Feed represents around 60 percent of the total cost of production, therefore absolute feed cost, feed conversion efficiency and throughput can make the difference between financial loss and profitability.
The Finishing Pigs Systems Research Programme, funded by BPEX and Defra, was developed by the MLC to establish how financial returns could be improved from finishing pigs.
Liquid feeding technology was central to this 3.5 year programme which was based at MLC's Stotfold Pig Development Unit and completed in August 2005. Within the programme, four large-scale trials using over 4000 pigs housed in either a fully slatted or straw based building, were completed to compare different approaches to liquid feeding (e.g. feeding a dry diet in liquid form, phase-feeding, fermenting the cereal fraction of liquid diets and amino acid supplementation to reduce protein content of liquid diets).
The detailed work involved measurements of all inputs, outputs and losses.
Results from each trial were independently subjected to financial evaluation to determine the effects of feeding and housing on total cost of production. The work also included detailed measurements of pig health and welfare, microbial sampling of the pigs and their environment focusing particularly on Salmonella, emissions of dust
and ammonia to the environment and effects on meat quality.
Within the programme, research centres carried out detailed studies on the refinement of standard operating procedures for liquid feeding, such as optimum dry matter levels, particle size and feed enzyme treatment.
Results from the Finishing Pig Systems Research Programme have been published in four detailed technical reports covering the four separate trials.
This study provides a user-friendly synopsis, using a question and answer approach of the work for producers seeking to improve financial returns from their finishing pig enterprises.
The research compared feeding a compound pelleted diet with a similar diet milled and mixed on farm and fed in liquid form.
The results showed a cost of production difference of 5 p/kg dead weight in favour of liquid feeding.
Using least-cost formulations, a further saving of 9p/kg dead weight on cost of production was achieved.
The potential cost benefit from liquid feeding is therefore around 14p/kg dead weight.
Liquid feeding reduces cost of production through improved growth rate, feed conversion and feed cost per kg gain and at the same time provides opportunity for using lower cost food industry co-products.
The research shows that the potential net benefit from liquid feeding totals 14p/kg dead weight, of which 5p is associated with improved performance and 9p is derived from the inclusion of low cost industry co-products.
Provided that a cost benefit of around 5p/kg dead weight is achieved then the capital investment will be recovered within 2.6 years for a 2000 growing/finishing place unit.
This time-scale would be considerably shortened if further cost savings can be made from the use of liquid coproducts.
Producers who have recently invested in liquid-feeding technology have confirmed that the pay back time-scale is realistic and achievable.
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