationship between weight and volume of a certain feed. It is calculated by dividing the weight of the feed by the volume of the same amount of feed.
Feed Density = Mass (kg)
Volume (li)
Sample calculation Bayani has 12 finishers, with an average weight of 60 kg LW. Daily he gives three bucketful (15-liter capacity) of finisher mash. Considering an ADG of 650 grams, is Bayani giving the correct amount of feed?
Required Feed Consumption = 2.0 kg/day X 12 finishers = 24 kilograms 1 bucketful of feeds = 8 kgs 3 bucketful x 8 kg = 24 kgs Therefore, Bayani is giving the right amount of feed to the finishers.
Feed density = 8 kg feed
15 liters = 0.533 kg/liter
Importance of Water
the water requirement of the pigs should not betaken for granted.It is not enough to make water available but the quality should also be considered. Water given must be clean and odorless. Water is important in the regulation of body temperature thru evaporative cooling. It also functions as solvent, and lubricant.
The required quantity of water depends on the age of pigs, production level and climate (see Table 2). The water needs of the pig can come from the drinking water provided, water contained in feed, and metabolic water derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Table 2. Water requirement of finishers according to their weight.


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