Mitigating the impacts of challenging times in the Pig industry

24 February 2021

The current circumstances in the pig industry are unique and unprecedented. Increases in feed and raw material costs, combined with a falling pig price and reduced capacity at processing plants, has left many producers facing challenging and difficult situations on farm. And, while the future is unpredictable with no solid timeline for when things may realistically start to improve, there are ways to help mitigate some of the impacts on both the animals and the economics.

There are a few key things that can be done to help mitigate the recent rise in feed costs which has been seen, mostly due to an increase in Soya and Wheat price.

The first is to check the formulation. Speak with a nutritionist, ensure that you are making best use of all the raw materials and feed additive technologies available to ensure you get maximum value. For example, could you switch to alternative protein sources, increase synthetic amino acid levels potentially reducing soya content, and have you ensured that bioavailability of all your vitamins and minerals is optimum to maximise health and daily gain? Also, check raw material and feed storage and handling conditions on farm, to ensure nutrients are not being lost through contamination or spoilage.

The second is too look into tools, such as those in our NutriOpt portfolio, that allow you to see the potential impact of changes before implementing them in practice. This will allow the animals nutritional needs to be met, with the smallest possible amount of oversupply and, therefore, overspend. It also allows you to explore a number of potential changes in a virtual environment without taking the risk in real life, enabling you to make a more informed decision over which scenario may be the best solution for you.

Once you have optimised the diet formulation and feed management practise, the next thing to consider is the health status of the animals. The decrease in capacity at processors may have left some producers with higher numbers of animals on farm which might not only increase the number of animals needing to be fed, but may also exacerbate issues surrounding bacterial challenge. An increased number of animals on farm will naturally increase the volume of animal waste making hygiene a challenge, and increase the pool of potential hosts and spreaders for pathogens. If animals are exposed to an increased pathogen burden, are they getting as much out of their feed as possible? The key area to think about here is gut health.

Poor gut health leads to poor nutrient utilisation and an increased susceptibility to bacterial challenge, both of which contribute to reduced feed efficiency and margins. The part the gut plays as a digestive organ clearly has a vital role in making sure that the optimised diet is fully utilised by the pig and reduces waste. However, the gut is also an extremely important part of the innate immune system. Animals with better gut health are able to cope better with bacterial challenges and are less likely to see drops in performance as a result. There are a number of factors that can adversely affect gut health; these include high pathogen burden in the environment, feed or water, stress, and sub-optimal environmental conditions such as temperature. The most effective way to deal with these issues is to take preventative measures. You can minimise the possible source of the issue by treating feed, water or housing to reduce pathogen burden, adapt management practices to be as clean and stress free as possible, and by making additions to the feed or water that will support the animals health and development and increase their overall resilience to any challenges they may face.

Trouw Nutrition has a team of dedicated specialists who can help assess your situation, and advise on the best way to help mitigate issues you may currently be facing. We offer services to measure and assess the current status of your feed, water and farm and can provide expert, bespoke advice on feed additive technologies, management practice and more. We recognise the difficulties that are currently being faced, and want to support our customers to the greatest extent possible.