Toward a farm-economic and environmental win-win by more efficient feed use in pig farming

Project Details


Main research question/goal
Which practical and affordable measures and strategies can pig farmers use to know and improve the feed conversion ratio in the future? Ugent and ILVO researchers looked for answers in this research project. In pig farming, there is a remarkable discrepancy between the feed conversion ratio that can be obtained in an experimental research environment and the actual results that are observed in practice. The goal of this project was to map all factors which may affect the feed conversion ratio and to identify the critical factors.

We aimed for a standardized calculation of the feed conversion ratio since it is calculated in different ways on different farms.

We investigated whether we could accurately predict the nutritional value with laboratory analyzes and in particular the NIRS technique.

Research approach

The project has now been completed. Through a participatory and hands on approach a new key figure was developed to calculate feed efficiency in a standardized way. The researchers were able to work intensively with a large number of farms and with various stakeholders. Surveys were conducted and the farm data were reviewed in detail. The differences in production results were exposed in this way. Based on 80 feeds analyzed in vivo, in vitro methods were analyzed and NIRS calibrations were developed for the prediction of net energy content.

In the rearing of meat pigs, 60-70% of the costs is due to the feed. Therefore, estimating feed quality and utilization in an affordable and fast way is highly relevant. Measuring feed utilization in a standardized way was the first step.
Together with the stakeholders, a new indicator was therefore developed: carcass growth per kg of feed:
When comparing the farms that were monitored, these factors appeared to be related to a high carcass gain per kg of feed: the use of pellets in the finishing pigs (compared to meal), the separate fattening of intact boars, the regular consultation of a specialized pest extermination company and automatic systems for ventilation and the barn climate.
We made progress in predicting the net energy of the feed by analyzing feed and manure through NIRS. Crucial for the widespread application of the NIRS technique is the availability of an extensive database with all possible variations in feed and faeces composition. This database needs to be further expanded to improve the accuracy and applicability of this technique.

Funding provider(s)
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen

External partner(s)
Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
Effective start/end date1/10/1631/12/20