Archive for September 2011

Not every company with a booth or exhibit at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines this week claims that their product can save feed. But, a lot of them do.

Signs in the exhibit aisles scream out to the hog farmers: “Cut feed costs!”; “Get more efficient!”; “Let us help you save on the feed bill!”

These exhibitors aren’t dumb — they know that the first question on every pork producer’s mind these days is how to survive with six-dollar corn.

I wonder, as I wander those aisles, if I put enough of these products to use, could I get so efficient that my pigs would grow on absolutely NO feed, just breathing air? OK, let’s see what we can do.

My first stop is at the A.J. O’Mara Group, LLC. There, John A’Mara explains their line of stainless steel hog feeders, called Feed Ease Equipment. The Cadillac of the lineup is a grow-finish feeder that has a water nipple right in the feed trough. To get a drink, the pigs have to run water onto the feed, which encourages consumption of both. They waste less of the liquid feed, partly because when the pigs step back from the feeder, there’s less dry feed stuck to their mouth that can drop into the manure pit. The result is a 5% to 7% improvement in feed efficiency, says O’Mara. I decide on the spot that when given a range, I’m going to take the high end, in this case, 7% better feed efficiency. Great, one stop and I’ve saved seven percent of my feed bill.

Big "O" oscillating feeder, available at

Next stop is just across the aisle at the booth of IFA Roller Grinders of tiny Stanley, Iowa. Lee Drewelow of the company says his feed grinder is actually a roller mill, with two rolling drums that turn at different speeds and crush the corn into finer particles than the other kind of grinder, a hammermill. The finer particles (650 microns versus 1,000 for the hammermill) means there is less dust, less feed separation, and more efficient conversion in the pig’s gut. The sign on Drewelow’s booth says it saves 50 pounds of feed per pig finished. “We normally think it takes 10 bushels of corn to finish a pig, but we can reduce that to 9,” he says. By my math, that’s a 10% savings. Add that to the Feed Ease feeder, and our combined savings are now 17% — we’re getting there!

A little farther down the aisle is the display of Genetiporc, a breeding company that sells boars and gilts. Dr. Dan Hamilton, their technical services manager, tells me that they have a new terminal sire line that is bred just for feed efficiency. Combined with their most feed efficienct female line, the offspring will consistently use .15 pounds less feed per pound of gain than other genetics. In other words, if your current feed conversion is 2.75 pounds of feed per pound of gain, you might reduce that to 2.60 with Genetiporc’s G Performer boar, and it’s Fertilis 25 sow. That’s nearly a 6% gain in feed efficiency.

Add it up: We’re saving 23% of our feed now! No time to stop here.

Kevin Curry at Alpharma tells us about their BMD feed additive, active ingredient bacitracin antibiotic. It’s almost never used in humans, so this antibiotic gets less grief from those who worry about bacterial resistance from animal use. It’s typically used from 50 pounds to market weight at a low level to ward off harmful microbes, there’s no withdrawal period, and it will save 30-35 pounds of feed per hog with 3% better feed efficiency. Curry even finds a way to tout the “green” benefits of this product: “There’s less manure to spread.”

At Ralco Nutrition, national sales manager Tom Lattimore tells me about a feed ingredient product called EnMax, which lets them formulate pig feeds on net energy, using more crystalline amino acids and enzymes, less soybean meal (100-150 pounds less per ton), and more corn. Pigs get more energy from the feed, plus some enzymes that “unlock” all of the ingredients. “We can take a conventional feed, and with EnMax, save $30 to $40 per ton,” says Lattimore. “That’s $10 per pig.” Great, but what about improved feed efficiency? “We don’t really have any claims on that,” he says. Nuts, let’s keep moving.

Farther down, Olmix is a French company with a couple of products, one of which is a feed ingredient called MMi. This natural product promotes hygiene of the pig’s gut, explains Alain Reocreux, the international development manager. “When a pig eats, he not only gets the feed nutrients, he also gets some pathogens and toxins,” explains Reocreux. “MMi neutralizes those things in the gut, so he can make more efficient use of the nutrients.” Net result: 4% better feed efficiency, bringing our net gain to 30%. We’ve got a ways to go to get to complete feed-free pigs!

Now we’re outside the main exhibit hall, talking to Joe Slager of Key Dollar Manure Separator. This machine puts manure over a fine screen, which separates most of the bigger solids from the brown liquid. Slager tells me about one of their farmer customers in Illinois who feeds those screenings back to his gestating sows as 60% of their ration. That saves two pounds of feed per sow per day, 700 pounds per sow per year. Spread over the 20 pigs she produces, that’s a net gain of five percent in total feed efficiency.

Next, Scott Schneider of Aova Technologies tells me about his product, called, simply enough, Big Pig (their motto: Big is Better). Big Pig is a natural egg powder antibody that is added to nursery and finishing feeds at 1.5 pounds per ton. It targets an enzyme in the gut, which in turn reduces inflamation there to allow feed energy to go towards growth, he says. Their research shows a 3.5% improvement in feed efficiency. Since I don’t deal with decimal points, I round that up to four percent. Now we’re at 39% cumulative improvement in feed efficiency. Not even half way to 100%!

Now I’m hearing about MorindaMax, a feed additive for just-weaned pigs only and fed for those early weeks. Daryl Hammer gives me the brochure, which says: “MorindaMax’s active ingredient is Morinda citrifolia, which comes from the fruit of a tree native to the Pacific Region. Morinda c. consists of phytochemicals which are known to have protective or disease preventative properties.” OK, but what about the feed efficiency? The brochure says it gives 10% better efficiency in the nursery. I know that’s only for the short nursery period, but if I’m going to get to feed-free pigs, I’m going to have to cut some corners. Let’s just add it in, now we’re up to 49% improvement.

Feed Logic employees show me an incredible feed mixing machine that mounts on a ceiling rail inside a pig barn. That machine picks up feed ingredients at one end of the barn, than rolls along the rail to automatically dispense the feed into feeders in each pen. It mixes a slightly different feed formulation to each pen, depending on the size of the pig and the computer instructions that you, the operator, have given to it. In theory, this lets each pen of pigs get a different feed formulation each day as they grow up to market weight. Alas, I’m told that although this “smart” feeder saves $4 per pig in feed costs, they can’t show an improvement in feed efficiency.

At Lallemand Animal Nutrition, they tell me about their probiotic products, which promote the “good” bugs in a pig’s gut. They are getting ready to do a trial with one product, Bactocell, fed with distillers’ grains from ethanol plants. The Bactocell will help pigs better digest the fiber in the DDGs. They get a five-percent improvement in feed efficiency, bringing our net gain now up to 54%.

Schauer is an Austrian company that makes pig feeding equipment. One product is an individual sow feeder that, by reading an ear tag, feeds each animal exactly what you have programmed into the computer. It lets you house sows in a group situation, but feed them individually. Franz Bauer tells me that if I’m a poor manager (how did he peg me?), I can save at least 10% on sow feed. I know, that’s not the whole herd, it’s just the sow feed. Still, I’m going to add it in, and now we’re up to 64% better feed efficiency.

And we’re running out of options. I stop and visit with a half dozen companies that make automatic pig sorters. To get to the hog feeder, the pigs have to walk through a scales. Depending on their weight, it sorts them off into a feeder pen with just the right feed for their size. And when they’re big enough to sell, it puts them into yet another pen. The result is that pigs of various sizes can be kept in one big pen, and each gets just the feed he (or she) needs. In theory, this should give a good savings in feed efficiency, and keep pigs moving out to market before they get too big. But, nobody can give me hard (or even soft) numbers.
One more chance. There’s a booth at the far end of the exhibit hall, with nobody there. But it says it is the booth of the Northern Pulse Growers Association, promoting the feeding of peas. I pick up the brochure, and read the flyer called “Field Peas in Diets Fed to Swine.” Inside, it tells me that peas are about 23% crude protein, and higher in energy than soybean meal, almost nature’s perfect hog feed. Feeding peas rather than soybean meal might give a 3% boost to feed efficiency, it says. I’m going to add that, and get 67% improvement in feed efficiency, using all of these products that have been pitched.

Nope, hogs apparently won’t grow on air alone. It takes about two-thirds air, and one-third peas. Still, that’s not bad. You can now smugly tell your grain farmer neighbors, “If you think your corn is worth $6 a bushel, you can just keep it.”

Not every company with a booth or exhibit at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines this week claims that their product can save feed. But, a lot of them do.


To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on cattle scalescattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

by Eleanor Richards |

Horse owners are discovering a trip to the feed store requires an armed guard.

But once the edible “gold” is safely transported to the stable, how is it protected and stored?

As with anything of value, the chances of it being stolen is very high. In this case the thieves are usually horses and rodents.

Commercial feeds, grain and supplements must be stored in a secure location. A room, such as an extra stall, with a locking door is best. Within that room, storage containers with lids that can be locked or fastened securely should be provided. This double protection helps insure the thief will have trouble accessing the treasure.

Several types of containers are available. An old chest freezer with the latch removed (to insure a child does not become trapped) works well. Other popular containers are trash cans. Galvanized metal trash cans work best, as the steel also deters the other thieves – rodents (rats and mice).

Secure containers will also help prevent Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. Opossums, skunks and raccoons may have the organism which causes EPM in their feces. Horses may acquire EPM when they ingest grain, forage or water contaminated with the feces.

Regardless of the type of container you choose the lid must fasten securely and be hard for a horse to remove. There is always a chance the feed room door will be left open. Bungee cords may help secure the lid.

Extra bags of feed that will not fit in the secure containers may be stacked on a platform a few inches above the ground. A wooden pallet works well. This allows air circulation around the bags. It is imperative the feed room be securely closed at all times if exposed feed bags are stored.

Feed should be purchased fresh every 30 days and rotated. This means the containers should be cleaned completely and the oldest feed used first.

High humidity can cause spoilage and increase the chances of insects. Even feed stored in containers is susceptible to moisture. If the containers are sweating or show signs of condensation, it is possible the feed will spoil or become contaminated with insects. Insuring proper ventilation and setting up a fan will help. During the summer, when nights are cool and the days are hot and humid, purchasing and storing less feed at one time is smart.

Stables with 20 or more horses may consider buying bulk feed bins. While this can be cost effective, you still do not want to store more than a month’s supply at a time.

Clean the bulk feed bin out completely before refilling. Poorly constructed bulk bins allow the buildup of moisture resulting in spoiled feed. This spoiled feed can hang-up on the sides and may break loose at any time – contaminating the feed and causing sick horses.

Bulk feed bins, available at

No matter what type of storage you chose the area must be kept clean. Spilled feed and broken bags will attract unwanted guests.

When buying anything of value, make sure you are buying quality. The feed should not be more than a month old.

Do not be shy at the feed store…you are the customer. Check the date and refuse it if it is old or does not meet your expectations. Refuse dirty or damaged bags.

Date of manufacturing will be stated on the feed tag, stamped on the bag, or printed on the tear strip along one end of the bag. Many companies use the Julian Date Calendar. For example the date code may read: 08121. The “08” is the year – 2008; the “121” is the 121st day of the year – May 1st.

Even if the date of manufacture meets your requirements refuse or return the feed if it seems questionable.

Horses can be their own worst enemy. It is up to us to protect them from temptation.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

Managing young pigs in large group auto-sort (LGAS) systems poses challenges to pigs’ eating behavior. By ensuring that pigs have adequate room to access hog feeders and managing how they are introduced to the system, pigs can maintain feed intake and readily adjust to this housing system.

Pig behavior was studied in two LGAS systems to determine what adaptations were made at the Prairie Swine Centre Elstow Research Farm and in a commercial grow-finish operation. The Elstow facility housed approximately 250 pigs, with one feeder space per nine pigs. The commercial farm maintained groups of 650 pigs with 60 feeder spaces — a slightly higher feeder-space-to-pig ratio.

Big wheel hog feeder, available at

At the Elstow research facility, the daily pattern of scale use, the use of individual feeder spaces within the food court, and the eating pattern of individual pigs were studied. Movements through the scale (hits) were studied using automated output from the auto-sort scale. All of the feeder spaces were photographed at five-minute intervals using a time-lapse camera. Ten pigs in each study group were paint-marked.

The study at the commercial farm also used output from the auto-sort scale, and supplemented this with live observations of four rooms of pigs for a 24-hour period. Pigs normally have a daily eating pattern with most of the eating taking place during the day.

Analyses of the photos of the feeder spaces showed a clear diurnal (daily) pattern, with an eight-fold increase in eating behavior during the daytime, compared to the low activity pattern at midnight.

Pigs in small groups typically have 10-15 well-defined “meals” in a day. Pigs in the LGAS had approximately five meals per day, but they were longer in duration than pigs in small group pens. There were no significant differences between average daily gain in LGAS systems compared to conventional small group housing. Comparable performance indicates that pigs can successfully adapt to the LGAS system.

The study at the commercial farm examined the change in eating behavior as pigs aged. Pigs studied in rooms varied six weeks in age. It was found that the average number of entrances into the food court each day decreased as the size (age) of the pigs increased, from nearly four entries per day at 88 lb., to about 2.5 visits per day at 198 lb.

The results show the diurnal pattern of eating by pigs, and shows that younger pigs had less of a dropoff in midday eating. These studies, compared to others, suggest that the younger pigs were limited in the number of feeder spaces and had to shift eating patterns from the normal peak periods to the less-intensive midday period.

Overall, pigs in large group auto-sort systems enter the food court 2-4 times each day and have fewer meals (5 vs. 10-15) than their small-pen counterparts. They compensate by increasing the length of their eating periods and move freely about the food court, eating from several pig feeders every day.

To ease the transition to large group systems, pigs should be introduced directly to the food court to make sure they know where the feed is located. The food court should be spacious so that pigs have access to all of the feeders; a feeder space should be provided for every 10-12 pigs.


To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on bulk feed bins, livestock scales, and radiant under-floor heating, please visit Barn World.

Installing a laminate radiant floor heating system can add indescribable comfort to any home. Radiant heat can be added under a laminate floor with two different systems. For a smaller area, the easier choice is electric radiant floor heat. If you are planning on radiant heat for your entire home, use hydronic radiant heat. Because it doesn’t expand or contract as much, laminate is used more often than wood with radiant heat.

High quality laminate products are not only durable, they also look just as beautiful as a natural wood floor. You want to make sure you prepare the subfloor properly before you install radiant heat. Another benefit of having laminate flooring is it can be installed below concrete radiant heated flooring. This means you can have it in a basement and on the first floor and still keep a consistent flooring flow in your home.

Crete-heat insulated floor panel system, available at

Laminate Electric Radiant Floor Heating

For an electric radiant heated floor with laminate over it, you have two options. Option number one involves using thinset to adhere the mat to the floor. A brand name that uses this method would be Nuheat. After the electric radiant heat mat is placed onto the thinset, you have to cover up the mat with another layer of thinset over the top. This coat has to be smoothed out very flat. Next up, you place the vapor barrier and underlay. Finally, install the floating laminate flooring over the top.

The next option takes a lot less labor. There is no thinset involved with this method. Once the concrete floor, or subfloor is clean and ready, you roll on the electric radiant heating mat. A product that uses no thinset would be ThermoFloor. Once the electric mats are placed on the floor, its time to put down the vapor barrier and underlay. Finally, the floating laminate floor can be put in place.

Laminate Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

A product that explains some of the requirements for correctly using laminate for a hydronic (water) radiant system is Shaw. When heat is directly applied to any product, there could be some expansion or contraction throughout the year. In order to minimize problems right away, make sure you plan for success.

Minor gaps may occur during the heating season, but here are a few tips to avoid bigger problems when using hydronic radiant heat. To properly install laminate floors, make sure the wood floor isn’t too moist before installation (less than 14%). If you are placing laminate on concrete, there should be no moisture during any season. Humidity levels should be less than 35% or more than 65%, and the temperature should be between 60 degrees F, and 80 degrees F for the installation.

Advantages of Laminate Radiant Flooring

  • A comfortable warm and smooth floor even in the middle of winter.
  • No heated air blowing around dust, dirt and debris into the room. The warmth quietly radiates from the floor up.
  • Can be used for electric or hydronic radiant heat systems.
  • Expands and contracts less than a wood floor does with radiant heat.

Disadvantages of Laminate Radiant Flooring

  • Some people still prefer real wood over laminate regardless of the benefits.
  • Hard to install under a pre-existing laminate floor.
  • Laminate radiant floor heating systems don’t provide immediate warmth if the system has been off for an extended period of time.

Is Radiant Heat Right for your Laminate Floors?

Whenever you start a new flooring project, make sure you investigate radiant heat. Laminate is a fantastic product for floors, and it works very well with radiant energy systems. For smaller projects, go with an electric system. If you are redoing all the flooring, or involved with new construction, install a hydronic system. Laminate radiant under floor heating is a very versatile system. You will be pleased with the energy you save and the incredible feeling of a warm floor.


To get more information on radiant under-floor heatinglivestock scales, and bulk feed bins, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on cattle scales, cattle guards, or saddle pads, please visit Barn World.

To get more information on grain weight conversion, hog feeders, and hay feeders, please visit Barn World.