Livestock Research for Rural Development 15 (6) 2003

Citation of this paper

Response of weaner pigs to feed rationing and frequency of feeding

 A O Fanimo*, O O Oduguwa, A O K Adesehinwa**, E Y Owoeye and O S Babatunde 

College of Animal Science and Livestock Production, University of Agriculture
PMB 2240, Abeokuta, Nigeria

*Present address: Institute of Animal Nutrition, Physiology and Metabolism,
University of Kiel, D-24098 Kiel, Germany

**National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services
South West Station, Moore Plantation, Ibadan, Nigeria




Forty-eight crossbred weaner pigs divided into three groups of sixteen pigs each were used to assess the effect of feeding frequency on the performance and nutrient digestibility.   The same type and quantity of feed was rationed once, twice and thrice daily.


Performance of pigs fed twice daily was  better  than those fed once per day. Digestibility of dry matter, crude protein and crude fibre increased with twice versus once daily feeding. There were no apparent advantages from increasing the feeding frequency to thrice daily.


Key words: Feeding frequency, nutrient digestibility, performance, pigs, rationing





The type of feed and the method of feeding greatly influence the feed efficiency, growth rate, breeding efficiency, carcass quality and the general health of pigs. The choice of feeding periods for pigs is based entirely on nutritional and economic considerations (INRA 1984; English et al 1988). For example, feeding restriction is commonly practiced with market pigs to improve carcass quality and feed efficiency while decreasing production costs.


Ad-libitum feeding, particularly if it involves feeds of energy density tends to promote synthesis of body fat which is inefficient in terms of feed conversion. Compared to ad libitum access to feed, a restricted feed allowance simultaneously reduces back fat thickness and intramuscular fat content (Wood et al 1996; Candek-Potokar et al 1998), whereas free access to a low-protein diet has the opposite effects (Adeola and Young 1989; Karlsson et al 1993). Feed-restricted pigs show decreased back fat thickness, adipocyte volume and lipogenic capacity (Mersmann et al 1981; Leymaster and Mersmann 1991; Gondret and Lebret 2002). The meat industry requires animals to be as lean as possible since pork meat with low fat content reduces human caloric intake and intramuscular fat is related to lower sensory quality traits (Fernandez et al 1999). High level of carcass fat is therefore unacceptable because of the associated health problems. It is also convenient that breeding animals, particularly in the tropical climates, should not gain excessive weight because of the heat. Thus, Sudduth (2002) suggested increasing the feeding frequency as a management practice to alleviate the effects of heat on the animals. Under tropical conditions, it is therefore logical to adopt a restricted system of feeding. Restricted feeding involves a fixed amount of feed distributed to each pen or to each animal, in two or three meals daily (Serres 1992). When feed intake is reduced below the maintenance level, animal tends to become more efficient in digesting feed and in utilizing the nutrients (INRA 1984).


In Nigeria, most farmers feed their pigs once daily while others allow the animals free access to agro-by-products throughout the day. In conventional pig feeding management, however, more variable feeding systems are applied. The question of how often the pig should be fed for efficient feed utilization still remains unanswered. The present study was therefore undertaken to investigate the effect of once, twice or thrice daily feeding on the performance and nutrient digestibility parameters of growing pigs.



Materials and Methods


Growth trial


Forty-eight crossbred weaner pigs of 16±0.03 kg body weight were used in a 70-day growth trial to evaluate the effect of feeding frequency on performance. The pigs were injected with IvomecR (Ivermectine) against endo- and ecto-parasites, prior to the start of the trial.  They were randomly allocated to the three treatment groups based on body weight, sex and litter origin in a completely randomised design. All the pigs were housed in concrete-floored pens equipped with feeding and watering troughs.


'The feeding treatments were:

The same high-fibre diet (Table 1) was fed throughout the duration of the experiment. 

Table 1. Composition of experimental diet (g/kg)

Feed ingredients


Maize offal


Palm kernel cake


Cotton seed meal


Fish meal


Bone meal


Oyster shell




Vitamin /mineral premix*




Dry matter


Crude protein


Crude fibre


Ether extract


*Provided per kg diet: 5000 IU vitamin A; 1000 IU vitamin D; 0.8mg vitamin E;0.4mg menadione K3; 1.2mg riboflavin; 1.0mg pantothenic acid; 0.004mg vitamin B12;3mg niacin; 4mg vitamin C; 112mg choline; 24mg manganese; 8mg iron; 0.048mg selenium; 5mg antioxidant (BHT).

The animals were supplied water ad-libitum. The pigs were weighed weekly and weekly feed consumption was also recorded. These records were used to monitor and assess the weight gain, dry matter and protein intake, feed: gain ratio and protein efficiency ratio.


Digestibility trial


Twelve pigs (4 per treatment) were assigned at random to the three experimental treatments. Faeces from each pig were collected on days 7 to 10 in labelled polyethylene bags and stored at –10ºC. Composition of feed and faecal samples was determined using the techniques outlined by AOAC (1990).


Statistical analysis


All the data obtained were subjected to analysis of variance (Steel and Torrie 1980). Different means were separated using Duncan’s multiple range test (Duncan 1955).



Results and discussion


All the feed offered was consumed. Performance (weight gain, feed DM: gain and protein efficiency ratio) was improved by twice compared with once daily feeding but there was no difference between twice and thrice daily feeding (Table 2). 

Table 2. Mean values (with SE) for performance traits of the pigs given the same daily feed allowance once, twice or thrice daily

Feeding frequency




Number of pigs




Live weight (kg)









Daily gain




Feed DM intake (kg/day)




Protein intake (g/day)




Feed: gain




Protein efficiency ratio (PER)




ab Means on the same row having different superscripts are different at P<0.05;
PER is weight gain/protein intake

Apparent digestibility of DM, crude protein and crude fibre showed the same pattern as the performance traits with improvements for twice compared with once daily feeding and no difference between twice and thrice daily feeding (Table 3). Differences in ether extract digestibility were not to be expected in view of the low content of this element in the diet.

Table 3. Mean values (with SE) of apparent digestibility coefficients for once, twice and thrice daily feeding of the same daily feed allowance

Feeding frequency




Dry matter




Crude protein




Crude fibre




Ether extract




ab Means on the same row having different superscripts are different atP<0.05


It would appear that the improved performance traits for twice versus once daily feeding can be attributed to increased digestibility of the dietary DM, crude protein and crude fibre. This result  is in line with the report of Murphy et al (1994a,b) that restricted feeding has the potential to improve dry matter and organic matter digestibility. In this experiment, a tendency was observed that frequent feeding increased (P<0.05) DM, CP and CF digestibility of the diet (Table 3). van Leeuwen et al (1997) reported that the digestibility indices of DM and crude protein in pigs fed a diet based on soybean meal were slightly higher when feed was given every 6hr compared with every 12hr; however, in our experiment  there appeared to be no benefit from increasing the frequency of feeding beyond two times per day. 






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Received 4 April 2003; Accepted June 13 2003


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