Precision sow feeding can save feed, improve sow health housing
Phase two of a multi-year study on Precision Sow Feeding (PSF) led by Dr. Kees DeLange at the University of Guelph has received base funding from Ontario Pork and will examine the value of precision sow feeding, its financial, reproduction and environmental impacts.
Phase one validated the Canarm AgSystems SowChoice Precision ESF equipment in a trial with 140 gilts. Phase Two will continue to follow sows over a second and third parity and prove the value of precision sow feeding in reducing feed costs, improved sow health and productivity. This is achieved through the management of nutrients to precisely match the sow’s requirements in each stage of gestation. Rations can be less expensive because what the sow is fed individually targets nutritional requirements to match NRC recommendations, which can mean less volume of feed. Matching nutrient requirements to each sow means manure available to farmers for crop production will have less waste nutrients, further reducing the environmental footprint.
Researchers have shown the value of precision sow feeding in reduction of feed costs, but the difference in the University of Guelph study is that it is using what will be a commercially available precision ESF unit.
Canarm AgSystems’ SowChoice Systems ESF is operating daily on farms in Canada and the United States and is known for its North American construction, industry leading innovation with standard 304 stainless steel construction, industry first low voltage electrical operated actuators and groundbreaking seamless integration with the world’s largest swine management software PigCHAMP™.
The company has worked with Dr. Kees de Lange and graduate student Quincy Buis to fine-tune the precision sow feeding option to the ESF. It can now dispense different rations in as small as seven gram increments, depending on the ingredient. The Canarm AgSystems Precision Electronic Sow Feeder will automatically calculate and blend up to 4 different ingredients and vary rations daily if necessary.
The interest in precision sow feeding also evolved from the changes to the NRC requirements for gestation sows in 2012. The NRC models are the standards by which rations are formulated for sows.
“The objective of the Canarm AgSystems ESF being used for the research trials is to further integrate data between the NRC Model, daily data changes in the PigCHAMP Management Software, and the precise nutritional requirements for each sow at each stage or day of gestation,” says Curtiss Littlejohn, Swine Products Manager at Canarm AgSystems.
The NRC model says there are several questions that should be asked to qualify what nutrition level the sow needs during gestation, meaning that the one-rationfits- all-sows way of feeding that most farmers have used is no longer optimal. De Lange says that the research shows that sows need significantly different nutrition during gestation depending on their parity and stage/day of gestation.
The pilot study with gilts showed little difference among precision-fed gilts and those fed one ration. There was little difference among the groups for lactation performance and piglet born alive weight. Feed intake was about 10 per cent better on the precision-fed gilts, helping to condition the gilts for greater improvements in subsequent parities.
De Lange says that the performance of the herd based on precision feeding will be more accurate on the larger study now planned, which will be able to look at environmental and economic impact.
“I believe there is a really bright future for precision feeding using electronic sow feeding systems,” says De Lange.