Photo: Danish Agriculture & Food Council

Highlights from the annual pig conference

This year’s pig conference, which normally brings together the entire Danish pig industry for a two-day conference in Herning in Jutland, was held as a digital event. The following presents the key highlights from this year’s event.

The usual autumn get-together of the Danish pig sector was cancelled this year due to Corona. However, the crisis did not prevent the Danish pig industry from arranging a digital event where experts shared their knowledge and experience and updated virtual participants on all that is happening in and around the industry. The key items covered were:

Creativity and unity
“Crises bring out the best in us. This time, we’ve experienced a sense of community that hasn’t been seen for many years, with creativity flourishing in many sectors of society, including agriculture,” said Chairman Erik Larsen in his annual report. “Denmark and the whole world are currently preoccupied with coronavirus. Another focus of our attention is the climate, which is a long-term and important project. At the same time, we need profitable businesses throughout the food chain - and food in our shops. This is why it’s important to find innovative solutions to enable us to produce more for less. The Danish pig industry should be part of the solution – both in terms of the climate and sustainability.

“Specifically, we have taken the important step to ensure that all soya purchased for feed in Danish agriculture will be third party verified by 2025 and grown responsibly and sustainably. To support this initiative, sustainable soya will be part of our DANISH accreditation scheme, and specific targets are being drawn up ahead of 2025. Although our initiatives are a step in the right direction, they cannot stand alone. We are therefore calling on politicians to work for responsible soya production – both in the EU and across the world. Despite the fact that soya is a great source of protein, we are working creatively to find alternatives, e.g. in the form of grass protein, but I doubt whether Danish protein can replace it entirely.”

Fluctuating prices
Fluctuating prices have characterised the entire European pig production – with resulting fluctuations in raw material prices. At the start of 2020, when China, in particular, had an impact on a higher pig price, nobody would have anticipated that the price of a 30 kg pig would halve in just three months. This has led to substantial fluctuations in the pig price and consequently significant shifts in raw material prices for pig meat.

"Crises bring out the best in us. This time, we’ve experienced a sense of community that hasn’t been seen for many years, with creativity flourishing in many sectors of society, including agriculture,” said Erik Larsen, Chairman of the Sector Board at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council’s Pig Production, in his report on Denmark’s pig sector at this year’s digital pig conference. These are some of the topics that are currently dominating Denmark’s pig sector.

Coronavirus and fluctuating prices
Coronavirus has turned the world upside down. Export projections are uncertain, and the pig price has taken a nosedive.

Climate, sustainable soya and CO2 measurements
Besides corona, the other major focus of attention – both in Denmark and the rest of the world – is the climate. This is a long term and important project. At the same time, we need profitable businesses throughout the food chain - and food in our shops. This is why it is important to find innovative solutions to enable us to produce more for less.

Breeding progress in feed conversion is positive and directly benefits the bottom line. Improved feed conversion has a significant impact on the climate. In pig units, optimising feed conversion is a significant factor in climate improvement, which is why Danish pig production has been fully focused on breeding work for years. Climate-friendly production goes hand-in-hand with a healthy bottom line.

Earlier this year, the Danish pig industry took a major step towards supporting responsible and deforestation-free soya production. Specifically, the initiative is to ensure that all soya purchased for feed in Danish agriculture is third party verified by 2025 and cultivated responsibly and sustainably. Sustainable soya will form part of the DANISH accreditation system and specific targets are being drawn up ahead of 2025.

Read more about the theme of soya: Responsible soya sourcing: Danish agriculture imposes requirements

Read more about feed conversion: Danish agriculture among the most climate-efficient

Breeding progress benefits the economy and is a step closer to producing more sustainable pigs. We need greater insight into actual CO2 emissions to make a real difference, however. Together with Aarhus University and Danish Crown, the Danish pig industry has developed the IT tool, Pork 4.0. This is a type of calculator that can show a farm’s CO2 emissions per kg of growth or per finisher.

Read more about climate action: New climate-measuring device in the pipeline

More on the theme of sustainability: Prepared for future challenges