A dual marker technique to estimate individual feed intake in young pigs

T. Tang, C.M.C. van der Peet-Schwering, N.M. Soede, B.F.A. Laurenssen, E.M.A.M. Bruininx, E.J. Bos, W.J.J. Gerrits*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate estimation of individual feed intake (FI) of pigs could help better understand the variation in performance between individual animals. We studied dual marker methods to estimate individual FI in pigs. This method is based on the measurement of the ratio between two indigestible markers in faeces. Twelve 6.5-week-old individually housed male pigs were assigned to one of three oral dosing treatments supplying 180 mg of ytterbium chloride (YbCl3)/day and 111 mg of dotriacontane (C32)/day as reference markers, either once (R1), three times (R3) or five times (R5) daily. Pigs were offered a diet containing 0.46 g/kg of chromium chloride (CrCl3) and 0.15 g/kg of hexatriacontane (C36) as in-feed markers. The experiment lasted for 10 days: days −5 to 0: adaptation; days 1–3: dosing of reference marker; days 2–4: total faecal collection. Spot faecal samples were taken on day 3 at 1200 h, 1700 h and on day 4 at 0700 h. Pigs were fed restrictedly three times daily, at 133.6 g/kg BW0.60. Individual measured FI was recorded daily and was compared to predicted FI using the ratio of the dual marker pairs (Yb:Cr and C32:C36), both in total faecal collection and spot samples. Due to unequal variance, R1 pigs were omitted from the statistical treatment comparison. When using total faecal collection samples, the absolute prediction error (APE) (predicted FI minus measured FI) in R3 and R5 pigs was numerically lower than in R1 pigs, regardless of the marker pair used. The APE measured by C32:C36 was numerically lower than measured by Yb:Cr at all frequencies, and significantly (P = 0.039) in R3 pigs (C32:C36: 0.15 ± 0.02 kg/day; Yb:Cr: 0.29 ± 0.04 kg/day). This was related to a larger difference in faecal recovery between Yb and Cr compared with C32 and C36. Daily total faecal collection revealed that for R3 pigs, starting faecal collections 2 days after the onset of provision of the reference marker improved the APE when compared with starting after 1 day. When using C32:C36 to predict feed intake, pooled, but not single spot samples gave similar APEs compared with total faecal collections. Therefore, we recommend dosing the reference marker three times per day for 2 days on days 1 and 2, combined with pooled spot faecal sampling collected on days 3 and 4. In this way, absolute prediction errors of 10%-15% of simultaneously measured intakes of multiple nutrient resources in a complex housing system are feasible using the dual marker technique.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100451
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Chromium
  • Faecal recovery
  • Faecal sampling
  • N-alkanes
  • Ytterbium


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