To test the proposition that growing pigs, when given a choice between two foods, are able to select a diet that meets their requirements, and to investigate the rules of diet selection, four foods (L, A, B and H) with similar energy yields, but different concentrations of crude protein (CP) (125, 174, 213 and 267 g CP per kg fresh food respectively) were formulated. The four foods were offered ad libitum either singly, or as a two-way choice using all the six possible pairs, to 40 individually caged pigs from 12 to 30 kg live weight. On the single foods the rate of food intake fell from 1001 to 971 to 961 to 868 (s.e.d. 40) g/day (F < 0·05) as the protein concentration of the foods increased from L to H; the growth rate followed an opposite trend (492, 627, 743 and 693 (s.e.d. 31) g/day respectively; P < 0·01). When the pigs had to select between two foods limiting in protein (L and A) the less limiting one was preferred (710 (s.e. 200) g A per kg total food intake; the protein concentration of the selected diet was 160 (s.e. 10) g CP per kg). On the choice between B and H (a choice between a food with protein concentration close to requirements and a food with protein excess) the lower food was markedly preferred (928 (s.e. 4) g B per kg total food intake; the protein concentration of the selected diet was 218 (s.e. 1) g CP per kg). When the animals were given a choice between two foods, a combination of which was non-limiting (pairs LB, LH, AB and AH), the protein concentrations of the selected diets were not different between treatments (208, 204, 202 and 205 (s.e.d. 13) g CP per kg respectively) and they also declined systematically with time and weight. The growth rate of the animals on these pairs were 752, 768, 769 and 763 (s.e.d. 54) g/day (P > 0·05), which were not significantly different from the highest growth rate achieved on a single food. The results suggest that pigs, when given a choice between a suitable pair of foods, are able to choose a balanced diet and to change its composition to reflect their changing requirements. The choice-feeding method may well be useful as an effective and economic way of estimating and meeting requirements, and of measuring the growth potential of pigs.
- dietary protein
- food preferences