Feed Efficiency: On-Farm Checks

Although feed prices are largely beyond the pig producer's control, there are a number of routine checks that can be done on the farm to assess efficiency, according to this publication, number 9 in the series 'Knowledge Transfer Bulletins' from BPEX.
calendar icon 30 November 2010
clock icon 5 minute read

Although actual feed prices are largely beyond your control, there are a number of routine checks that you can complete on your unit to assess efficiency. It is likely that you will be doing a number of these already, but take the time to specifically look around your unit and double check that this is actually the case, as five to 20 per cent of feed is often wasted on a typical farrow-to-finish unit!

Feeding space

Is there adequate feeder/hopper space for the number and size of pigs in the pen? Take time to look, are pigs crowding around the feed hopper or trough?

Feed flow rates

Are all the hoppers working correctly? Adjust the feeder flow rates to maintain intake but reduce wastage. Depending on the hopper, flow rates may need to be adjusted as the pigs grow. Check each hopper to ensure that the feeding system works.

Feed quality

The presence of dust, fines or lumps of clogged feed will reduce feed intake. Check if the hopper or auger mechanism is damaging/crushing the feed or affecting the pellet size, increasing wastage. Try using a Bygholm sieve to check particle size, ask BPEX for more information.

Feed storage

Inspect bins and check feed for signs of mould and mites. If found, identify the source, e.g. clogged feed in the hopper or poor storage (i.e. damp and humid). If mould is present, discard the affected feed and take remedial actions immediately.


How much feed is being wasted from falling down between the slats or being spilt onto the floor around the trough and spoilt? This is expensive wastage. Identify why it is happening; is the hopper design incorrect for the size of pig, is overstocking causing uneven feeding, do feeder flow rates require adjustment or do the feed hoppers or feed system require repair?

Feed orders

Review your storage capacity and when placing feed orders discuss optimal load sizes with your feed supplier.

Vermin and birds

Is there evidence of rodents and/or birds on your unit? Look again at rodent and bird control. When was the last time the bait was changed? Is it time to change it? Not only are vermin a health risk but they can also lead to expensive feed waste.


Monitor the daily minimum/maximum temperatures within buildings. High temperatures reduce the appetite and therefore growth rate of pigs. Cold temperatures cause pigs to use energy to maintain body heat, rather than using it to grow. See below for recommended temperatures.


Check water availability and flow rates. Water intake drives feed intake and therefore affects growth rate and FCR. See below for recommended flow rates and water requirements.

  • Are there sufficient functioning drinkers, providing a ready source of clean water, i.e. at least one nipple drinker per 10 pigs?

  • Check flow rates, you just need a measuring jug/cylinder and a watch. Adequate flow rates are as essential as the number of drinkers.

  • Are drinkers at the correct height for stage of pigs and are they correctly positioned to allow ready access?


Is there evidence of ear-biting or fresh shoulder scars in the group from fighting at or around the feeder? This is an indication that there may not be enough feeding space or that hopper placement/access is inadequate and requires improvement.


Check that the feeders are clean and that there is no caked feed or fouling in the feeder trough area. This should be cleaned out on a daily basis, to reduce wastage and to encourage intake.

Recommended feeding space
Weight of pig (kg) Trough/hopper length/pig
Restrict feed (mm) Ad lib feed (mm)
5 100 75
10 130 33
15 150 38
35 200 50
60 240 60
90 280 70
120 300 75

Recommended building temperatures
Category of pig Temperature °C Temperature °F
Sows 15-20 59-68
Suckling pigs in creeps 25-30 77-84
Weaned pigs (34 weeks) 27-32 81-90
Later weaned pigs (5 weeks +) 22-27 71-80
Finishing pigs (porkers) 15-21 59-70
Finishing pigs (baconers) 13-18 55-64

Recommended water requirements and minimum flow rates
Weight of pig (kg) Daily requirement (litres) Min. flow rate through nipple drinker (l/min)
Newly weaned 1.0-1.5 0.3
<20 1.5-2.0 0.5-1.0
20-40 2.0-5.0 1.0-1.5
40-100 5.0-6.0 1.0-1.5
Sows/gilts (preservice) 5.0-8.0 2.0
Lactating sows/gilts 15-30 2.0
Boars 5.0-8.0 2.0
Source: Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock – Pigs (Defra)

Long-Term Planning

It is clearly to the advantage of the pig producer to minimise the variation in future feed costs. This is essentially done by “locking in” prices. Although future prices may be locked in at higher than current prices, this should be more than outweighed by the knowledge of what your future feed costs are going to be. This knowledge is essential to successful business planning.

To help producers tackle these problems, BPEX and the National Pig Association (NPA) have joined forces to hold a series of risk management workshops during December to highlight what tools are available to help protect businesses from these volatile prices, their potential benefits and their limitations. For details, please click here.

November 2010
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.