Article: “Do we really need pelleted feeds?”

Written August 25, 2015

Not all feeds require pelleting futter-pelltes_handwhereas others are being pelleted when they shouldn’t be. What are the circumstances under which pelleting is a must and when it is a matter of marketing or cost-profit balance?

There is no question about pelleting offering specific benefits, as there is no question about pelleting increasing feed cost. Thus, the balance of this proposition answers the question whether pelleting is a profitable or not. But, this is not the goal of our discussion here. What we must answer with clarity is whether pelleting is needed or not. In other words, is there a scenario under which pelleting is a must (given the extra cost and above benefits) that will prevent a reduction in profitability beyond the cost of pelleting?

Let’s examine some interesting cases.

1. Piglet feeds. There is voluminous marketing material that emphasizes the need for pelleted feed for piglets, especially after weaning. In fact, there is even a notion that small pigs require small (and thus more expensive) pellets. Indeed, pelleting will improve feed digestibility, but there is no real need for piglet feed to be pelleted. In fact, there are cases where pelleted feed has been implicated in exacerbate the problem of post-weaning diarrheas, whereas switching to a coarse meal diet appeared to resolve this issue. Thus, beyond the typical pelleting benefits, piglet feeds do not benefit from being pelleted. In addition, there is no real scientific background regarding the issue of pellet size. In fact, in several studies, piglets were able to perform equally well with pellets even up to 12mm.

2. Sow feeds. Here we need to bring up the volume-density issue with some sow feeds. First, we have gestating diets high on fiber, often exceeding 8 percent. Such diets are difficult to handle, store, transport and feed. If this is the case, then a large pellet (or cube) is a must. Using a low-cost, high-fiber ingredient can bring considerable savings, to the point that pelleting cost is no longer an issue. Second, we have the problem of low feed intake (compared to needs) during lactation. In this case, a pelleted diet may contribute towards higher feed intake (due to lower volume of pelleted feed). Given the importance of high feed intake that leads to increased litter weaning weight and enhanced subsequent reproductive performance, then pelleting cost can be retrieved easily from such indirect benefits.

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