Student Researcher Investigates Swine Feed Efficiency | College of Agricultural Sciences | News | SIU

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Student Researcher Investigates Swine Feed Efficiency

April 28, 2015, Andrea Hahn

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Hannah West, a senior animal science major at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, spent several weeks of her senior year hanging out with pigs. She’s involved in a study that ultimately may improve swine feed efficiency at the SIU Swine Farm.

West, a Johnston City native, has been around small animals and horses all her life. Pigs, though, were an entirely new experience. That, she said, is exactly why she took on the research project with Gary Apgar, associate professor of animal science.

“I was interested in doing a research project working with swine because I did not have much experience with them,” she said.

West explored food particle size to determine if relative coarseness of feed affects feed efficiency. Her preliminary study indicates that it does – that a more finely ground feed is more digestible, leading to better average daily weight gain in the pigs and increased average daily feed intake.

“It’s what we expected,” she said. “The finer-ground meal has more surface area and that makes it more digestible.”

West used feed ground at the SIU feed mill – a meal of corn and soybean ground to two different levels, both with the consistency roughly of cornmeal. The difference was not visible to the eye, West said. The numbers her data collection generated did not indicate a dramatic difference in the end result, but West said a study using feed with a greater coarseness difference would be likely to present a greater spread in data.

“Feed costs can account for as much as 70 percent of overall costs (of a hog operation),” West said. “We wanted to find a way to improve feed efficiency at the SIU farms.”

West used 48 pigs divided into 12 pens for the feed particle size test, a data collection period of 42 days. The pigs were fed the same diet as to content, the only difference being relative coarseness.

“I was out there pretty much every day feeding them, and weighing them every two weeks, noting that weighing 48 growing pigs is easier said than done. Lessons in pig handling were a side-benefit of the research project.

As West prepares to graduate in May, she looks back on her SIU career with fondness. “Everyone in the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition is very friendly and outgoing,” she said.

She’ll move on to the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri in August.