After the EU banned the use of antibiotic growth promoters in swine feeds, Dr. Piet van der Aar, research coordinator, Schothorst Feed Research, said that careful feed formulation has become more important for pig producers. Speaking at the first installment of the "Total Feed Efficiency for Pigs" webinar series, sponsored by Topigs, van der Aar said that in growing finishing pigs, four-fifths of the negative economic effect of a ban on feed antibiotics can be compensated for with a properly formulated diet.

Watch this webinar on demand: "Total Feed Efficiency for Pigs Webinar Series: Starting a healthy, cost effective feeding program for pigs."

Specific recommendations for antibiotic-free swine diets presented by van der Aar include limiting the amount of fermentable fiber and reducing the amount of non-ileal digestible protein in the diet. He said that, particularly under sub-optimal conditions - for example immune system challenge or heat stress - the amount of fermentable carbohydrates and protein should be reduced.

He said that the amount of fermentable fiber in the diet is an important consideration for producers who are considering the addition of dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS) in antibiotic-free swine rations. The strategy of whether to choose for a lower protein, lower fermentable fiber, higher amino acid levels or organic acids will be dependent on the price and availability of feedstuffs, according to van der Aar.

Precision feeding

We traditionally look at developing a phase feeding program for the average response from a population of animals; we don't feed each animal to its requirements, according to Dr. Bruno Silva, professor, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. The precision feeding concept recognizes the existence of between-animal variation and involves the use of feeding techniques that allow the right amount of feed with the right composition to be provided at the right time to each pig in the herd.

Silva explained that, to get the maximum efficiency out of each pig, you really need a tailored feeding program for each pig every day, because their nutrient needs that day will be a function of their genetics, their immune state, temperature and other factors. He gave the example of individual pigs that might be overfed relative to their own nutrient needs and would still gain weight, but will convert the excess nutrients into carcass fat, not muscle. At the herd level, Silva cited research comparing three-phase and five-phase feeding programs. The five-phase program didn't dramatically improve the feed efficiency of the herd, but it did yield pigs with less fat and more muscle.