Levy Funded Pig Research – What has your 2 pence per pig delivered?
Pig producers in Northern Ireland contribute 21p for every pig slaughtered in Northern Ireland to the ‘Pig levy’.
AFBI Hillsborough researchers Elizabeth McCann, Elizabeth Magowan and Niamh O’Connell discuss pig research topics with Dr Sinclair Mayne.
The Pig Production and Development Committee (PPDC) has been responsible for the distribution of this money and over the past 10 years, 2p of the 21p per pig has been allocated to pig research at AFBI, Hillsborough.
Using this 2p per pig, with co-funding from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI), many production-related studies have been conducted, ultimately providing advice on practices which are the most sustainable and economically viable for the industry.
Asked for an opinion on the value of the research, Gary Anderson, a large pig producer in the Cookstown area commented that “In the years I have been involved in pig production the price per kilo received for pigs has not increased, if anything it has gone down. All the costs of production have increased as well as disease presence ie PRRS and PMWS. The pig industry has strived to counteract these increased costs by improvement in genetics, management, unit efficiency and productivity. Research work undertaken at AFBI Hillsborough, co-funded through the producer levy, has been one of the major factors which has helped me improve overall efficiency.”
Over the next few weeks the main findings from the research projects conducted using the 2p per pig will be summarised. This first report summarises the outcome of studies focusing on optimising the use of feed and water.
Which feeder design for optimum performance and profit?
Various feeder designs for growing pigs have been evaluated over a number of projects. In all studies the pigs were in groups of 20 and had adequate space allowance and access to water (10 pigs per Bowl Drinker). The feeder designs evaluated ranged from offering wet feed or a mash in a variety of communal shaped troughs to single and multi space feeders which offered dry feed and a nipple drinker in the same trough area i.e. wet and dry feeders, to multi space feeders which only offered dry-pelleted feed. In summary, during the growing stages (4-10 weeks of age) a ‘dry’ multi space feeder was found to improve production performance and was the most economically viable when compared to other feeder types. Feeders that offered feed in the form of a wet mash in general increased feed usage but feed efficiency was poorer, indicating higher feed wastage which resulted in poorer economic returns by using these feeders.
Feeder design can have a significant effect on profitability
However, during the fiishing stage a ‘wet and dry’ single space feeder improved production performance and again was the most economically viable when compared to the use of a ‘dry’ multi space feeder. Also a change in feeder type i.e. a ‘dry’ multi space feeder in stage 1 per stage 2 accommodation to a ‘wet and dry’ single space feeder in the finishing accommodation had no negative effects on the overall production performance of pigs from weaning through to slaughter.
Indeed savings in feed cost per pig of £1.15 were achieved from weaning to slaughter (100kg) using the regime of a ‘dry’ multi space feeder in the growing stage and a ‘wet and dry’ single space feeder in the finishing stage compared to the other way round. Furthermore, the difference in feed cost per pig during only the growing period when the ‘dry’ multi space feeder was compared with a feeder which offered a wet mash in a circular communal trough £1.00 per pig. On a 200 sow herd producing 20 pigs per year this is the equivalent to £4000 per year.
Is an abrupt diet change good or bad?
A further study was conducted to investigate the effect of the method of changing the diet of the pig. Changes in diet are essential to optimize growth from weaning to finish and many pig producers change the diet in an abrupt manner i.e. when one diet finishes the next diet is introduced. This study compared the effect of changing the diet in an abrupt manner to changing in a phased or free choice manner. In the phased treatment, the new diet was proportionally increased in relation to the old diet over a 5 day period. In the free choice manner the new diet was offered along side the old diet for a period of 5 days. In general no difference in growth performance was observed in pigs from weaning to slaughter, regardless of the method used. Therefore changing the diet in an abrupt manner was not detrimental and in fact an improvement in feed efficiency was observed during the finishing stage when the diet was changed in an abrupt manner compared to the phased and free choice manner.
Is Drinker design important?
During the growing period (4-10 weeks of age) 4 drinker designs were compared which elicited various water flow rates, namely a Bowl drinker (250ml per min), a Nipple drinker (600mls per min), a Bite Nipple drinker (700mls per min) and a Bite Ball drinker (1200mls per min). No difference in growth performance, feed intake or feed efficiency was observed when the different drinkers were used. However, water ‘usage’ was significantly higher when the Bite Nipple and Bite Ball drinkers were used compared to the Bowl or Verba Nipple drinkers. Since no improvement in performance was observed, it is likely that the extra water used was wasted and therefore increased slurry volume. Consequently, the use of the Bite Nipple or Bite Ball drinkers, compared to the Nipple drinker on a 200 sow herd producing 20 pigs per year would result in an extra 17 and 32 tanker (1500 gallon) loads of slurry produced per year respectively in the growing accommodation. This has large implications in the current climate of storage and land spreading restrictions under the Nitrates Directive.
Comprehensive reports of all the studies above are available and can be obtained from Elizabeth Magowan:
Telephone: 028 92682484.
by Dr Elizabeth Magowan, AFBI, Hillsborough