An important topic to consider this year is that of waste management. I don’t just mean the biological consequences of consumption and digestion, but the physical waste of inappropriate nutrition, as well as poor feed management.
It’s a tetchy subject. Who wants to admit they might be wasting valuable feeding stuffs through inefficiencies? However, because many factors play a part, it’s a subject well worth dipping in to on a fairly regular basis.
The nutritional requirements of the pig are fairly well defined. Energy, amino acids, vitamins and minerals have been researched and ratified over many years. Energy requirement can be easily calculated based on body weight and growth characteristics.
The more we know about the animal type, the clearer our understanding of the nutritional requirement becomes.
Maintenance requirement is by far and away the largest energy usage, but other aspects such as the energy for protein and mineral deposition also need to be taken into consideration.
Protein can also be viewed in a similar way. By knowing the growth rate of an animal and the lean tissue potential, we can accurately describe the level of digestible amino acids required to fulfil the genetic potential of that animal. This is based on certain pieces of critical information such as body weight, growth rate, breed and feed intake. If we have this data, the job of the nutritionist is to blend a diet that caters for all these elements into the most cost-effective package.
So, where does the wastage come in? First, not knowing the breed type can complicate the issue. Each breeding company has data that can be used to extrapolate the diet specification, but if the unit takes genetics from numerous sources the water can become a little muddy. Fortunately, the blending of genetics is one of the least difficult factors to rectify.
Environmental challenges, health issues and stocking density all have a part to play in feed intake and subsequent utilisation. If the room is too cold more energy is required for maintenance, and more energy is also needed if there’s an underlying health issue. If the stocking density is a little tight, feed intake goes down and, again, more energy is required.
The wastage therefore comes from either under- or over- providing energy. Too little and the growth rate slows down, days to slaughter increase and subsequent additional maintenance days need to be paid for.
Too much energy relative to digestible amino acids can lead to pigs not meeting the grading requirements. Money is then lost from excess expensive energy being spent on the diet, coupled with a loss of revenue from a less-than ideal carcase.
The nutritionist needs to understand and use this information. And the fairly fluid nature means that it can change. But the key information remains knowledge of feed intake and growth rates – both of which are relatively easy to obtain.
Looking at wastage in the fundamental physical line means paying attention to the hoppers. FCR is everything in the rearing herd. With current prices, an increase of just 0.1 in FCR will lead to a 5% increase in feed cost.
> Born in Essex, schooled in Suffolk and a graduate of Reading University, Dr Phil Baynes has spent his career in pig welfare and nutrition. Now based in Cheshire, he runs Baynes Nutrition and is a consultant nutritionist to Provimi