THE EFFECTS OF HOUSING SYSTEMS AND PROVISION OF MAIZE SILAGE ON PIG PERFORMANCE AND PORK MEAT QUALITY
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Concerns over animal welfare within pig production, the flavour of the meat produced, environmental considerations and food safety worries have led consumers to question the merits of current production systems. The study set out to investigate the effects of outdoor rearing and the offering of farm produced forage on the growth rate of pigs and the eating quality of the pork produced. Experiment 1: 2 groups of British Lop X Welsh finishing pigs were housed either in indoor straw bedded pens with access to an outside yard (YA) or in outdoor accommodation with a simple shelter (OA). All pigs were offered the same pelletized diet, restricted to be approximately equivalent to appetite, in order to explore the feed conversion efficiency of pigs within the two housing systems. No difference was found in the growth rates of animals finished on the two housing systems. It was found that pigs in the OA group took a mean of 10 days longer to fatten, incurring the associated additional costs which was in agreement with other studies. Experiment 2: 2 groups of British Lop X Welsh finishing pigs were offered a diet pelletized cereal based feed (PD) or a diet in which 40% of the pelletized feed were substituted with maize silage (FD). In the FD diet 1 Kg of pelletized feed was substituted with 2.5 Kg maize silage. No difference in growth rate was found, however animals offered the FD took 17.5 days longer to finish. The comparison of growth rates between the two groups established that the FD pigs were able to utilise 2.98 MJ/ Kg of maize silage fed (fresh weight) equating to an ME 8.5MJ/ Kg on a dry matter basis. A preference taste test was conducted with members of the general public using the pork produced in Experiment 2. A clear preference was demonstrated for the pork produced from FD pigs (P<0.01), however the result was not consistent across all age groups. Benefits of feeding a fibrous diet were identified, in regard to flavour and cost, however better understanding of the most suitable forages is required to maintain production levels and carcass quality.