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Factors influencing nutrient requirements in pigs

By Gerhard Pretorius, Meadow Feeds
Nutrition and feed management are very important aspects of pig production. Feed accounts for up to 75% of production cost. The quality of feed to a large extent determines the productivity of any herd. The pig is an omnivorous single stomach or monogastric animal consuming a wide variety of feeds.In the early days, domesticated pigs were allowed to forage on grass, roots, refuse and whatever was available. Later, pigs were confined to dirt lots or pastures and fed a combination of maize and skimmed milk.
Due to genetic improvements, the modern pig is housed in specialised housing systems and fed a well balanced diet fulfiling all the nutrient requirements for optimal production.
Efficient and profitable pig production depends on an understanding of the concepts of genetics, environment, health status, management and nutrition, and are as follows:

  • Genetics
  • Sex
  • Feed quality
  • Feed intake
  • Environment
  • Physiological age
  • Anti nutritional factors
  • Health status.

Pigs of different breeds and genetics have different capabilities for production and therefore different nutrient requirements. The maximum protein deposition capacity of a pig will to a large extend be determined  by the growth rate of the pig at any given point of development.
In the growing phase the sex of the animal also influences lean tissue deposition. Males, females and castrates will all have different nutrient requirements for meat production.
Subsequently, the nutrient requirements of the reproductive animals will also differ from that of growing animals.
Feed quality
Feed quality consists of various factors which include:

  • feed texture, i.e. mash, crumbles or pellets,
  • raw material nutrient availability,
  • variability in raw material quality,
  • raw material composition of the diet and,
  • the presence of anti-nutritional factors.

Feed intake
Feed intake is a direct function of the ability of the pig to satisfy its nutrient requirement. Factors that will influence feed intake are the physical capacity of the pig, the palatability of the diet, environmental temperature and the presence of any nutrient deficiencies.  In order for the pig to meet its nutrient requirements, feed intake will be adjusted according to the nutrient density of the diets.  However, this adjustment in feed intake will remain a function of the physical capacity of the pig for feed intake.
Physiological age
The capacity for protein deposition increases with age, plateaus at maturity and declines hereafter.  However, appetite increases with age resulting in an increase in energy intake thereby exceeding the energy requirement for protein deposition.  This surplus energy is then stored as body fat, reducing carcass quality.
Environmental temperatures and housing conditions play an important role in determining the energy requirements of the pig. Pigs housed at temperatures lower than their thermoneutral requirement may have a higher energy requirement to maintain body temperature than pigs housed at thermoneutral temperatures.  On the other hand, if the temperature exceeds the pig’s thermoneutral requirement, appetite may be suppressed in order to help reduce heat stress.
Anti-growth factors
Anti-growth factors may influence production adversely and increase production costs.  These factors include anti-nutritional factors influencing nutrient digestion, as well as mycotoxins.
Herd health status
The presence of diseases may reduce current as well as subsequent pig production.  Diseases can influence both the digestive and immune systems, thereby altering the feed intake of the sick animal.
In summary, the pig has a potential production performance as determined by its genotype. Animals will always try to achieve this genetic potential. However, certain constraints are affecting the pig’s ability to reach this potential. Both these factors, the genetic potential of the pig, as well as the environmental constraints, will determine the nutrient requirement of the pig, and thereby the performance of the pig.
Meadow Feeds has, therefore, developed a range of pig diets that will fulfil the nutrient requirements of both high and low producing genetic lines, aimed at optimising feeding strategies in order to achieve the best possible financial gain. All diets are formulated to ensure that the pig will be able to optimise nutrient intake and growth performance under a variety of environmental conditions.  To ensure that diets are of consistent quality, each raw material is tested by Near Infra Red (NIR) and on a regular basis with wet chemistry. Only raw materials of the highest quality are used in the Meadow pig diets.

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