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Proper Feeder Adjustment Promotes Feed Efficiency

Poor feeder adjustment slashes feed efficiency by 5%, while properly adjusted feeders save about $2/pig from 50 to 270 lb., according to a recent study at Kansas State University. Keep feeders adjusted properly, regardless of trough space, to maintain good feed efficiency.

The 91-day study evaluated the effects of feeder trough space (1.75 vs. 3.5 in./pig) and minimum feeder-gap opening of 0.5 in. (narrow) vs. 1.0 in. (wide) on finishing pig performance. A total of 288 pigs went on test at 82 lb. in one of four treatments at the K-State Swine Teaching and Research Center, Manhattan, KS.

The feeders were adjusted to the minimum gap setting, but the agitation plate could be moved upward to a maximum gap setting of 0.75 in. or 1.25 in. Narrow feeder gap was 0.5 in. minimum to 0.75 in. maximum. Wide feeder gap was 1.0 in. minimum to 1.25 in. maximum.

Feeder trough space was adjusted by placing eight or 16 pigs/pen. For the 3.5 in. of feeder space/pig, pens were stocked with eight pigs/pen. To achieve the 1.75 in. of feeder space/pig, two pens were combined with only one feeder for the 16 pigs. Gating was adjusted so that both of the groups of eight or 16 pigs/pen got 8 sq. ft. of space/pig.

Pigs were given ad-lb access to feed and water and fed a four-phase, corn-soybean meal-based diet containing 20% distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), as depicted in Table 1.

Pig performance on feed was calculated by weighing pigs and measuring feed disappearance on Day 0, 14, 28, 42, 56, 70, 84 and 91. Pictures of feeder pan coverage were taken once during each feeding phase, and a panel of four judges scored the feeder pan pictures by the percentage of pan coverage.

Evaluations of feeder pan coverage indicated narrow-adjusted feeders averaged approximately 48% coverage (Figure 1), while wide-adjusted feeders averaged approximately 85% coverage (Figure 2).

From Day 0 to 56, no feeder adjustment/trough space interactions were observed. However, those pigs exposed to the wide feeder gap setting had increased average daily feed intake (ADFI), which resulted in a tendency for poorer feed conversion, suggesting that the increase in feed intake with the wider feeder gap setting, actually produced an increase in feed wastage (Table 2).

From Day 56 to 91, there was a tendency for pigs with 3.5 in. feeder space to have greater average daily gain, compared to pigs with the 1.75 in. feeder space. Also, pigs tested on the wide feeder gap setting had increased ADFI and poorer feed efficiency, similar to the response observed during Day 0 to 56 (Table 2).

Overall, these results suggest that, regardless of feeder trough space, pigs fed with the wide feeder adjustment wasted more feed and grew less efficiently.
Further evidence is needed to determine optimal feeder trough space for finishing pigs.

Researchers: Mandy Myers, Bob Goodband, Mike Tokach, Steve Dritz, Joel DeRouchey and Jim Nelssen, all of Kansas State University. For more information, contact Goodband by phone (785) 532-1228, fax (785) 532-7059 or e-mail