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Small piglets do not mind larger pellets

There is this misconception in the industry that small pigs require small pellets.

pig hatchery for pig meat consumption in the field
Gabriela Bertolini |

It is time to embrace science and forget the marketing myth that small pigs require small pellets.

It is often that I encounter the issue of pellet size for young pigs. There is this misconception in the industry that small pigs require small pellets. This is just smart marketing playing with words, as it is costly to produce a smaller pellet thus giving certain companies an advantage in the market. Research, however, has shown that young pigs do not mind pellet size as long as pellet softness is ensured. That is, a soft but large pellet is much better than a small but hard one because piglets find it rather hard to chew on hard pellets. At any rate, from a commercial point of view, soft pellets end up broken, creating fines. This is considered undesirable, but it is far from the truth. But, let’s get back to pellet diameter, and here I need to mention a study done at Nottingham University in 2002.

British researchers evaluated blends of small (1.8 mm) and large (9 mm) pellets at different proportions (see table below) for piglets between 10 and 56 days of age. Both pellets were based on the same formulation. There was a trend for pigs fed the 40/60 blend (small/large pellets) to have heavier weaning (28 days) and final weights. Most interesting is the fact that pigs receiving the large pellets (0/100 blend) did not fall short of pigs receiving the all-small pellets (100/0 blend). In fact, at the end of the experimental period (56 days of age), pigs receiving the all-large pellets were heavier by 0.78 kg compared with pigs on the all-small pellets, whereas pigs on the 40/60 blends were the heaviest. Perhaps the small pellets were harder than the largest ones, but this was not reported. At any rate, this report clarifies that young pigs do not mind larger pellets.

Percentage of small (1.8 mm) and large (9 mm) pellets

100/0 20/80 40/60 60/40 80/20 0/100
Initial weight (kg) 2.58 2.56 2.62 2.35 2.35 2.53
Wean weight (kg 7.73 7.18 8.03 7.30 7.42 7.68
Final weight (kg) 19.07 18.74 20.97 18.50 18.87 19.85

Edge, H.L., Varley, M.A., and Rowlinson, P.  (2002) The effect of a diet containing varying proportions of pellets of differing diameters on the voluntary food intake of post-weaned pigs.  Perspectives in Pig Science, Nottingham University Press (U.K.)

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