Pig feed conversion ratio (FCR) measures how efficiently pigs convert feed into body mass. It’s an important indicator of agricultural productivity and the economic profitability of pig farming. Optimizing FCR is essential for ensuring the best possible quality, yield, and cost-effectiveness in livestock production.

In this article, we’ll discuss some strategies and techniques to optimize pig FCR and improve the profitability of your pig farm operation. We’ll also address key areas impacting a pig’s growth rate and overall health, such as feed formulation, delivery methods, and environmental conditions.

Following these tips can increase efficiency and improve your bottom line.

pig feed conversion ratio

What is the formula for pig feed conversion ratio?

FCR is calculated by dividing a pig’s total feed intake over a given period by its live weight gain during the same period. In other words, it measures how efficiently pigs convert feed into body mass.

Think of it as the amount of feed needed to produce 1 kilogram of body weight gain. This helps determine how much feed is necessary for a pig and how much feed it needs to reach its desired body weight.

The feed conversion ratio formula looks like this:

FCR = Total feed intake (kg of feed) / Weight gain (kg of feed)

Pig feed conversion ratio example

Suppose a pig eats 3 kilograms of feed and gains 1.5 kilograms in weight every 2 to 3 days. The feed conversion ratio for this pig would be calculated as follows:

FCR = 3 kg / 1.5 kg = 2

Ideally, your feed conversion ratio should be between 2 and 3, however this number can vary according to different conditions such as the region, type of feed ingredients, water quality, and management practices. This provides the optimal balance between feed intake and weight gain. Anything higher means your pigs aren’t using feed as efficiently.

Conversely, a low FCR can suggest an issue with their growth rate.

How to optimize your pig feed conversion ratio

Developing and maintaining an appropriate plan is crucial for successful pig farming operations, as multiple factors like feed quality, housing environment, and genotype can impact feed consumption and weight gain.

Below, we discuss a few ways to optimize your feed conversion ratio.

Use eMax Feed Technologies

An important factor often overlooked when improving FCR is using different additives that are commercially available for the swine industry such as probiotics which are known to improve animal health.

eMAX is a feed or water additive that can be utilized to effectively reduce the need for high inclusion of fat supplements, lowering metabolizable energy requirements. What’s more, it does this without compromising growth performance.

Bacteria and pathogens are known to affect the FCR. Our research has shown eMAX can help reduce the most common pathogens by up to 4-logs in swine production. This can improve your feed conversion rate and feed intake efficiency while drastically reducing mortality rates.

eMAX feed technologies can help you reduce costs while ensuring the best possible quality and yield in pork production.

Adjust the temperature and environment

For your feed conversion rate to be truly efficient, it’s crucial to ensure your pigs are in an optimal environment, as feed consumption is often affected by a pen’s ambient temperature and humidity.

If temperatures are too cold, pigs eat more feed to keep warm. On the other hand, if temperatures are too hot, pigs will eat less feed, and your feed conversion rate will suffer.

It’s vital to create a comfortable environment for your pigs and maintain it at a temperature within the optimum thermoneutral range for the breed. This is typically between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius or 64 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pigs are incredibly sensitive to temperature, and each degree below their comfortable thermoneutral zone can sap 12 grams of growth daily. So, ensure you set the correct indoor climate or provide kenneling and curtains to guarantee proper ventilation in the pen.

With these in place, you can reduce feed waste due to high humidity.

Limit illness and disease as much as possible

Sickness or disease can dramatically impact the amount of feed consumed by pigs. To ensure your feed conversion rate is as efficient as possible, it’s important to limit illness and disease in the herd as much as possible.

Ensuring a practice of good biosecurity is the first step in preventing the spread of infectious diseases within your herd. This includes proper feed and water management, testing of feed ingredients, implementation of necessary vaccination protocols, and regular cleaning and disinfection of housing areas.

Good nutrition is also essential. Consider feed additives designed to improve gut health such as probiotics and enzymes. These additives help maintain a healthy balance in the microflora of the gut, reduce the prevalence of harmful bacteria, improve nutrient utilization, and reduce the risk of illnesses.

Use efficient feeders

Feed waste is another often overlooked factor in achieving optimal feed conversion ratios.

Contrary to popular belief, piglets need more than a full stomach to reach their desired body weight. They also require adequate feeding strategy. Using feeders that evenly distribute feed throughout the pen can help reduce feed wastage and encourage feed intake.

Feeder-flow control technologies can help ensure feed distribution is even and feed availability is consistent throughout the day. This can also reduce the cost of production, as the cost of wasted feed can quickly add up over time.

Using efficient feeders helps manage growing pigs’ diets, ensuring they receive adequate nutrition and reach their desired body weight.

Find the optimal weight per pig

Ideally, pigs should weigh no more than 280 pounds to ensure maximum feed conversion. Studies have proven that swine over this weight become less effective when turning feed into lean meat content. By marketing pigs heavier than 280 pounds, you’re missing out on the opportunity to maximize feed efficiency.

When you monitor your pigs’ weight and ensure they reach the desired weight before reaching the market, you can maximize your feed efficiency and ensure that each pig reaches its maximum potential.

Some ways to ensure optimal weight per pig include:

  • Using automated weighing systems that measure the average weight of pigs as they enter the finishing pen. This allows you to identify overweight pigs and adjust their diets accordingly.
  • Adjusting feed intake based on body weight. Providing more or less feed depending on a pig’s current weight can help optimize feed conversion ratios for individual pigs.
  • Using growth curves to track the progress of each pig from birth to market weight so that you can adjust their diets accordingly.

Using these strategies and technologies, you can cost-effectively improve your FCR and overall profitability in the pig industry.

Mitigate mold in feed silos

Mold can seriously impact nutrient content, reducing nutrient availability for pigs and lowering growth rates. Additionally, mycotoxins produced by certain molds harm pigs and cause decreased appetite and weight loss.

To mitigate mold growth, silos should be completely emptied regularly and thoroughly cleaned with hot water and bicarbonate of soda or other detergents. You should also store the feed in airtight containers away from damp environments to prevent moisture from condensing.

By following these simple steps, you can help ensure your feed remains free of mold and other contaminants and maximize its cost of production efficiency. This, in turn, helps improve your feed conversion ratios and increases the profitability of your pig operations.

Discover how eMax Feed Technologies can improve your pig feed conversion ratio

At Engrain, we understand the importance of achieving optimal feed conversion ratios for cost-of-production efficiency. That’s why we developed eMAX Feed Technologies to support sustainability and optimize feed conversion in swine nutrition.

eMAX is designed for efficient feed management to provide the most sustainable, cost-effective, and high-quality feed for swine — providing a comprehensive range of solutions tailored to your pigs’ nutritional needs.

We use a data-driven approach to analyze and optimize swine diets while reducing feed costs . Additionally, eMAX Feed Technologies provide advanced disease control capabilities to help reduce the risk of common pathogens like Salmonella and E. Coli. The concept is simple, with eMAX your pigs are healthier. Healthier pigs utilize their energy more efficiently and can grow more and with less resources.

With eMAX Feed Technologies, you can rest assured knowing your pigs are getting the nutrition they need to reach their maximum potential while contributing to sustainability.