Management factors affecting mortality, feed intake and feed conversion ratio of grow-finish pigs

Take-home message: Improving farm facilities improves the performance of grow-finish pigs including decreased mortality rates.

Pig farmers can increase growth performance and reduce mortality by improving facilities and management practices, scientists have found.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona conducted a survey to investigate how pig management and farm facilities affect performance, including total feed intake (TFI), feed conversion ratio (FCR) and pig mortality.

Analysis showed that the factors which had a large positive impact on production included single spaced feeders with drinkers incorporated, having less than 50 per cent slatted floor, split-sex pens and where automatic ventilation systems were used.

Data was collected by survey of over 450,000 Pietrain sired pigs. These came from 310 batches from 244 grow-finish farms owned by six Spanish pig companies from 2008-2009.

The survey collected data on the farm facilities including floor type, feeders, ventilation and number of pigs per pen.

It also collected management data on the season of placement (when the batches of pigs were placed into the pens), use of split-sex pens, number of pig origins, source of water and initial and final body weight.

Feed accounts for up to 75 per cent of the production cost of pork and with 75 per cent of feed consumed during the grow-finish phase, it the most expensive phase of the pig production cycle. Therefore, opportunities to optimise feeding efficiency and reduce losses will have significant economic benefits.

The scientists found that season had an impact on the pigs’ performance. Batches of grow-finish pigs placed between January and March had higher TFI, FCR and mortality than those placed between July and September.

Batches which had split-sex pens had lower TFI and better FCR than those with mixed-sex pens and batches filled with pigs from multiple origins had higher mortality than those from a single origin.

Pigs fed with a single-space feeder with incorporated drinker had the lowest TFI and best FCR compared to single and multi-space feeders without a drinker. A better FCR was also seen in pigs kept on floors with less than 50 per cent slats compared to pigs kept in pens with more than 50 per cent slatted floor.

The different facilities and management practices explained 62 per cent of the variation in total feed intake, 25 per cent of the variation in feed conversion efficiency and 20 per cent of the variation in mortality.

Article by Kitty Gash-Wales, University of Newcastle

Full reference: Agostini, P., Fahey, A., Manzanilla,. E., O’Doherty. J., de Blas, C. and Gasa, J. (2013) Management factors affecting mortality, feed intake and feed conversion ratio of pigs. Animal 8(08), pp. 1312-1318