Farmers frequently ask us whether it is more cost-effective to feed diets in meal or pellet form, write Peadar Lawlor and Fiona O’Meara, Teagasc, Pig Development Department, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork.
We looked at the effect of pelleting a finisher pig diet on growth, feed efficiency, carcase quality and margin over feed in a recent trial. Pelleting was worth approximately €20 per tonne of feed in this trial. The advantages of pelleting include: decreased segregation of ingredients, increased bulk density, reduced dustiness, improved handling and transportation characteristics, improved palatability, reduced microbiological load and thermal modification of starch and protein. Pelleting feed for pigs has been shown to improve feed conversion efficiency (FCE) due to reduced feed wastage during feeding, improvements in nutrient digestibility and increased nutrient density per unit volume.
Our trial involved 72 pens, each with six pigs weighing, on average, 33.6kg. The diet was a standard wheat, barley and soya one, formulated to 9.8MJ NE/kg and 10g SID lysine/kg. Half the pens were fed this diet in meal form and half were fed the diet in pellet form (3mm diameter pellets) and the trial lasted 62 days, at which time all pigs were slaughtered.
Feed intake was not influenced by pelleting, however, average daily gain was increased by 3.8 per cent and FCE was improved by 3.4 per cent as a result of pelleting (see Figure 1 above). The kill-out percentage of pellet-fed pigs was also increased at slaughter and, consequentially, pigs fed pelleted diets had carcases that were 2.5kg heavier than those fed the same diet in meal form. Lean meat yield was not influenced by pelleting (see Figure 2 below).
Using the data generated in the trial we set about calculating the financial benefit associated with pelleting feed for finisher pigs. To do this, we made a number of assumptions. We assumed a finisher feed price at €262 per tonne and a pig price at €1.40 per kg dead-weight. We also worked with two different scenarios: (1) Finishing to a fixed slaughter weight of 105kg live-weight; and (2) Finishing over a fixed number of days.
Scenario 1: Finishing to a fixed slaughter weight of 105kg live-weight
This scenario assumes that finisher accommodation on the unit is available to bring pigs to 105kg live-weight regardless of pig growth rate. In this situation, based on the data from the trial, the margin over feed was €33.90/pig for meal feeding and €36.10/pig for pellet feeding, giving an advantage of €2.20/pig for pellet feeding. We then looked at the benefit due to pelleting per tonne of feed. The financial benefit from feeding pellets over meal was worth €21.10 per tonne of feed.
Scenario 2: Finishing over a fixed number of days.
This scenario assumes that finisher accommodation on the unit is limited and that maximising growth rate is essential so that a decent slaughter weight can be achieved.
Once again, based on data from the trial, the margin over feed was €32.91/pig for meal feeding and €36.33/pig for pellet feeding, giving an advantage of €3.42/pig for pellet feeding. We then looked at the benefit due to pelleting per tonne of feed. The financial benefit from feeding pellets over meal was worth €20.34 per tonne of feed in this instance.
From this, we can conclude that pelleting increased growth, improved FCE and increased kill-out percentage in finisher pigs. Based on this data, if a producer is purchasing feed and is feeding it through dry hoppers or wet/dry feeders then the advice would be to feed a pelleted diet. Doing so is worth approximately €20-21/tonne of feed. Mills currently charge around €5/tonne for pelleted feed.