Impact of Feeder Adjustment and Group Size/ Density on Weanling Pig Performance

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Author(s): Smith, Laura, A. Denise Beaulieu Ph.D., John F. Patience Ph.D., Harold Gonyou Ph.D., and R. Dean Boyd Ph.D.
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Reference: Manitoba Pork Council Research News, Prairie Swine Centre
Country: Canada

 

Summary:

Crowding and/or reduced floor space allowance negatively affects nursery performance and exacerbates social vices such as tail biting, side nudging and ear chewing. Feeder adjustment impacts feed intake and can alter feeder capacity. Since some of the detrimental effects of crowding are due to decreased feed intake, adequate floor space and proper feeder adjustment may act in a synergistic fashion to improve pig performance. Seven hundred and sixteen pigs weaned at an average of 18.2 days of age were assigned to: 1) 24 pigs per pen, 2.5 ft2 per pig; 2) 20 pigs per pen, 3.0 ft2 per pig [approximates commercial conditions]; and 3) 16 pigs per pen, 3.75 ft2 per pig [approximates the Canadian Code of Practice] for a 42 day trial. Eight days later feeders were adjusted to provide gap openings of 9.2, 11.8, 17.9, 24.8 and 31.5 mm (see Figures 1 to 3). Only a small bead of feed was available with an opening of 9.2 mm while the entire trough was covered with an opening of 31.5 mm. Feeding behaviour was videotaped on days 3 to 6 and on days 39 to 42. On day 42, each pig was scored for incidence and severity of tail biting, side nudging and ear chewing. Providing more floor space resulted in increased body weight at 10 weeks of age. Performance was maximized when the feeder gap allowed for 40% of the trough to be covered with feed. Moreover, proper adjustment of the feeder reduced the time spent eating and thus increased feeder capacity.

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