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New strategy for Danish pig production

Ambitious targets rolled out at Herning Pig Congress

The pig production sector of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council launched its new strategy for 2018-2020 at October’s Herning pig congress. Aimed at future-proofing Danish pig production, the strategy has three strategic priorities:

  • Competitive pig production
  • Sustainability and certification
  • Animal welfare and social acceptance

Although over the past 25 years much has been achieved in terms of raising the quality and efficiency of Danish pig production, including improving animal welfare and food safety standards, reduced antibiotic consumption and reduced nutrient emissions, the sector is intent on ensuring that Denmark’s pig producers remain proactive and competitive and have the best possible conditions for economic and sustainable growth.

A long-term aim is to encourage more finished pig production and thereby more slaughterings in Denmark and this remains at the top of the list of priorities. Now in its third year, the Finished Pig Production Concept involves 24 farms, which have all seen a significant improvement in their results. In brief, the concept comprises three parts: a list of production requirements and initiatives, monitoring and data-based follow up with an adviser. The results have been reduced feed consumption and increased daily gain. In fact, the pilot farms have succeeded in raising earnings per finished pig by DKK 23 so far.

Speaking at the Herning Congress, Christian Fink, Sector Director of Seges Danish Pig Research Centre, said: “There’s money to be made in concept production and more producers are expressing an interest in our concept. The focus for the year ahead will be on increasing earnings through real time monitoring.”

Facts about antibiotic usage in pigs

Other components of the strategy’s competitive pig production element are high level innovation, increased special productions, an emphasis on breeding progress, good employment conditions for skilled workers and ensuring that African Swine Fever does not enter Denmark.

Social acceptance is another important element of the new strategy.

“We need consumers and legislators on our side so that they understand and accept Danish pig production and know why we do what we do and why, in many cases, Danish pig production is more sustainable and has a higher standard of animal welfare compared to many other countries,” said Erik Larsen, Chairman, Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Pig Production, who also addressed the Herning Congress.

Animal welfare is, of course, closely linked to social acceptance, which is why the new strategy document sets out a number of clear objectives in this area, including a higher percentage of pigs with intact tails, local anaesthetic prior to castration, increased piglet survival and more farrowing pens for group housed nursing sows.

Read more about pig welfare 

“We have invested significant sums in research into intact tails and this is currently being tested in some production herds. Unfortunately, we have recently seen a slight rise in piglet mortality following a decline in recent years. The increase is not substantial, but we are taking it seriously and a group of experts has been tasked with reversing the trend,” said Christian Fink.

With regard to sustainability and certification, this is expected to become an important global sales parameter in future. Efforts are therefore underway to establish a common certification concept for the entire pig sector, which can be used both by finished pig producers and piglet producers who sell piglets in Denmark or abroad.

Progress has also been made in reducing the amount of phosphorus in feed without compromising productivity or the health of the pig. Moreover, the search to find an alternative to medicinal zinc, which will be prohibited under EU legislation by the end of 2022, continues. Christian Fink is optimistic that a solution will be found: the Danish Pig Research Centre is currently analysing four feed concepts, two of which are encouraging but are still too expensive.

Summing up the new strategy, Erik Larsen commented:

“It’s important that this document is not just a strategy on paper. It has to be a living entity and we will use it for prioritising funds for research and development.”