A Revolution in Feed Management is Coming to Your Operations

Precision feeding is an innovative approach to the feeding of growing pigs, enabling pigs to be fed daily on an individual basis, explains the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada.
calendar icon 11 April 2013
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Candido Pomar, a researcher for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Sherbrooke, Quebec, together with is brother, Jesus Pomar at the University of Lleida, Spain (and several teams of researchers from other universities and five countries) are behind what promises to be the next opportunity in swine feeding: one that has the potential to transform how we feed pigs within the next five years.

This team of researchers is striving to develop technology for feeding pigs individually, on a daily basis, rather than using a phase feeding programme targeting the average pig in a pen.

"Individual feeding pigs with diets adjusted for their daily requirements has demonstrated 40 per cent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus excretion while at the same time reducing feed cost by C$8/pig"

Innovation in Pig Feeding

Precision feeding is an innovative approach to the feeding of growing pigs, enabling pigs to be fed daily on an individual basis, maximising the growth potential of each pig. Current phase feeding programmes are least-cost formulated and typically target average growth potential in a group or barn. The drawback with this approach is lost opportunity, with faster pigs being under-fed and slow-growing pigs being over-fed.

In a given population, nutritional needs vary considerably from one pig to another and similarly, for each pig, their needs change over time and according to their individual growth patterns. Estimation of nutritional needs should no longer be seen as a static characteristic of a population but rather as an interdependently evolving dynamic process for each pig in the barn.


Preliminary results of trials conducted as the research centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Sherbrooke indicate pigs (25 to 105kg) fed with rations adjusted to their daily needs, showed that nitrogen and phosphorus intake was reduced by 25 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively, while excretion of these same nutrients was reduced by nearly 40 per cent.

What is the potential cost-benefit of this system? Transitioning from a standard phase-feeding programme to an individualised daily feeding system is expected to reduce feed costs by C$8 per pig. Additional savings can be realised for those farms with on-farm feed mills, as the precision feeding programme would utilise two (blended) diets throughout the grower-finisher period, increasing the milling capacity of the feed system. Cost savings would also be realised through more efficient use of phosphorus and amino acids, in turn reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus content in manure - resulting in lower application costs.

Looking at a whole farm analysis, the potential of the precision feeding system could save producers up to $14 per pig, based on 2012 prices.

Precision feeding test with prototype feeding station

Development and Technology Transfer

Implementation of a precision feeding system creates significant challenges with regard to the complexity (e.g. estimation of individual nutritional needs), reliability. (e.g. on-farm use of electronic devices) and profitability, requiring new designs for equipment and software.

Developing and testing the precision feeding system has been conducted by Dr Candido Pomar at the Sherbrooke research centre, in addition with funding form Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Council (Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan) two demonstration sites (Quebec, Saskatchewan) will be established to view the technology first-hand.

Participating research centres and universities

Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre (AAFC), Quebec; Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec; Univeristé Laval, Quebec; Centre de développement du porc du Québec Inc; Prairie Swine Centre, Saskatchewan; Universidad Lleida, Spain; Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France; Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil; University of Wisconsin-Madison, US and others.

Canadian financial partners

The authors also thank the Canadian financial partners in this project, without whose aid, it could not be successfully carried out. Swine Innovation Porc, its private partners and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

April 2013

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