Research at the University of Illinois suggests that feeding a small amount of rice to each pig in early nursery diets may improve health without affecting growth performance.

However, researchers were only able to get the desired response by feeding the rice for only one week after weaning, meaning that the amount of rice actually fed per pig was quite small.

In two, 42-day experiments carried out on the same commercial hog farm, feeding rice cut the removal rate of pigs about in half.

The first experiment compared whether feeding corn, barley, rolled oats or rice as the main energy source in the diet for weaned pigs affected growth performance.

A total of 1,008, 21-day-old, 13-lb. weaned pigs were assigned to one of four dietary treatment groups. Pigs were divided into three weight blocks in each of four rooms, resulting in 12 blocks or 12 pens/treatment.

Each pen within a block housed 21 pigs and an equal distribution of males and females.

Pigs were fed a four-phase diet with declining diet complexity. he four-phase feeding program includes corn, barley, rolled oats or rice. The diets were formulated to meet the same levels of calculated metabolizable energy and standard ileal digestible (SID) lysine within each phase. Diets for phase one and two were in mini-pellet form and in meal form for phases three and four.

Over a six-week period, average daily gain of pigs fed the rice diet was significantly higher than that of pigs fed barley or rolled oats, but no different than pigs fed the corn diet. There was no difference in gain/feed for the various dietary regimens. Average daily feed intake was similar for the treatment groups but significantly higher than the pigs fed barley.

Notably, the removal rates of pigs fed rice and barley diets were lowest (Table 1).

These results suggest that corn and rice would be viable options of cereal grains in weaned pig diets in terms of growth performance.

The second experiment featured 1,004 crossbred pigs weaned at 21 days of age, weighing 12.1 lb. and allotted to one of the same four dietary treatments in similar fashion as the first experiment.

Again pigs were fed a four-phase feeding program with declining diet complexity. The four treatments were corn diet (A); rice diet fed for one week (B); rice diet fed for two weeks (C); and rice diet fed for four weeks (D). All pigs received a common diet during weeks five and six.

The dietary phases were formulated to meet the same levels of calculated metabolizable energy and SID lysine. The first two diets in this trial were in crumble form and the next two diets were in meal form. All diets contained carbadox and the first three diets contained zinc oxide.

Feeding performance in all four diets recorded similar results for average daily gain, average daily feed intake and gain/feed (Table 2). However, pigs fed diets B-D had a lower removal rate (dead and sick) than pigs fed diet A (corn). No difference was seen in the number of antibiotic treatments.

Researchers: M.T. Che, V.G. Perez-Mendoza and J.E. Pettigrew, all of the University of Illinois and M.U. Steidinger of Swine Nutrition Services Inc., Anchor, IL. Contact Pettigrew by phone (217) 244-6927, fax (217) 333-7861 or e-mail