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Custom pig feeding: Win-win for both producers and the environment

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
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A technological innovation for swine farms will soon help producers reduce pollutant emissions to the environment and lower their feed costs at the same time. A team at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Shebrooke Research and Development Centre has figured out how to maximize use of the nutrients fed to swine while avoiding overfeeding.

Feed costs generally account for 60% to 75% of livestock production costs. To ensure that all pigs get enough to eat, producers adjust feed rations to accommodate the pigs with the highest demand. Since nutritional requirements vary widely from one pig to another, many pigs receive more nutrients than they actually need, resulting in a significant waste of nutrients. The new swine feeding technology delivers exactly the right ration to each pig in the herd at the right time every day.

The machine used for this system is automatic and intelligent. It can recognize each pig that comes to the feeder from an electronic chip implanted in the animal's ear. A scale in front of each feeder weighs the pig each time it eats. This enables the machine to calculate a customized ration carefully tailored to the pig's individual growth profile and to supply the ration that best meets its needs.

"With the precision feeder, the majority of pigs reduce their protein intake without affecting their growth. The device now produces the same amount of meat with 25% less vegetable protein and reduces feeding costs by 8% to 12%. It thus becomes possible to produce meat at the same high quality but at a lower cost."

- Candido Pomar, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The cutting-edge technology also has benefits for the environment. Reducing the amount of excess nutrients fed to pigs also reduces the amount of pollutants they excrete. For nitrogen and phosphorus, the two main pollutants emitted by livestock, excretions can be reduced by up to 50% and 30%, respectively. The precision feeding system therefore reduces the amount of pollutants that can affect soil and water quality.

New AAFC research underway is aimed at furthering the understanding of pigs’ individual capacities to assimilate their feed rations. Future discoveries could potentially make it possible to reduce nitrogen excreted by pigs by 60%, thus reducing CO2 emissions by 10%.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is actively involved in research to develop innovative technologies that will enhance the competitiveness of Canada’s pork producers and improve the sector’s ecological footprint.

Key discoveries (benefits)

Photo gallery

Candido Pomar, researcher at the Shebrooke Research and Development Centre
Candido Pomar, researcher at the Shebrooke Research and Development Centre.
Pigs eating at feeders
The machine used for this system can recognize each pig that comes to the feeder from an electronic chip implanted in the animal's ear.

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