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Maximizing net income for pork producers by determining the interaction between dietary energy concentration and stocking density on finishing pig performance, welfare, and carcass composition



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Marketplace volatility in the pork industry demands that producers re-evaluate production practices in order to remain profitable. Stocking density and dietary energy concentration independently affect performance and economic returns of growing finishing pigs. However, there is limited information on whether the interaction between these two factors is important for optimizing productivity and maximizing economic returns. The objective of this study was to determine if the dietary energy concentration that maximizes performance and economic returns varies with stocking density. Treatments were arranged as a 2 × 3 × 3 factorial included; sex (barrows and gilts), dietary energy (2.15, 2.30 and 2.45 Mcal NE/kg) and stocking density (14, 17 or 20 pigs per pen providing 0.92, 0.76 and 0.65 m² per pig, respectively). A total of 932 pigs were used with three replications of 18 treatments. Pigs were randomly assigned to pens within sex to achieve an average initial BW of 75 kg. Wheat and barley based diets were formulated to meet or exceed the pigs’ nutrient requirements (National Research Council, 2012) and were fed in three phases within sex at each energy concentration. Overall (75 to 118 kg BW), as dietary energy increased from 2.15 to 2.45 Mcal NE/kg, ADG increased from 1.17 to 1.23 kg/d, ADFI decreased from 4.09 to 3.77 kg/d, G:F improved from 0.29 to 0.33 and caloric intake increased from 8.81 to 9.29 Mcal NE/d (P < 0.05). When stocking density was increased from 14 to 20 pigs per pen, ADG (1.21 to 1.17 kg/d), ADFI (4.00 to 3.82 kg/d) and caloric intake (9.19 to 8.12 Mcal NE/d) decreased (P < 0.05). Neither dietary energy concentration nor stocking density had a significant effect on the utilization of calories for growth (Gain:Mcal). Feeder visits per pig and time at the feeder per pig were decreased when stocking density increased from 14 to 20 pigs per pen (P < 0.01). Total time at the feeder and time at the feeder per pig were increased when dietary energy decreased from 2.45 to 2.15 Mcal of NE/kg. Per pen, aggressive incidents at the feeder increased (P < 0.05) and there was a tendency for increased aggressive incidents per pig (P = 0.09) when stocking density was increased. There was a linear increase (P < 0.01) in income over feed cost (IOFC) with increased stocking density, and there was a tendency (P = 0.08) for a linear increase in IOFC when dietary energy was increased. The dietary energy which maximized the IOFC did not vary with stocking density. Dietary energy and stocking density independently affect pig performance, behavior, and economic returns and the optimal dietary energy does not depend on stocking density (dietary energy by stocking density interaction).



Swine, Dietary energy, Net energy, Stocking density, economics, performance, welfare



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Animal and Poultry Science


Animal Science


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