Pigs eat far more when feed is put near water, studies show

Large-scale remote monitoring of piggeries over the internet is revealing significant information about pigs’ feeding habits that could be of practical benefit to farmers.

“On one farm, in a pen with two identical feeders up to twice as much feed was being consumed from one feeder compared with the other. The only noticeable difference was that one feeder was positioned next to the drinkers,” said Tim Miller, environmental specialist with ARM Buildings. “This has been replicated over a number of batches and suggests that ease of access to the drinkers near the feeders will influence intake.”

Obviously, if pigs are eating more they will grow faster and throughput will be increased, so there is a direct economic benefit.

“The position of feeders is often determined by the delivery auger and sometimes the water-line dictates where the drinkers are fixed. It may indicate that we should have a new look at this aspect of pen design,” said Miller.

Data loggers which allow the retrieval of this information have been fitted as standard to all new ARM pig buildings since 2009, following the introduction of this ‘spy-in-the-sty’ development, known as Barn Report Pro, by specialist energy and control company, Farmex.  The feed:water relationship is just one of the provisional findings by Dr Sadie Douglas, Farmex’s data services manager, who has been analysing data from a large number of units using the system.

“A great advantage is that this is practical research replicated on farms practising a wide variety of management systems in different geographical locations — something that would be very difficult in conventional research institutions,” said Miller.

The 24-hour-a-day monitoring of feed and water consumption, which can be reviewed live on the farm office computer can pick up trends and has even been used to predict disease outbreaks.

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