The effect of group size and floor-space allowance on the efficiency of lysine utilisation by growing pigs.
Two experiments were conducted for this thesis, to determine whether an animal should be fed to its genetic potential in spite of this not being achievable due to an on-farm constraint. The first experiment was designed to compare the response of pigs housed either individually or in groups to a range of feeds limiting in lysine between 40 and 85 kg live weight. Two hundred and eighty-eight entire male Large White x Landrace pigs were used. The experiment was divided into two growth periods, i.e. from 40 to 60 kg and from 60 to 85 kg. In each period, pigs were subjected to feed containing one of four dietary lysine concentrations. In Period 1, the lysine concentrations were 11.03 (L1); 9.54 (L2); 8.00 (L3) and 6.51 (L4) g/kg, while in Period 2 these were 7.82 (T1); 6.71 (T2); 5.55 (T3) and 4.40 (T4) g/kg. Pigs fed an L1, L2, L3 or L4 diet in Period 1 were fed a T1, T2, T3 and T4 diet in Period 2, respectively. Three buildings provided the following group sizes and floor-space allowances: House 1 contained eight pigs per pen at 1.94 m2/pig; House 2 contained four or eight pigs per pen at 1.72 or 0.86 m2/pig; and House 3 contained one pig per pen at 1.72 m2/pig. The individually-housed pigs were divided into three feeding levels, i.e. ad libitum, or pair-fed so that feed intakes would match those of ad libitum-fed pigs housed in groups of either 4 (restricted-4) or 8 (restricted-8) pigs per pen in House 2. For all group sizes, feed intake increased linearly as the dietary lysine content increased. However, this increase was significantly lower for 8, when compared with 1 and 4 pigs per pen. The linear increase in feed conversion efficiency with dietary lysine content was similar for all group sizes. However, at any dietary lysine concentration, pigs housed in groups of 8 had significantly higher efficiencies than the pigs housed individually or in groups of 4. Average daily gain increased linearly as lysine intake increased, this increase being the same for all group sizes. However, pigs in smaller groups grew significantly faster than those in larger group sizes for any lysine intake. Protein and lysine retention were unaffected by group size, increasing linearly as lysine intake increased. The efficiency of lysine utilisation (0.45) was not impaired by group size. The pair-fed pigs housed individually (restricted-4 and -8) consumed significantly less feed than the individually-housed pigs fed ad libitum, and this was reflected in their average daily gains, which increased linearly as lysine intake increased, but with the restricted-8 growing significantly slower than the ad libitum or restricted-4 pigs. In all three treatments feed conversion efficiency increased linearly with dietary lysine content, although the restricted-4 and -8 had significantly higher efficiencies than the ad libitum-fed pigs at any dietary lysine content. Protein and lysine retentions were unaffected by feeding level and increased significantly with lysine intake. However, at any lysine intake the restricted-8 pigs had a significantly lower efficiency of lysine utilisation than the ad libitum or restricted-4 pigs. The pigs with floor-space allowances of 0.86 and 1.94 m2/pig consumed significantly less and grew slower than the pigs with floor-space allowances of 1.72 m2/pig at any dietary lysine content. Feed conversion efficiency was unaffected by floor-space allowance and increased significantly with dietary lysine content. Similarly, protein and lysine retentions were unaffected by floor-space allowance and increased linearly as lysine intake increased. The efficiency of lysine utilisation (0.45) remained unaffected by floorspace allowance. It was concluded that when animals are socially stressed, feeding according to the requirement for maximum protein growth produces the best biological performance and carcass composition, with the corollary that, if profitability and biological efficiency is to be maximised, pigs housed in stressful conditions, or those whose future performance is predicted to be below potential because of external stressors, should not be given feed of an inferior quality. The second experiment was designed to determine the extent to which grouping or floorspace allowance would alter the nutrient content of feed chosen by pigs given a choice of two feeds differing in protein: energy ratio between 40 to 85 kg live weight. Three hundred and eighteen entire male Large White x Landrace pigs were used. Two buildings provided the following group sizes and floor-space allowances: House 1 contained nine and eighteen pigs per pen at 1.72 or 0.86 m2/pig; House 2 contained four, nine and fourteen pigs per pen at 1.72; 0.86 or 0.49 m2/pig. Animals were given simultaneous ad libitum access to a high (236 g protein/kg as fed) and a low crude protein feed (115 g protein/kg as fed) in two hardened plastic self-feeder bins placed side-by-side. A training period of six days was used prior to the start of the trial, during which the two feeds were alternated daily. The reduction in the proportion of high protein feed chosen over time was significantly higher for the groups of four and eight, in comparison to the groups of nine and eighteen, contrasting with the steady increase for the groups of fourteen pigs. Similarly, the significant increase for pigs with floor-space allowances of 0.49 m2/pig differed from the significant decrease for pigs with floor-space allowances of 0.86 and 1.72m2/pig. Pigs housed in larger group sizes and smaller floor-space allowances consumed significantly less and grew slower than pigs housed in smaller group sizes and larger floorspace allowances. However, the feed conversion efficiency remained unaffected by group size and floor-space allowance. The non-significant effect on protein retention with increasing group size contrasted with the significant increase associated with increasing floor-space allowance. The results of the two studies were compared to determine whether pigs chose differently depending on the degree of stress and the implication of this choice. Average daily gain was significantly reduced as the group size increased for pigs fed a fixed lysine content and choice-fed. However, this reduction was less severe with choice-feeding than when feeding a fixed lysine content. Increasing the group size significantly reduced the feed intake in pigs fed a fixed lysine content only. The efficiency of protein utilisation remained unaffected as the group size increased for the pigs fed a fixed lysine content. However, at any group size pigs fed lower lysine contents had higher efficiencies than pigs fed higher lysine contents. On the contrary, increasing the group size significantly increased the efficiency of protein utilisation in choice-fed pigs. The average daily gain and feed intake was significantly improved as the floor-space allowance increased but was similar for pigs fed a fixed lysine content and choice-fed. Although the efficiency of protein utilisation remained unaffected by increasing the floor-space allowance for the pigs fed a fixed lysine content and pair-fed, at any floor-space allowance pigs fed higher lysine contents had higher efficiencies than pigs fed lower lysine contents. The results indicate that providing socially stressed pigs a choice between an appropriate pair of feeds differing in protein: energy ratio, does not overcome the reduction in potential growth, but does result in performance similar to that of pigs fed a fixed lysine content. It was concluded that the social stress of grouping or floor-space allowance has no influence on the ability of the animal to select an appropriate dietary combination allowing the expression of potential growth within the constraint(s) of the production system.
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