Growth, feed intake and diet selection in pigs: theory and experiments
Kyriazakis, Illias Ioanni
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A theory of growth and feed intake in the pig is proposed and the results of five experiments to test it are reported here. An attempt is first made to describe the potential growth in pigs, that is, growth under non-limiting conditions; the conditions needed to allow potential growth to be retained are then considered. Two ways of providing non-limiting feeding conditions are discussed: a single balanced feed and a set of feeds given as a choice. In addition, a model which predicts the voluntary feed intake of pigs is also developed and tested in experiments. The results from pigs offered single feeds in the first two experiments were consistent with the predictions of the model, which were that the rate of feed intake would increase as the protein content of the feeds was decreased. The size of the increase depended on the ability of the pig to lose heat. In these experiments, when pigs were offered a pair of feeds as a choice, a combination of which was non-limiting, the results suggested that this method cannot be successfully used to attain the potential growth of pigs. The diet selection results were characterised by a considerable variation in the diets selected by individual pigs, and only some pigs achieved what was estimated to be their potential rate of growth. It was suggested that pigs which failed to select a non-limiting diet did not have the necessary chance to choose. Experiment 3 evaluated a simple method of ensuring that pigs are given both the necessary choice, and the chance to choose. This was achieved by giving them the opportunity to sample the single feeds, which were to be offered as a choice, alone on alternate days for a short period of six days. Subsequently, pigs given a choice between two feeds were able to select a non-limiting diet. Experiment 4 incorporated the method established previously and consisted of a severe investigation into the rules of diet selection. It was concluded that pigs are able to avoid excess of nutrient, in this case protein, intake or to select the best possible diet in less favourable conditions, ie. a choice between two limiting feeds. The last experiment consisted of an extended test of the theory that a pig will select a diet which is a reflection of its degree of maturity, state and sex. Pigs made fat and delayed in growth in one period were subsequently given the opportunity to recover on a pair of feeds offered as a choice. The diets selected by the fat pigs satisfied their requirements for compensatory protein gain allowing only a slow rate of lipid gain. In addition, they met the different growth and fattening requirements by the two sexes. All these findings are discussed in relation to the use of choice-feeding as an independent test of other estimates of resource requirements, as a feeding technique when the potential growth of pigs is to be observed and as a help in predicting the feeding behaviour in pigs.