Washington, June 24 : Researchers have shown that the secret behind a healthy penned pig is three square meals each day, by finding that swine raised in indoor pens are healthier and grow fatter when fed in this pattern.
Lead author, Eva Persson, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and colleagues, showed that while pigs in the wild spend much time searching for food and eat little and often, the preferred feeding regime for conventional raised pigs is three meals a day.
"The natural feeding behaviour of pigs is searching for feed by rooting activities throughout the day; self-feeding pigs randomly space their activities and generally consume between ten and twelve meals in an average day. By replicating this pattern in conventional indoor kept pigs, we had hoped they would fare better than those fed the traditional three meals," Persson said.
All of the 360 pigs in the study received the same amount of food, spaced out into either three meals or nine and delivered as liquid feed.
Contrary to what may be expected, feeding the pigs in a more 'natural' way did not result in a better outcome. In fact, the pigs fed three times gained over 100g more per day than the pigs fed more frequently.
"Increased daily feeding occasions among group-housed pigs resulted in a poorer daily weight gain and an increased number of stomach problems. It will be of great interest to those in the farming and animal welfare fields that this study does not support increased daily feeding occasions in fattening pigs," Persson said.
Each group of nine pigs in this study had to share one 3 m trough. Due to the fact that pigs will naturally fight for prime feeding positions, one likely explanation for the poorer performance in the pigs fed more often is increased competition within the group.
"More feeds mend smaller ratios each time and it is possible that each feeding occasion in our study did not offer enough feed to satisfy the hunger of all the pigs," the authors said.
The study appears in BioMed Central's open access journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.