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Focus on animal welfare, the environment, the climate and the market

Starting from a solid basis, the Danish pig industry is enhancing its focus on upcoming challenges. The aim is to future-proof the industry, its social acceptance and competitiveness.

Animal welfare and health as well as the environment and climate have high priority. With regards to health, the continuing reduction of antibiotic consumption plays a key role. As far as the climate is concerned, emphasis is on an even stronger reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Animal welfare
Since 1 January 2019, it is a requirement that all piglets receive local anaesthetic prior to castration. Other initiatives include efforts to reduce tail docking and minimise piglet mortality. Work is also ongoing into the development of systems that will enable sows to be loose-housed in all housing units.

Healthy animals using the minimum of medicinal intervention has been the overriding objective of Danish pig production for many years. Medicine consumption in Danish livestock production, of which approximately 85% are pigs, accounts for less than a third of the EU average. Antibiotic consumption has been reduced over the past years and is set to reduce even further.

On the sales sides, the launch of the government-backed animal welfare label, 'Better Animal Welfare' has been an unequivocal success. Many consumers have welcomed the new label, which means that the scheme may lead to more market-driven improvements to animal welfare.

Environment and climate
Since the mid-1980s, the environmental impact per pig produced has been reduced by almost 50 per cent. Feed efficiency is a highly prioritised breeding trait and feed is increasingly home-produced. A new research partnership could in the future yield sustainable protein in concentrated form, extracted from grass, as feed for pigs and poultry.

Since 1990, ammonia emissions in Denmark have reduced by approximately 40 per cent – even though pig production over the same period has increased by 50 per cent. Indeed, over the coming years, it will reduce even further due to innovative technologies. The same applies to phosphorus emissions, where scientists at SEGES Pig Research Centre are working on projects to identify new methods to reduce the phosphorus content in feed.

Sustainability as a sales parameter
"We believe that sustainability – including animal welfare – on a global scale can develop into a key competitive parameter. It is on this basis that we are in the process of establishing general requirements and certification schemes for the entire production chain,” says Christian Fink Hansen, Sector Director, SEGES Pig Research Centre, Danish Agriculture and Food Council.

Read also: Targeted focus on animal welfare in pig housing