Feeder Adjustments Optimize Growth, Reduce Feed Wastage

Recent studies at Kansas State University took a closer look at how feeder adjustments affected pig performance and feed wastage.

In those studies, pigs were fed from a 5-hole, single-sided, stainless steel, dry self-feeder. The feeder pan dimensions were 60-in. long, 7-in. wide (deep) and 5.75-in. high.

The feeders were set at one of three feeder settings using the factory-cut holes in a dial designed for that purpose. The dial had five hole settings, with setting #5 being the most closed setting (Figure 1) and setting #1 being the most open (Figure 3), with about 90% of the pan covered with feed. At setting #3, about 50% of the pan was covered. Settings #1, #3 and #5 were used in the study.

Feed gates are designed to have some “play” to allow feed agitation, so left and right gap measurements were collected and averaged, ensuring that the data could be applied to other types/brands of dry feeders.

Two experiments involving a total of 2,420 grow-finish barrows and gilts were conducted, with 23-28 pigs/pen.

As feeder opening increased, average daily gain and feed efficiency improved, with both traits optimized at the middle feeder setting (setting #3).

When economics are applied to the data set, the poorer feed efficiency of feeder setting #1 (widest opening) resulted in approximately $1.50 higher feed costs than pigs fed at feeder setting #3 (Table 1).

Pigs fed with feeder setting #5 (tightest setting) also had about $1.50 in added cost compared with feeder setting #3 because of reduced average daily gain.

In conclusion, feeding pigs from feeders with a more open feeder setting increased average daily gain and average daily feed intake, and tended to improve feed-to-gain ratio at middle feeder settings compared with more closed feeder settings. The gap for the middle setting (#3), from the feed trough to the bottom of the feed gate, was about 1.15 in. Still, there was considerable range of feed pan coverage at the #3 setting, when feeders in the trials were compared.

As a rule of thumb with the dry feeders used in this study, feed should cover slightly more than half of the feed pan without accumulating at the corners (Figure 2).

Understanding The Genetics of Feed Efficiency

The genetic makeup of maternal (sow) lines and terminal sire lines used to produce market hogs has a considerable bearing on how efficiently their progeny convert feed ingredients to lean meat protein.

This article will explain the heritability of growth and feed conversion traits and genetic correlations among the traits, plus provide some guidelines to ensure your genetic suppliers are applying appropriate selection pressure to the economically important traits.

Furthermore, it is important to understand your genetic base as you build diets that will maximize sow performance as well as the pigs' performance potential and their ability to hit carcass targets and maximize packer premiums.

Feed conversion ratio (FCR) reflects the rate at which an animal converts feed to meat. This ratio is calculated by dividing the amount of feed used by the total weight gained. The genetic contribution of both the sire and the dam lines must be considered for all production traits, including FCR.

The sire lines contribute half of the progeny's ability to convert feed ingredients to lean meat protein. Dam lines contribute the other half of the progeny's genetic potential, plus their ability to convert feed ingredients to reproduction and milk production.

Heritability Defined

Heritability, often defined as the resemblance between relatives, ranges from 0 to 1. High heritability indicates a high level of resemblance between parents and progeny. Effectively selecting progeny to become parents based on a particular trait will create a new generation of higher-performing animals.

Genetic correlations are the proportion of variability that two traits share due to genetic causes and, theoretically, may range from -1.0 to +1.0.

Table 1 shows the heritabilities and genetic correlations among production traits, feed intake and feed conversion, plus the traits often used to predict or improve the accuracy of estimating feed conversion.

The yellow portion of Table 1 shows the traits of average daily gain (ADG) in grow-finish, backfat depth (BF) and loin muscle area (LMA). All three traits have a moderate to high heritability and moderate genetic correlations. The sign (direction) of the correlations must be evaluated in addition to the magnitude. The 0.25 correlation between ADG and BF indicates that as ADG increases, backfat will also increase. This is not a favorable result and is indicative of an antagonistic correlation.

In comparison, the 0.36 correlation between ADG and LMA is beneficial and indicates that as ADG increases, so will muscle mass.

Finally, the -0.33 correlation between BF and LMA is also advantageous because a decrease of BF and an increase of LMA are both desirable changes.

Antagonistic correlations, such as the one between ADG and BF, can be controlled by utilizing selection indexes as long as both traits are measured and included in the indexes. Goals for either trait can be adjusted in the formulation of an index.

Heritability and Correlations

A few decades ago, feed efficiency was directly estimated by recording feed consumption of an animal placed in an individual crate. Selecting sires with the best feed efficiency using this method resulted in future generations with better feed efficiency for those animals “if” they were raised in crates. However, FCR progress was often disappointing for various reasons, so that method was dropped.

The research data generated by this method built an excellent case for indirectly selecting feed efficiency via its component traits, namely ADG, BF and LMA. By building the correlations of ADG, BF and LMA with FCR, a new selection index can be developed that will allow improvement in all four traits but only measure three. This is made easier by the advantageous correlations in all three traits with FCR.

Returning to Table 1, the green genetic correlations have the correct sign to allow improvement in FCR and are of a moderate to large magnitude. This selection method has contributed to most of the genetic improvement made in FCR in the 20th century.

Beginning in the 1990s, electronic feeding stations in pens of up to 20 head were used. Feeding stations were an improvement over the individual crates, but they suffered from occasional mechanical breakdown and erroneous data production.

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More recently, mathematical calculations have been developed to adjust for feed data errors and allow for much more accurate predictions of feed consumption. Consequently, FCR heritability and correlations are more accurate.

The use of feeding stations for direct measurement is often prohibitive, but from a research standpoint, results can be generated over a period of years to compute the correlations necessary to do indirect (component) selection based on growth, backfat and muscling. Continued use of feeding stations will also contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms that affect feed conversion.

Ad libitum feed intake (FI) is a major component in FCR. Previous discussions showed how growth and composition can be used to predict FCR. Similarly, those traits can be used to predict FI. One half of the genetic variation of FI and FCR are not explained by those production traits.

Over the past 20 years, research has explored the remaining genetic variation by measuring the residual feed intake (RFI) trait. RFI is used to estimate the feed consumed over or under expected requirements for production.

Variation in RFI is caused by maintenance requirements, feeding behavior, nutrient digestion and energy homeostasis and partitioning. Methods of measuring FI have evolved much like those described previously for FCR. The mathematical methods of calculating RFI continue to evolve.

RFI has been shown to be a moderately heritable trait similar to FCR. Continued improvement in FCR will require methods beyond the correlated response from ADG, BF and LMA. RFI would serve as such a tool. Genetic correlations with RFI are found in pink in Table 1. The correlation with ADG is small and in the wrong direction. The remaining correlations of RFI with BF, LMA and FCR are all large and in the correct direction. The correlation with FCR is also quite large and shows the potential for improvement in FCR.

Unfortunately, measuring RFI suffers from the prohibitive costs mentioned with FCR improvement when using individual feeding stations. RFI will become a better research tool than FCR by providing data for identifying new gene markers. The gene markers would then be an economical method for many seedstock suppliers.

Finally, the insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) is a naturally occurring polypeptide produced in the liver, muscle and fat tissues. IGF-I is associated with growth and development during the postnatal period.

Research began over 10 years ago to compare the juvenile IGF-I blood test taken at 3-5 days postweaning and before 35-42 days of age with subsequent postweaning production traits. After several years of testing at sites in five countries, heritabilities and genetic correlations were summarized by Kim Bunter of the University of New England in Australia. Results are presented in blue in Table 1.

All genetic correlations are in the correct direction. The large correlation with FCR is especially promising, and only the genetic correlation with ADG is small. The use of IGF-I has two advantages over RFI. One is the much lower cost of testing, and second is its use at an early age. Test results at a young age allows for early culling. Early castration of males based on IGF-I results and estimated breeding values of production traits provide substantial increase in cull value. Second, fewer animals need to be processed through more expensive test procedures, such as direct FCR or RFI measurements because of early culling.

Genetic Markers

Genetic markers are the final measurement to be discussed under the general selection for FCR. A genetic marker may be a gene or a DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome, and is associated with a particular trait. It can be described as a mutation or alteration in the genomic loci that can be observed.

A genetic marker may be a long DNA sequence or a short sequence, such as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). This discussion will be limited to the SNPs, which are commonly referred to as “snips”.

SNP usage in the swine industry began in the early 1990s with the hal-1843 SNP for meat quality (pale, soft and exudative, or PSE) and the porcine stress syndrome (PSS). Markers have been most often developed for traits that have economic value, are difficult to measure in live animals or are lowly heritable. Another early and well-known marker is the RN- (Rendement Napoli [negative]) gene for meat quality. The potential that the tests hold can be significant, such as the improvement in meat pH shown by the use of the PSS and RN- tests.

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SNPs and other gene markers were originally very difficult to locate. In early gene marker work, it was not uncommon for it to take years between when a gene marker was described and when an accurate test was developed. New developments in sequencing, better understanding of the underlying biology and the accumulation of good trait data will help greatly in the development of future markers.

The number of SNPs affecting FCR is not known. This is largely because of the unknown number of markers controlled by private industry. Today, there are three SNPs readily available for testing by laboratories in the United States and Canada (GeneSeek and DNA Landmarks).

The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) is associated with ADG, FI, BF and lean meat yield. The allele G delivers lean growth, less BF and lower FI. Allele A increases ADG.

In spite of the antagonistic correlation with ADG, allele G is expected to provide lower FCR because of the beneficial correlations of FCR with BF and FI. The A allele is nearly fixed in the Hampshire breed, making selection for the G allele ineffective in that breed.

The cholecystokinin type A receptor (CCKAR) associates with FI and growth traits. Selection of the G allele can be used to select animals with higher FI and faster growth. Selection of allele A is used to lower FI and thus FCR.

The high-mobility group A (HMGA1) is highly associated with BF and lean growth. Selection for the T allele will reduce BF and improve lean percentage. Reduction in FCR will also occur because a reduction in fat deposits reduces the feed required to add weight to the animal. This marker is best used only in sire line selection because of the emphasis on reduction of fat deposits and its potential impact on lactation performance.

Lactation Feed Intake

The importance of feeding sows correctly during lactation has been recognized for many years. The increased productivity of sows increases the risk of a more pronounced negative energy balance — loss of body condition — during lactation.

Research that would help estimate the heritability and genetic correlations of lactation feed intake (LFI) with other traits remains limited. Research on LFI by Susanne Hermesch at the University of New England in Australia has shown it to be a heritable trait with estimates ranging from 0.14 to 0.30. Genetic correlation estimates were moderate for prolonged wean-to-service interval (0.18) and number weaned (0.24), high for litter weight gain (0.48) and very high for the number of piglets and sow parities achieved over their lifetimes (0.67) and (0.73).

Another trait used to reduce the risk of negative energy balance is lactation efficiency (LE). LE is an estimate of energy output (energy deposition in piglets) divided by energy input (energy in feed above sow maintenance plus energy out of body tissue). Work by R. Bergsma and others in the Netherlands has shown that the heritability is low (0.12). Genetic correlations were low for total number born (0.09) and prolonged wean-to-service interval (0.1), and moderate for piglet mortality (-.24), litter weight gain (0.23), stayability as defined as the first-litter survival of sows (0.3) and LFI (-0.38).

Inclusion of LE in the breeding goal will improve stayability without negative consequences on other economically important traits. The rather high and negative genetic correlation with LFI is a long-term concern. A revised breeding goal of increasing LE and holding LFI constant is probably more realistic and achievable.

There are no gene markers currently available that are directly related to LFI or lactation feed efficiency. But if we view the reproductive efficiency as a ratio of output divided by input — much like LE — there are two gene markers that have potential for increasing output.

The first gene is the estrogen receptor gene (ESR) test, which has been shown to be effective in increasing litter size in Large White and Yorkshire lines and crosses including either breed. The second marker is the erythropoietin (EPOR). This genetic variant has been associated with uterine capacity and litter size. Selection for EPOR has been effective in two swine populations at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, including the industry relevant BX population, which is a Yorkshire, Landrace, and Duroc crossbred line. Improvement in litter size using one or both markers should improve gestation feed efficiency.

Maternal Line Evaluation

Overall, information about genetic relationships between LFI of sows and performance of pigs were positive for ADG (0.44 to 0.60) and FI (0.33 to 0.59), and small and negative for BF (-0.24 to -0.02). Unfortunately, the direction of the genetic correlation between LFI and FI is antagonistic if the breeding goal is to increase LFI while decreasing FI. Dam line selection must take this into consideration.

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Limited data is available on the relationship between finishing pig performance and sow reproductive performance. B. Holm and others at the University of Norway published genetic correlations between finishing FI and age at first mating, number born alive at first parity and number born alive at later parities, which were 0.2, 0.23 and 0.2, respectively. All three correlations are relatively small and indicate that selection for FCR by reducing FI can have a detrimental effect on litter size. This must also be considered in the development of dam line selection.

Dam line selection sustains a high reproductive output (requiring high body reserves and high FI), and also supplies half of the genetic potential for lean, fast-growing and feed-efficient (low FI and low FCR) slaughter pigs. Selecting only for reproduction has often become the focus for dam line selection with slaughter pig traits left to the sire line. With a better understanding of the genetic correlations between slaughter pig traits and maternal line traits, we should be able to develop new methods for dam line selection.

A more realistic breeding goal for dam lines should include grow-finish traits such as ADG or days to 250 lb., BF and, perhaps, FCR or correlated consumption traits; reproductive traits such as litter size, piglet mortality, weaning-to-mating interval and sow mortality; and lactation traits such as litter weight gain, sow body tissue loss and LFI.

Including lean growth traits in a maternal-line evaluation using a multiple-trait model to estimate inputs into selection indexes should increase the accuracy of the genetic evaluation for litter traits. Emphasis can be varied on the grow-finish side — from holding performance constant — to mild improvements without reductions in reproduction. The genetic correlations between traits need to be evaluated periodically.

Sire Line Selection

Sire line selections are to include some combination of the traits found in Table 1. Meat quality traits are beyond the scope of this discussion but can be antagonistically correlated to feed traits.

A potential sire selection program could begin with culling of young males at an early age using factors such as IGF-I, gene markers and estimated breeding values based on the performance of relatives. This would allow for a smaller number of boars to be tested for RFI or FCR utilizing feeding stations. Gilts would not be tested in feed stations, but estimated breeding values from their male relatives could be used in their selection.

Different sire lines should be tested using different methods because of their intended use in the marketplace. It is also important to understand the genetic response from combinations of these various methods. This knowledge will allow producers to ask the right questions of their genetic supplier and know if they are applying the appropriate selection pressure on economically important traits.

Optimizing Feed Manufacturing, Transport Options

Rising ingredient, energy (petroleum) and transportation costs are changing feed manufacturing practices across the U.S. pork industry. Feedmill and production unit managers are being challenged to evaluate the value of feed ingredients, feed form (mash, pellet, liquid) and particle size and cost of feed delivery.

Long-term goals should focus on ingredient purchasing and logistics (delivery and storage) and feed processing with the potential for improving animals' efficient use of feed. Feed ordering and delivery schedules have garnered new interest as the costs of fuel and the workforce climb.

Replacing cereal grains with alternative feed ingredients and byproducts may have specific storage requirements that affect their economy, the feasibility of use and the cost of manufacturing a palatable, quality feed product that allows the pigs to reach their genetic potential.

Swine producers looking for saving opportunities should focus their efforts in three areas:

  1. Least-Cost Formulation

    Least-cost formulation and alternative ingredients,

  2. Feed manufacturing to improve animal efficiency, and

  3. Lower feed delivery costs.

A swine producer's greatest opportunity to lower feed cost is through least-cost formulation of alternative ingredients. Least-cost formulation savings of as little as $2/ton would be difficult if not impossible to achieve through cost reductions or changes in the manufacturing process.

Pork producers who can develop a plan to incorporate alternative ingredients (distillers' dried grains with solubles, wheat midds, bakery byproducts, hominy feed) into their feed will experience feed cost savings.

However, the savings associated with alternative ingredients do not come without added costs and manufacturing challenges. Operations that develop processes to overcome these obstacles will realize the most feed savings.

On paper, alternative feed ingredient savings may look attractive, but producers, nutritionists, purchasing agents and feedmill managers must be prepared for the following challenges associated with new alternative ingredients:

  • Added analytical costs to develop and maintain a new ingredient matrix;

  • Additional receiving time and logistics management;

  • Slower batching times due to additional ingredients and poor flowing bins;

  • Reduced inventory of primary ingredients;

  • Reduced pellet mill throughput and higher electrical energy costs;

  • Changes in pellet quality, feed palatability, feed density and feed-flow characteristics; and

  • Additional labor costs in the receiving, batching and pelleting production areas.

These challenges affect all operations regardless of their size. Small producers may have more flexibility than larger production companies to make system changes to capture alternative ingredient price opportunities.

Manufacturing Savings

Each producer must ultimately determine how many resources they are willing to devote to managing these challenges.

Particle Size Reduction

Producers who have traditionally fed corn-soybean meal (SBM) diets should talk with their nutritionist and determine which ingredients and feeds have the greatest savings opportunities.

The simplest approach is to start with a single ingredient that can be used in all feeds.

The next step, which requires more planning and coordination, is to optimize the inclusion level across all diets to capture the greatest cost savings.

Since most alternative ingredients are byproducts of the food and biofuels industries, their nutrient content (energy, amino acids, minerals) and physical properties (moisture, density, flowability) will vary based on raw materials, processing equipment and plant design.

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Products such as distillers' dried grains with solubles (DDGS) have high nutrient variation (Table 1) due to differences in ethanol plant design and processing methods. Whereas, nutrient content of wheat middlings or bran is dependent on both the type of wheat (hard red winter, soft white, durum), as well as the efficiency of the flour extraction process.

Many of the challenges associated with alternative ingredients in a feed- mill can be overcome as long as all the employees working in the process are given sufficient time and resources to address these challenges. Operations that do not succeed may need to evaluate their implementation plan and determine whether enough resources are available to employees to achieve the desired outcomes.

Alternative ingredient savings are typically not fully recognized in most operations due to an unreliable ingredient supply, problems with inbound logistics and feed manufacturing constraints, such as poor flowability and limited bin space.

Pork producers who manufacture their own feeds can save money by using more individual small inclusion ingredients, vitamin and trace mineral premixes and Type A medicated feed additives. Depending on the medication, this may require the operation to obtain a medicated feed license and register with the Food and Drug Administration. This may also require the feedmill to upgrade their scaling and mixing equipment and change their manufacturing process to manage the lower inclusion level of these ingredients.

Finally, a company should use sow production and close-out performance as a gauge of the success of their alternative feed ingredient program. Producers should set a realistic alternative-ingredient saving goal each quarter based on the input of team members in different areas of responsibility in the company, such as animal production, nutrition, procurement, manufacturing and delivery, then evaluate the company's progress against these goals each month.

Manufacturing Savings

The feed manufacturing process should be viewed as a tool to improve the digestibility of feed and provide nutritionists with greater flexibility when formulating least-cost diets. Particle size reduction will improve the digestibility of cereal grains, which translates to improved feed conversion in swine, while pelleting offers greater flexibility in formulation and reduces feed wastage.

Particle Size Reduction

Research has demonstrated that particle size reduction of the cereal grain portion of starter diets from 1,000 to 500 microns improves performance. However, at 300 microns some negative effects on stomach mucosa have been observed.

Similar positive responses to particle size reduction have been observed in finishing pigs. A reduction from 1,000 to 400 microns has produced an improvement in feed conversion.

A regression equation (Figure 1) developed at Kansas State University from several research studies has proven to be a useful tool to predict feed savings in finishing pigs based on the particle size of the grain in the diet.

In the past, achieving a particle size of less than 400 microns has been a challenge; however, the demand for hammermills with high production rates has resulted in larger rotor diameter machines. These machines now operate with hammer tip speeds in excess of 24,000 ft./min. and can produce ground grain that is less than 400 microns. The drawback to grinding to less than 400 microns is that the feed must be pelleted in order for it to flow through feed bins and feed handling systems.

Another option for producers is to grind grain with a roller mill, which produces a granular product down to 600 microns that tends to have better flow characteristics, especially at a lower particle size.

The selection of equipment and the optimal particle size for individual production units must be based on herd health status, genetics, stage of production (sow, nursery, grow-finish), electrical cost, capital investment and type of diet (meal vs. pellet).


The pelleting process agglomerates ingredients that have different particle sizes, densities and flowabilities. Animal production companies often struggle with justifying the cost of pelleting and setting a pellet quality standard (percent fines).

The pelleting process is the most expensive and complicated process in the feedmill; however, the benefits of pellets include:

  • Decreased feed wastage;

  • Reduced selective feeding;

  • Decreased ingredient segregation;

  • Destruction of pathogens; and

  • Improved palatability.

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Nutritionists must determine if the higher cost of pellets can be offset with better animal performance and alternative ingredient savings.

Pelleting allows nutritionists to formulate diets with ingredients that have poor flow characteristics, including ground grain that is less than 600 microns.

The benefits of pelleting have been demonstrated in both nursery and finishing pigs, with up to an 8% improvement in average daily gain (ADG) and feed-to-gain (F/G) conversion. Once the decision to pellet feed is made, the next step is to develop a pellet quality specification that balances manufacturing cost, feed wastage and feeder management.

The cost of producing a pellet and pellet quality are inversely related. High-quality pellets with minimal fines cost significantly more to produce than pellets delivered to the farm that contain 20-30% fines.

Animal production groups are typically concerned about the percent of fines in the feeder, while feedmill operators monitor both pellet fines and pellet quality as measured by the pellet durability index (PDI).

Commercial feedmills will have a pellet screener that can remove the fines after the pellets have been cooled, and then re-pellet the fines to create a product with minimal fines when it leaves the feedmill.

Animals in an integrated system may receive feed that contains from 10-50% fines due to factors such as type of ingredients, particle size and pellet mill throughput. From a practical standpoint, research has demonstrated better feed conversion in nursery pigs that were fed screened pellets vs. a pelleted feed with 25% fines. Poorer feed conversion in growing and finishing pigs has also been observed as the percentage of fines increased up to 40%. Some research suggests that pigs fed 60% fines will have feed conversions similar to pigs fed meal diets, thus negating the benefit of pelleting.

In addition to pig performance considerations, there is also the problem of inconsistency in the amount of fines between feed deliveries, which results in the need for frequent feeder adjustment as farm personnel attempt to minimize feed wastage. This is a common complaint of animal production specialists.

Feed Delivery

Feed delivery cost can significantly impact total feed cost. In some cases, delivery cost may be higher than the manufacturing cost. Pork producers can reduce delivery cost in four areas: 1) insure that trucks are filled to the legal limit, 2) maximize the amount of feed on each load, 3) drive direct routes, and 4) look for backhaul opportunities.

Table 2 illustrates the potential savings that could be realized by either fully loading the truck or increasing the feed capacity of the truck up to 27 tons/load. Purchasing lighter- weight tractors and trailers will increase the capacity of feed that can be hauled on each load, but small changes such as reducing the amount of fuel and hydraulic oil, replacing metal lids with rolling tarps or using super single tires will also reduce the unit's weight.

Producers should determine if their feed delivery drivers (contract drivers or feed company) use the most direct route between the feedmill and the farm. The addition of as few as five extra miles per round trip delivery could add $0.10-0.15/ton in today's energy market.

Finally, arranging a backhaul of ingredients to the feedmill will defray or offset the cost of feed delivery.

Build a Quality Assurance Plan

Every swine producer — whether they are manufacturing or buying feed — should have a comprehensive quality assurance program that outlines policies, procedures and requirements related to ingredient quality, manufacturing controls, finished feed packaging and feed delivery.

A quality assurance program should include ingredient specifications, standard operating procedures, process standards, sampling schedules and standard reporting methods. Quality assurance programs can also incorporate food safety systems (HACCP), government regulations (cGMP's, BSE, bioterrorism) and ISO 9001 and 14001, as well as certification programs (Safe Feed/Safe Food). These programs should support the manufacturing and quality goals of the company and be customized to match the feedmill equipment and manufacturing process.

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Finally, the goals and quality assurance programs should be reviewed on a regular basis to insure the policies and procedures are relevant to the current manufacturing operation.

The sheer complexity of feed manufacturing and the potential savings associated with the process suggests that a team of individuals from different areas of responsibilities should evaluate the pros and cons of each opportunity as it relates to business goals, herd health status and genetics, design of the animal production system, ingredient price and availability and feedmill manufacturing capabilities. Companies that use a team approach to evaluate feed saving opportunities, within the context of the manufacturing process, will minimize the chance of costly, departmentalized business decisions.

Rethinking the Measures Of Dietary Efficiency

The livestock industry has always competed with other sectors of the economy for corn and other feed ingredients. The most common example is the broad use of corn in the human food sector, where the grain is used for everything from breakfast cereals to sweeteners.

Generally, growth in the human food and livestock sectors occurred at a balanced pace. But, more recently, the very rapid growth of another competitor — the biofuels sector — has disrupted this balance. Consequently, as oil prices rose, the price and availability of corn followed, and the brunt of the escalating demand was felt by everyone associated with livestock feeding.

And, as human food and biofuel manufacturers tapped into more and more of the corn supply, the creation of new coproducts was a natural result. The human food sector generated bakery byproducts, corn gluten meal, corn gluten feed, distillers' grains and distillers' solubles, to name a few. The biofuels sector has dramatically increased the availability of corn distillers' dried grains, with or without solubles added. The increased use of corn for fuel has therefore focused more attention on feeding these by-products to pigs.

As swine feeding programs began adding more coproducts to traditional corn-soybean meal blends, new questions on how to evaluate their nutrient value surfaced. The fact that coproducts typically are less consistent in their composition and nutrient availability makes this task even more difficult.

European producers have a long history of using coproducts in pig diets. Table 1 offers some perspective on how the composition of U.S. swine diets differs from those in the European Union and The Netherlands.

Whereas typical U.S. swine diets have contained about 65% cereal grains (corn, milo, wheat, barley — depending on the region) and 20% coproducts of oilseed processing, namely soybean meal, the Europeans have used much smaller quantities of cereal grains and much higher quantities of coproducts from both the oilseed and human food industries.

While corn and soybean meal will likely remain the staple ingredients in practical U.S. swine diets in the foreseeable future, there is no denying that coproducts will play a bigger role. The survival of the pig industry demands it.

When corn reached the unimaginable price of $8/bu. last year, the volatility on the market was clearly demonstrated. Even though grain prices have settled back to more historically typical levels, we must be prepared for such dramatic changes in the future.

Adaptability in feed markets is important for another reason. The use of alternative feed ingredients gives pork producers more options in their feeding programs; more options generally translate into greater success.

Evaluating New Ingredients

As the market conditions change and producers consider new ingredients, they must understand their chemical composition, including energy, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Not all nutrients in an ingredient are biologically available, so studies are required to measure the availability of energy, amino acids and phosphorus. Although other nutrients may be of interest, these are the most critical in basal ingredients.

Evaluating energy values is complicated by at least two unique issues. First, energy is not a single entity, but rather a compilation of four energy sources — starch, fats, fiber and protein. Each energy source is used by the pig in different ways.

For example, most starch is digested fairly easily and absorbed from the intestinal tract as glucose, an efficient energy source. However, some starch is resistant to digestion and passes through the small intestine and becomes fermented into volatile fatty acids in the lower gut. Volatile fatty acids are not used as an energy source as efficiently as glucose.

Nutritionists are just beginning to understand the portion of starch in a raw feedstuff that is resistant to digestion. Unfortunately, very little is known about how processing, such as drying, affects the portion of starch that is resistant.

Determining the availability of amino acids and phosphorus also presents technical challenges, but generally accepted procedures are useful and fairly accurate in providing this information.

Amino acids are used less efficiently for energy than starch because amino acids have to be broken down by the pig to remove the nitrogen molecule. There is a metabolic cost to this process, and the issue is further complicated by the fact that amino acids used to create proteins, such as lean tissue or enzymes, are not available as an energy source. Thus, we can see that amino acids used as energy are less efficient than starch, and the exact quantity available to be used as energy is uncertain.

On average, about 60-65% of the amino acids in a pig's diet are not used to build protein, so those are potentially available as an energy source.

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Likewise, fiber is not as readily available as an energy source as starch. First, pigs do not digest fiber well because it must be fermented in the gut, then absorbed by the pig as volatile fatty acids. As noted above, this process is less efficient as an energy source than glucose.

In addition, fiber levels vary among feed ingredients, so it is quite difficult to accurately estimate the quantity of energy provided by fiber in coproduct ingredients.

Fat, on the other hand, is used very efficiently as an energy source by the pig, particularly when it is transferred to backfat and other fat stores in the body. Even if fat must be broken down, it is still used for energy with greater efficiency than glucose.

Table 2 shows the efficiency of various energy sources. How efficiently they will be utilized by the pig will depend on whether they are used for maintenance or growth.

Rethinking Energy Systems

Digestible energy (DE) and metabolizable energy (ME) systems are most commonly used in formulating North American pig diets. Both approaches have served us well because the composition of our diets has traditionally been simple — most containing just two or three main ingredients.

However, as we begin to use more coproducts in our swine diets, the composition of diets will become more complex. It is, therefore, likely that we will see greater adoption of the net energy (NE) system.

The net energy system has an advantage over DE and ME in that it takes into account the differential efficiency of energy sources explained earlier, whereas DE and ME do not.

The differences between the three energy systems are illustrated in Figure 1. DE accounts for energy lost in the feces and ME further accounts for energy lost in the urine and in gases. Neither adjusts for the differential efficiency of energy, depending on the source.

NE does this by adjusting for what is called “heat increment,” which is the term applied to the metabolic cost of converting absorbed energy into a form that can be used by the pig for maintenance (NEm) and growth (NEg). Growth comes in two forms — fat and muscle — or as expressed in Figure 1, net energy (lipid) refers to the portion of net energy directed to drive lipid gain in the carcass, and net energy (protein) refers to that portion of net energy that drives protein or lean gain in the carcass.

New Measures of Efficiency

Feed conversion is both a simple and a complex measure. Technically, it is a simple calculation — feed used divided by pig growth or, if you prefer, the pounds of feed required to produce a pound of gain.

Practically, however, feed conversion is challenging to measure under farm conditions because accurate feed manufacturing and/or feed delivery records are critical.

A challenge, for example, is multiple barns on a single site, a very common situation. Feed delivered to one barn can easily be charged to another. If this happens, the result is an inaccurate calculation for both barns.

Additionally, feed conversion is calculated on a live hog basis, but many producers are paid on a dressed carcass weight basis. Since some diets can increase the size of the pig's gut, traditional feed conversion of a live hog will overstate the value of a diet. Calculating feed conversion on a dressed weight basis would remove this potential for error and provide information that is more closely linked to the payment received by the producer. In this case, feed conversion would be calculated as pounds of feed/lb. of dressed weight gain.

Feed conversion is also problematic because it can be easily changed by the nutritionist simply by adjusting the energy content of the diet. As Table 2 illustrated earlier, a diet containing less energy will generally result in a poorer feed conversion, while a diet containing more energy will generally improve it. Thus, a feeding program with 3% added fat will result in better feed conversion than one containing 1.5% added fat. Yet, this higher feed conversion may not be more profitable.

Adding to the complexity, supplemental fat in a diet may increase barn throughput, which has a high economic value in most systems. In this instance, the addition of fat to the diet is undertaken to improve growth rate and not feed conversion.

Both of these situations point out the limitations of feed conversion as a useful measure when it is taken in isolation of other very important considerations in the production system.

An alternative measure of feed efficiency that I believe will increase in value in the future is kilocalories of dietary energy/lb. of gain, which tells us how much energy is required to produce a pound of gain. Because energy is the most expensive component of the diet, this measure of efficiency helps us understand if we are using energy as efficiently as possible.

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It therefore becomes increasingly apparent that a financial component must be considered in the evaluation of diet efficiency. Too much focus on non-economic outcomes, like feed conversion, can mislead us into thinking that one diet is better than another, when it may not be.

For this reason, we are seeing evolving measures of efficiency that link pig performance to financial indicators, such as feed cost/pig, feed cost/lb. of gain, net return over feed cost, net return/pig and net return/pig place.

If we begin by looking at feed cost/pig — an important measurement because it defines the total cost of feeding a pig to market — it transforms feed conversion from a performance measure into something with a financial component. And it's easy to calculate — simply divide total feed cost by the number of pigs sold.

While feed cost/pig is a valuable number, it has one important flaw — it does not consider growth rate. Again, a nutritionist can develop a diet that minimizes feed cost/pig, but if growth rate suffers, then barn throughput declines and the number of pigs sold/year diminishes.

Some producers prefer to measure efficiency by calculating feed cost/pig place. If grow-out capacity is a limiting factor, which is often the case, then growth rate and, thus, barn throughput is important. Income/pig place minus expenses/pig place expresses the potential for profit from a given barn on an annual basis.

Taking a look at feed cost/lb. of gain, the most accurate calculation is to divide the total cost of feed used by the total pounds of gain produced. As explained above, using the dressed weight rather than live weight is even better.

Margin over feed cost is the difference between the value of the pig and the total feed cost. Adding in the cost of the feeder pig, either purchased or raised, provides another valuable number — return over feed and feeder pig. Since these are the three largest components of a cost of production budget, it allows producers to determine how much money is available to cover barn expenses, fixed costs and labor and how much is likely to be left over for profit. When observed in the context of the value of the market hog, the producer can see two major components of the budget — income and feed.

Of course, the total cost of feed for a given turn is a useful number as well, because it can be used to express net income over feed cost for the whole barn. While this is a very useful financial number, it is less useful as a measure of feed efficiency because too many variables, including mortality, can influence it.

More Challenges Ahead

In conclusion, as our industry moves forward into a world of greater uncertainty in feed markets, we are challenged with the need to identify the best way to feed our pigs and to achieve both performance and financial objectives. This will require us to rethink what we feed our pigs, how we feed them and how we measure success.

The goal remains the same — to produce high-quality pork that is desired by the consumer, and to do so in a manner that is both profitable and sustainable. How we measure feed efficiency will be an increasingly important topic in the coming years, because it must keep our focus on achieving the right outcomes.

More Efficient Use of Feed

Living through the volatility of feed prices over the last two years has heightened producers' awareness of the need for continual improvement in the efficiency of feed use.

Efficient use of feed means different things to different people. Nutritionists consider dietary energy levels, particle size and feed processing.

Swine veterinarians may think about the impact of disease and health status.

Producers in the barn may think about feeder adjustment, impacts of weaning age or productivity levels.

Geneticists may consider sire lines and the contribution of the sow to whole herd feed efficiency.

Accountants may be focused on the dollars and cents.

As farm owners, all of these factors must be considered to reach the overall goal of more efficiently using a resource that is much more valuable today than just a few short years ago — feed.

Of course, decisions on optimal diets and the impact of the diet on feed efficiency cannot be made in a vacuum. The profitability of the entire production system must be considered.

When feed prices are high and alternative ingredients are available, the most profitable decision for some production systems may be to reduce the energy level, which will reduce growth rate and increase days to market. This scenario was rarely the best option in past years, because finishing space was not available to make reducing growth rate a profitable decision.

However, a reduction in the U.S. swine herd, coupled with an increase in finishing barn availability, will make this the most profitable option for some production systems. These changes make benchmarking and comparing feed efficiency from one production system to another very difficult. A clear understanding of all of the drivers of profitability is required to truly determine whether a system is using their feed resources efficiently.

Measuring Efficiency of Feed Use

In order to make improvements, we have to know what to measure. When discussing feed efficiency, we naturally think about closeout feed efficiency for a group of pigs, where we have accounted for the pounds of feed delivered to a group of pigs. The pounds delivered includes all feed consumed or wasted by the pigs.

Traditionally, the other half of the equation is the weight gain of the pig, which is simply the weight of pigs at the end of the feeding period minus the weight at the beginning of the period. Closeout feed efficiency is a good place to start and, when the subject of focus, has led many production systems to continual improvement over time.

When most diets were corn-soybean meal-based, this traditional method of measuring feed efficiency was probably sufficient. However, the introduction of other ingredients to swine diets can greatly impact the energy value of the diet and, potentially, the yield of the pigs. Thus, for future measurements, we will need to change the numerator of the equation from feed to the amount of “energy that was delivered to the pigs.” Similarly, the denominator may need to change from total weight gained to “pounds of carcass weight gained” (see Figure 1).

There are many different ways to measure the energy density of a diet, which are covered in detail by John Patience of Iowa State University, on page 10 in this Blueprint.

Feed efficiency for a group of nursery or finishing pigs is often more easily measured and tracked than trying to measure and monitor whole herd feed use. To truly improve the efficiency of all feed used on the swine farm, a clear accounting of sow gestation, lactation and gilt developer feed must also take place.

Tracking use and cost of these feed categories on a per-sow, per-marketed pig, and per-pound-of-carcass weight basis will allow for continual improvement and illustrate the importance of sow productivity in reducing the impact of these feed costs on the cost burden carried by each pig marketed.

Factors Influencing Efficient Feed Use

Any factor that influences the numerator (feed or calories) or denominator (weight produced) in the efficiency equation is important to consider when trying to improve the efficiency of feed use.


Sire and dam genetics have a major impact on efficiency of feed use. Genetics determine the upper limit for the pigs' potential to convert calories into carcass lean. Genetics can also dictate the pigs produced per sow per year, which profoundly impacts whole herd feed conversion. The genetic contribution to the efficient use of feed is discussed by Jim Schneider beginning on page 22 of this Blueprint edition.

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Dietary energy level

Because higher energy diets contain more calories, less feed is required for each unit of weight gain or per sow per day when a higher energy diet is fed. This is a simple concept, but often overlooked when comparing feed efficiency across production systems or even between groups within a production system.

Thus, dietary ingredients that lower the energy density of the diet have a direct impact on feed efficiency by increasing the pounds of feed required for each pound of gain. Because reducing the dietary energy level also can lower growth rate, low-energy diets can also indirectly increase feed-to-gain (F/G) by decreasing the denominator in the F/G equation.

Other diet variables

If the diet is deficient in any nutrient, daily gain will be reduced and feed efficiency will suffer. Of all nutrients, deficiencies in amino acids have the greatest negative impact on feed efficiency. Amino acid levels (lysine being the first limiting amino acid in most diets) should be reviewed whenever feed efficiency is not achieving target levels.

Environmental temperature

If housed below its thermo-neutral zone, the pig will use feed as a heat source to keep warm instead of using it for growth, and feed efficiency will be poorer. The economic value of these tradeoffs must always be considered.

Diet form and processing

As covered in detail by Charles Stark in this Blueprint (page 16), pigs fed pelleted diets will have 3-6% better feed efficiency than those fed diets in meal form. The quality of the pellet and the particle size of the grain in the pellet dictate much of the range of the benefit.

Reducing particle size of ingredients in the diet (whether pelleted or meal form) increases available surface area for enzymes to work on the particles, which increases digestibility, making more energy available to the pig to improve feed conversion. For each 100 micron reduction in particle size, feed efficiency is improved by approximately 1.2%.

Equipment (feed wastage)

Feed wastage can occur in many areas on the farm. Poorly adjusted feeders or old feeders that cannot be adjusted increase feed wastage and, therefore, hurt feed efficiency. (See “Feeder Adjustments Optimize Growth, Reduce Feed Wastage,” page 34).

Other efficiency robbers may not be as noticeable at first glance. For example, removing and discarding good, dry feed from feeders in the farrowing house in order to offer sows fresh feed can be a tremendous waste of expensive feed. Some automatic lactation feeding systems waste a tremendous amount of feed by dropping feed into troughs that are already full.

Likewise, over-feeding gestating sows should be quantified as feed wastage because the expense occurs without a measurable benefit. In fact, the extra feed may actually do more harm than good.


Most diseases have a much greater impact on feed intake and average daily gain than on feed efficiency. For example, gastrointestinal maladies (porcine proliferative enteritis or ileitis, haemorrhagic bowel syndrome or HBS, etc.) may affect growth rate, but have less impact on feed efficiency. This is the reason that some groups of pigs can have very low daily gain and feed intake and still have good feed efficiency numbers.

However, diseases such as porcine circovirus, with high mortality rates late in the finishing stage, are devastating to whole-herd or finishing closeout feed efficiencies. Diseases that increase mortality reduce the weight generated from the group, while feed disappearance remains high, thereby resulting in poorer feed efficiency. Feed efficiency is increased by 1.5 to 2% for each 1% increase in mortality.

Diseases such as porcine circovirus that cause a tremendous immune response also reduce the efficiency of feed use directly, in addition to their impact on mortality. Immune activation diverts nutrients away from growth towards the immune system, which results in poorer feed efficiency. For many diseases, this effect is too small to directly measure a change in feed efficiency; however, this impact is much greater and more measurable for other diseases.

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Because the weight gained in gilts has a higher lean-to-fat ratio, less feed is required for each pound of weight gain in gilts compared to barrows. Although the exact difference varies by genetic line, gilts typically are 3 to 6% more feed efficient in the finishing period than barrows. Similarly, boars are more efficient to feed than gilts.


When examining whole herd feed efficiency, the productivity of the sow herd directly determines the number of pigs that sow feed use and costs can be spread over. As an example, let's consider two identical farms that use 2,100 lb. of feed per sow per year. If one of the farms markets 18 pigs/sow/year, each pig marketed would carry the cost of 117 lb. of sow feed. If the other farm marketed 22 pigs/sow/year, each pig marketed would carry only 95 lb. of sow feed.

Weight range

Because feed efficiency becomes poorer as pigs become heavier, the starting and ending weight of pigs must be considered when comparing closeout feed efficiency from one group or farm to another.

For example, feed efficiency increases by approximately 0.005 lb. for each 1-lb. increase in average starting and ending weights for the group. Thus, if two groups of pigs have the same starting weight, but one is marketed 10 lb. heavier than the other group, feed efficiency would be expected to be 0.05 higher for the heavier group, just because of the market weight. On an energy basis, the 0.005 lb. would be equivalent to 7.5 kcal more metabolizable energy for each 1-lb. increase in average starting or ending weight.

Weaning age

Although weaning age doesn't have much impact on feed efficiency, it can greatly impact other measures of efficiency of feed use, such as feed cost in the nursery, because lower complexity (and lower cost) diets are required as weaning age is increased.

Benchmarking Efficiency of Feed Use

Because so many factors influence feed efficiency, the best benchmarks are those developed within the production system. The overall goal of benchmarking is to make consistent, measurable improvement over time.

When comparing benchmark levels, adjustments must be made to account for the factors that influence feed efficiency, such as gender, diet form, dietary energy level and starting and ending weight, as discussed above.

The values provided in Table 1 offer intervention levels for closeout feed efficiency for nursery, finishing and wean-to-finish pigs. If the efficiency numbers for the production system are not better than these levels, reasons for this deficiency should be investigated.

New Product Tour 2009

New Product Tour 2009

Complete the New Product Tour at World Pork Expo

Have your passport stamped at all of the participating booths and you will be entered to win the Grand Prize which is a series of six World Pork Expo commemorative tractors!

The passports can be picked up at Gate 15 in the Animal Learning Center, at any of the New Product Tour participating booths and at the National Hog Farmer booth #623 in the Varied Industries Building.

Once your passport has been stamped at all of the booths, visit the National Hog Farmer booth to vote for the Producer’s Choice Award. There will be a daily tractor drawing, and all entrants will be entered to win the Grand Prize of a series of six World Pork Expo commemorative tractors!

New Product Tour Nominees

Feed-Ease Splash Feeder
A.J. O’Mara Group

A.J. O’Mara’s Feed-Ease Splash Feeder makes fresh, wet feed available to weaner through finishing pigs. Water is contained in a shielded, open water pipe above the feed trough. Pigs work a paddle to drop feed and splash down water. As pigs grow, their ability to work the paddle more vigorously means more water and feed are dispensed. Hopper agitation helps high fat and finely ground feed flow smoothly. An end-of-feeder water cup and water level valve offer additional fresh water.

Learn more at www.ajomara.com
Call 605-242-4742
or email ajomara@longlines.com
Visit Booth No. 118 VIB.

Advanced Biological Marketing

Advanced Biological marketing (ABM) introduces Naturall bacteria-based products. Naturall products have been proven to reduce solid waste in manure pits and lagoons up to 75% in seven days. Independent sources like the National Science Foundation have approved Naturall products for use in food-grade facilities. The Naturall brand features effective natural solutions for use in composting, drain maintenance and lagoon and pit management. The product line includes Naturall Waste Digester & Odor Control, Naturall Septic Digester and Drain Cleaner, Naturall Waste Digester and Compost Accelerator, and Naturall Extra Strength Septic Digester.

Learn more at www.abm1st.com
Call 877-617-2461
or email bradcustis@abm1st.com
Visit Booth No. 2808 CB

Rotecna Swing Feeder R3
American Resources, LLC.

The new Rotecna Swing Feeder R3 offers wide functionality for the whole life cycle of the pig from 13 lb. on in a single product. The Rotecna R3 offers the benefits of a wean-to-finish, wet-dry feeder and works with all types of rations, is easier to fill and simpler to clean than previous generations of feeders. The feeder can accommodate 30-60 animals from 13 to 265 lb.

Learn more at www.rotecna.com
Call 641-592-1212
or email americanrl@wctatel.net
Visit Booth No. 107 VIB

AP Air Filtration Systems
AP (Automated Production Systems)

AP’s Pathogen Barrier Air Filtration Systems provide laboratory-tested and field-proven protection from the aerosol transmission of viruses including PRRS. High-efficiency filters used to provide “clean” environments in applications such as hospitals and pharmaceutical and electronics manufacturing facilities are modified and adapted to filter the incoming air used to ventilate swine buildings. AP’s systems approach to filtration provides an engineered solution including filters, fans, inlets and controls to adapt filtration to both new and existing swine production facilities.

Learn more at www.automatedproduction.com
Call 217-226-4449
or email tstuthman@gsiag.com
Visit Booth No. 179 VIB

Ingelvac® CircoFLEX-MycoFLEX™
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.

Ingelvac® CircoFLEX-MycoFLEX™ allows producers the ability to effectively protect pigs against both porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae in a single vaccination. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) has approved the use of the Ingelvac CircoFLEX-MycoFLEX combination package which permits its contents, Ingelvac CircoFLEX and Ingelvac MycoFLEX, to be mixed and administered within four hours as a single-dose, 2-mL- injection to pigs three weeks of age or older. This means pigs can be conveniently and effectively vaccinated at weaning in order to obtain immunity throughout the grow-finish period.

Learn more at www.bi-vetmedica.com
Call 800-325-9167
or email trudy.luther@boehringer-ingelheim.com
Visit Booth No. 349 VIB

Sharpmark Powder Concentrate - Livestock Marker
Cotran Corporation

The Sharpmark powder concentrate livestock marker effectively replaces aerosol spray cans. Use of the product drastically reduces marking costs and freight charges, eliminates propellant, helps keep hands and clothing clean, and does not freeze. It consists of concentrated dye powder in water-soluble bags which are protected by moisture-barrier pouches. Drop a bag inside the pressure sprayer, add water and start marking!

For more information.
Call 800-345-4449
or email info@cotrancorp.com
Visit Booth No. 629 VIB

Ibex™ Pro and Ibex™ Lite Ultrasound
E.I. Medical Imaging

E.I. Medical Imaging introduces their fifth generation of portable ultrasound, the new Ibex™ Pro and Ibex™ Lite. The Ibex was engineered for accuracy, biosecurity and ultra-portability for use in demanding swine research and production environments. Ibex™ with DuraScan™ technology offers an all-digital system with new features such as quick-zoom, cine-loop (eight-second video playback), CompactFlash image storage, USB and wireless links, voice tag, track ball navigation and Bluetooth RFID reader for animal identification. Kevlar-reinforced transducers help withstand the rigors of field use. High-resolution scans are displayed on either the Ibex™ LCD monitor or redesigned InSite® 2 monitor headset.

Learn more at www.eimedical.com
Call 866-365-6596 or 970-669-1793
or email info@eimedical.com
Visit Booth No. 130 VIB

Step-Safe Gates
Featherlite Trailers

Step-Safe Gates are Featherlite’s latest innovation and are designed to increase both safety and speed while loading and unloading hogs. Because the hogs don’t have to step over the center gate, they are prevented from slipping. The feature is especially useful when transporting pigs that are unaccustomed to trailering. The Step-Safe Gate option is available on trailers up to 24 ft. long and 7 ft. tall. Patent-pending Step-Safe Rear Gates are also available to help increase safety during loading and unloading.

Learn more at www.fthr.com
Call 866-365-6596 or 970-669-1793
or email salesinfo@fthr.com
Visit Booth No. 4410 OA

SelectDoser Max™
Genesis Instruments, Inc.

SelectDoser Max™ from Genesis Instruments is a proportional additive pump for pork operations that dispenses vaccines, medications, vitamins and other solutions into high-or low-pressure watering systems. SelectDoser Max achieves its long-lasting precision through built-in dosing control software that administers solutions into the water system via compression and peristaltic action. It is equipped to handle up to 100 psi and achieves 95% accuracy with 13 preset ratios. SelectDoser Max is a cost-effective way for pork producers to take the guesswork out of water management.

Learn more at www.GenesisInstruments.com
Call 715-639-9209
or email brianh@genind.com
Visit Booth No. 661 VIB

MasterLine™ Injector
Neogen Corporation

MasterLine Injectors are ergonomically designed for comfortable durability. The MasterLine Injectors are made of durable material that is compatible with medicines. Critical parts, such as the barrel body, bottle mount and needle connection are made of metal to avoid breakage. The complete unit can be easily disassembled for cleaning. The valve system is designed to avoid the risk of small parts falling out of the injector while it is disassembled. Products of different viscosity are no match for the EZI-Flow Squeeze Adjuster™ Interchangeable parts make it easy to transform from bottle-mount to feed tube applicator, from vaccinator to drencher, and from injector to drench or pour-on gun.

Learn more at www.neogen.com
Call 800-621-8829 or 859-254-1221
or email abranstetter@neogen.com
Visit Booth No. 511 VIB

Neogen Corporation

Neogen’s new Di-Kill™ rodenticide uses the recently approved, proven-effective active ingredient difenacoum to control Norway rats, roof rats and house mice in and around buildings and inside of transport vehicles. Difenacoum is the only new active ingredient that EPA has approved in over 15 years and is also classified as a second generation rodenticide. Di-Kill’s food grade ingredients provide an excellent base for superior palatability thereby enhancing any rodent biosecurity program.

Learn more at www.neogen.com
Call 859-254-1221, ext. 267
or email dmyers@neogen.com
Visit Booth No. 511 VIB

PigCHAMP Grow-Finish Software

The PigCHAMP Grow/Finish program offers unprecedented capabilities for pig flow management, real-time group performance and complete and accurate profit/loss information. The program can be used independently or in combination with Care 3000 as a fully integrated farrow-to-finish system. The product features include single user or network/server options and email capabilities for reports and ordering feed. All necessary information for National Animal Identification and COOL compliance is captured in the program and is easily accessible. Generate reports from company-wide to individual group; compare performance between groups and/or locations. The PigCHAMP Grow/Finish program was designed and developed over a number of years with the cooperation of producers, veterinarians and nutritionists from all over the world.

Learn more at www.pigchamp.com
Call 515-233-2551, ext. 29
or email jayne.jackson@pigchamp.com
Visit Booth No. 575 VIB

Mighty Mack Washer
Swine Robotics, Inc.

The Mighty Mack Washer from Swine Robotics, Inc. was designed to meet a need in modern swine facilities for pressure washing with incredible speed and unbelievable labor efficiency. Swine Robotics is bringing simple, car wash technology to the barn by installing an overhead rail above each row of farrowing crates, gestation stalls, nursery or grow-finish pens. The affordable rail system will carry a multi-nozzle wash boom. High-volume, high-pressure pumps are a key to the Mighty Mack’s powerful cleaning strength.

Learn more at www.swinerobotics.com
Call 605-439-3510 or 605-216-9096
or email info@swinerobotics.com
Visit Booth No. 253 VIB

Thorp Stainless Steel Door
Thorp Equipment, Inc.

Thorp Stainless Steel Doors are ready to install, fully insulated, pre-hung doors designed for interior and exterior use. Because the doors are made of 304 stainless steel, they will never rust and are great for any corrosive area. Solid welded hinges and jams, and reinforced thresholds contribute to the doors’ durability. A flange on the exterior makes installation easy.

Learn more at www.thorpequipment.com
Call 715-206-0242 or 715-669-5050
or email sales@thorpequipment.com
Visit Booth No. 663 VIB

Sentinel SCALE

The Sentinel SCALE is a free-choice hog weighing system that measures and records the live body weight of hogs and even provides the option to paint mark pigs in up to two colors. The stable design gives hogs the confidence to investigate the scale, thus providing producers with high numbers of weight samples obtained without human intervention or stress to the pigs. Without this undue stress, the Sentinel SCALE proves itself to be invaluable by continually providing growth/weight data, such as 24-hour growth, CV values and accurate weight samplings. The Sentinel SCALE Controller provides the data producers need. Connect the Sentinel SCALE to the GrowTRAC Wireless Management Service and optimize the management of your hogs from practically anywhere. This patent-pending scale can be incorporated into any new or existing pen design.

Learn more at www.valcompanies.com
Call 800-328-3813, ext. 6005
or email GMattila@valcompanies.com
Visit Booth No. 637 VIB

Vanberg Metal Coating Systems
Vanberg Specialized Coatings

Vanberg Specialized Coatings (VSC )metal repair and protection products are designed to quickly and easily repair, coat and protect deteriorating metal surfaces, providing a cost-effective way to extend the useful life of metal. They are formulated to withstand corrosive and tough environments found in pork facilities. VSC offers a complete system for metal repair and protection. VSC Rust Converter will stop existing rust, while VSC Seam Tape will durably cover holes, splits and seams. V-Thane Urethane is a high-performance, color-stable and chemical resistant coating. Armorcoat 65 Epoxy is tough wearing, economical and chemical resistant. Acrylic Membrane is a high-build, flexible, water and mold-resistant coating.

Learn more at www.vanbergcoatings.com
Call 913-599-5939
or email vsc@vanbergcoatings.com
Visit Booth No. 514 VIB

Low-Phytate Barley Available In Canada

The Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan recently announced that a low-phytate, hulless barley variety called CDC Lophy-I is now available as a publically released variety in Canada. Seed growers with pedigreed seed are free to multiply and market the seed.

Brian Rossnagel, an oat and barley plant breeder from the CDC says the new barley makes phosphorus more available to animals, particularly hogs, thus reducing the amount of undigested phosphorus excreted in manure. “We saw this as an opportunity to provide hog producers right across the country with a good variety that would help. It won’t solve the whole problem if there is one, but it will help in making sure there’s as little phosphorus going out in the effluent as possible,” he says. Rossnagel explains that the barley also can help make minerals such as calcium and iron more available to hogs. Phytate in barley and other cereal grains tends to tie up calcium and iron, thus making them less available to the animals. Rossnagel is encouraging Canadian pork producers to let seed growers and suppliers know if they are interested in obtaining the low-phytate barley so sufficient seed supplies can be produced to meet demand.

Read more about manure management in Canada online at Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative.

Defending the Study of Pig Odor

The state of Iowa made national headlines recently when news spread about a legislative earmark providing federal funding for the study of swine odor. The earmark provided the funding to USDA’s Agriculture Research Service in Ames. While defending the necessity of the odor research project, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says there are very good reasons why that funding item should remain. The Iowa Pork Industry Center provides additional details about an article on the Scientific American Web site in which Harkin outlines how the earmark came about. Harkin says former President Bush’s budget proposed to terminate a number of agricultural research projects in order to come in at a lower budget number, with the former president allegedly figuring that this needed research was likely to be restored by Congress. Jacek Koziel, Iowa State University agricultural and biosystems engineering associate professor, is quoted in the Scientific American article explaining why it’s a good idea to study pig odor. Information from Harkin and an edited transcript of Koziel’s interview are online at Scientific American.

Manure Helps Oil-Contaminated Soil

Science Daily reports that researchers in China have discovered chicken manure can be used to biodegrade crude oil in contaminated soil. Writing in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution, the team explains how bacteria in chicken manure break down 50% more crude oil than soil lacking the manure.

Contamination of soil by crude oil occurs around the world because of equipment failure, natural disasters, deliberate acts, and human error. However, conventional approaches to clean-up come with additional environmental costs. Detergents, for instance, become pollutants themselves and can persist in the environment long after any remediation exercise is complete.

Bioremediation is a more environmentally benign approach which uses natural or engineered microbes that can metabolize the organic components of crude oil. Stimulating such microbial degradation in contaminated soil often involves the use of expensive fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus, and, again, may come with an additional environmental price tag despite the “bio” label. Soil hardening and a loss of soil quality often accompany this approach.

The research team of Bello Yakubu, Huiwen Ma, and ChuYu Zhang of Wuhan University, China, suggest that animal waste, and in particular chicken manure, may provide the necessary chemical and microbial initiators to trigger biodegradation of crude oil if applied to contaminated soil. One important factor is that chicken manure raises the pH of soil to the range 6.3 to 7.4, which is optimal for the growth of known oil-utilizing bacteria.

In tests, the team added chicken manure to soil contaminated with 10% volume-to-weight of crude oil to soil. They found that the almost 75% of the oil was broken down in soil with the fowl additive after about two weeks.

Learn more at online at Science Daily.

Manure Bartering Brings Benefits

When both fuel and fertilizer prices started moving upward, many crop and livestock producers became more interested in manure bartering. Kevin Erb, an economist with the University of Wisconsin Extension Environmental Resources Center, says manure bartering helps more evenly distribute manure nutrients to fields with lower fertility that might be located farther from a livestock facility. “Higher fertilizer prices make bartering more feasible,” he relates. The trend toward livestock producers networking with crop producers to barter manure has led states like Michigan and Illinois to create an online list of manure producers seeking to provide manure, as well as cash grain farmers who are looking for the crop nutrients manure has to offer. Illinois co-ops are also serving as brokers for manure exchange.

Erb says Wisconsin producers tend to exchange manure for cash, feed, or services, or may do a “Dutch treat” type of bartering. The Dutch treat system may be used when one or both farmers have land closer to another farm’s manure source. Erb says this situation commonly occurs when both producers have owned or rented land across a busy road or next to the neighbor’s barn. Each producer may agree to haul a set amount of manure to the other’s property, which is actually located closer, thus saving time and wear and tear on equipment. Both producers are able to benefit from manure’s nutrients.

Erb cited an example where two farmers were able to save two miles each way by using the Dutch treat bartering system. They were applying three loads per acre on a 20-acre field, thus saving 240 total miles and 10 hours of labor for each farmer. “The corn field was planted one day earlier as a result,” he adds.

A manure-for-feed barter system occurs when a cash grain producer agrees to accept a certain amount of manure from the livestock producer as part of a contract to produce feed. The rates, time of application and field selection are all spelled out in the contract.

With manure-for-cash barters, the livestock producer provides the manure for a set price per ton or per thousand gallons. The price is usually determined by the nitrogen content of the manure, and is more common with poultry and swine farms than with dairies.

Erb says the manure-for-services trade involves the manure recipient providing a set amount of services, such as hoof trimming, feed hauling, or tillage, in exchange for the manure. “One benefit of this type of exchange is that, if the dairyman can contract with a dependable neighbor with the right equipment, the dairy can avoid investing in that tool,” Erb explains. Any manure exchange or barter can have income tax implications, and should be double-checked with an accountant or tax attorney.

A written contract is essential with any type of manure exchange. Erb encourages producers to have the contract reviewed by both farms’ attorneys. Key factors pertaining to environmental responsibility, manure sampling, application guidelines, recordkeeping responsibility, tax implications and contingency plans if it is too wet to apply, are among the details that should be included in the contract. Because of potential income tax implications, contract language should be approved by an accountant or attorney.

Erb suggests successful manure exchanges usually start by involving both farms’ nutrient management plan writer or crop consultants. “Their knowledge of manure rates, soil conditions and other factors will make them a key player in any successful agreement,” he concludes.