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With animal feed costs continuing to climb, everyone is looking for corners to cut and manufacturing is not immune to this exercise! Pelleting certainly costs more than proving the feed in its natural meal form. So, the enduring question of what form is best, has never been timelier than now.
It is true that pelleting does enhance digestibility (about 5-10 percent) of nutrients, and that it reduces physical volume, increasing, thus, total dry matter intake; both very desirable traits. It is also known that the effect of pelleting is more pronounced when pigs are young, and it practically ceases to exist when pigs reach market age.
On the other hand, one cannot deny the fact that pelleted feed increases the fluidity of intestinal digesta, something that has been connected to bacterial diarrheas; and this is extremely undesirable!
In my opinion, immediately after weaning piglets should be offered the first couple of diets in meal form, the first as coarsely ground as possibly. This will help in controlling gastrointestinal upsets, and even promote early feed intake. However, as soon as pigs develop a healthy eating behavior, they should be switched to pelleted feed to take advantage of the pelleting traits. This change can be around the mark of 10 kg in body weight, but the exact timing depends on piglet age and weight at weaning, in addition to the quality of the very first diet.
Now, should pelleting be discontinued altogether? It is easy to answer: yes, if the extra cost for pelleting is higher than the extra income due to heavier pigs as a result of improved feed efficiency rate. On the other hand, if that feed is to be marketed, it is perhaps best to educate customers and why not, share any cost benefits with them!