Date Published: June 24, 2008
Publisher: BioMed Central
Author(s): Eva Persson, Margret Wülbers-Mindermann, Charlotte Berg, Bo Algers.
The natural feeding behaviour of the pig is searching for feed by rooting activities throughout the day; self-feeding pigs randomly space their eating and drinking periods throughout the day consuming ten to twelve meals per day. Pigs in conventional fattening pig production are normally fed 2–3 times daily with the feed consumed within 15 minutes. The aim of this study was to determine if more frequent feedings could improve the performance of conventionally kept fattening pigs.
The experiment was carried out on 360 fattening pigs (27–112 kg live weight), weighed and assigned to pens stratified by weight and sex. Each treatment group consisted of 180 pigs, allocated to 20 pens with nine pigs in each pen. To evaluate how more feeding occasions affects performance and well-being the pigs were divided into two groups and fed three (control group) or nine (treatment group) times daily. The same total amount of liquid feed was fed to each group and the feed ration was correlated to the live weight of the pigs. All weight and slaughter recordings were made individually and recordings of feed consumption were made pen-wise. At slaughter the stomach of each pig was examined for lesions in the pars oesophagea and scored on a scale from 1–6.
Frequent feeding occasions influenced both performance and status of gastric lesions of the pigs adversely. Pigs in the treatment group grew slower compared to pigs in the control group; 697 g/day (± 6.76) versus 804 g/day (± 6.78) (P < 0.001) with no difference in within-pen variation. There was also a lower prevalence of gastric lesions within pigs in the control group (2.4 (± 0.12) compared to 3.0 (± 0.12) (P < 0.01)). There was a positive correlation between gastric lesions in the treatment group and daily weight gain (r = 0.19; P < 0.01). Increased daily feeding occasions among group housed pigs resulted in a poorer daily weight gain and increased mean gastric lesion score as compared with pigs fed three times daily. This may be a consequence of more frequently occurring competition for feed in the treatment group. The present study does not support increased daily feeding occasions in fattening pigs.
The natural feeding behaviour of the pig is searching for feed by rooting activities throughout the day and Stolba and Wood-Gush  reported that pigs living in a semi-natural environment (including grass and woodland) spent 20% rooting and 30% grazing during daylight. Self-feeding pigs randomly space their eating and drinking periods throughout the day and ad libitum fed pigs eat ten to twelve meals per day . In contrast, pigs in conventional indoor fattening pig production are normally fed 2–3 times daily whereby the feed is consumed within 15 minutes after feeding. This corresponds to approximately 5% of the time that pigs kept in a semi-natural environment typically spend foraging.
One pig in the control group was excluded from the trial due to illness. No significant interactions between treatment and sex could be found. Results of production traits are shown in table 4. The average initial weight was 27.2 kg for both treatment groups. Pigs in the control group had a higher final weight (113.6 (± 0.29) vs. 112.6 kg (± 0.29)) (P < 0.05) and carcass weight (87.3 (± 0.26) vs. 86.4 kg (± 0.26)) (P < 0.01) than pigs in the treatment group. Today almost 70% of all fattening pigs in Sweden are fed liquid feed. It is possible to increase the feeding occasions without increasing work load. Many farmers claim that increasing the feeding occasions from twice to three or four times a day improves the stable environment. In this study the aim was to attempt to reproduce the natural feeding pattern of pigs by more frequent feeding. We arranged the nine feedings around clusters of three for practical and feed hygiene reasons, instead of equally distributed over the day. This is a potential limitation of the study but we believe that it would be unlikely to change the results of the study. The only variable was the frequency of feeding in the control and treatment groups which means that the difference in daily weight gain performance has to be explained by competition amongst the pigs in the pen and a different feed intake pattern. The results in the present study indicate that increased daily feeding occasions resulted in poorer performance, measured as daily weight gain (697 g/day), a tendency to a lower lean meat content (56.6%) and a higher prevalence of gastric lesions (score 3.0), compared with pigs fed only three times daily (804 g/day, 57.2% and score 2.4). Our results indicate that feeding pigs nine times daily was more stressful to the pigs than feeding three times daily, hampering growth and inducing gastric lesions. This may be a consequence of more frequently occurring competition for feed in the treatment group. The present study does not support the use of increased feeding occasions in fattening pigs. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. EP and MWM designed the experiment and collected data, EP compiled the results and drafted the manuscript, CB and BA initiated the study, participated in the design and coordinated the study. All authors read and approved the manuscript. Source: http://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0147-50-24