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Sustainable pig production systems

Despite pig farmers’ needs to balance apparently conflicting pillars of sustainability (economy, environment, society), there is very little data to support holistic decisions at farm level. SusPigSys aims to collect, summarise and disseminate evidence-based information on successful strategies to improve sustainability in various production systems across the EU. Project outcomes include an on-farm assessment and feedback tool to help pig farmers improve their economic, environmental, and societal sustainability (e.g. animal health and welfare), as well as job satisfaction. Farmers in all partner countries are actively involved throughout the project to ensure outcomes meet their needs. The project is half way.

So far, SusPigSys researchers and stakeholders created a detailed sustainability assessment protocol, applied to 70 farms in 7 European countries (AT, DE, FI, IT, PL, NL, UK). From this, a valid, condensed protocol was developed which will now be applied on a further 175 farms, to produce a ‘toolbox’. This toolbox will be linked with an existing international pig production database to allow enhanced benchmarking. In addition, descriptions of best practices will be published to help farmers learn from each other.

Within WP1 background information was gathered to better understand the systems of pig production in the EU, aspects of sustainability of these systems, and stakeholder views on this. Detailed assessment protocols were developed in WP2, addressing Economy, Environmental impact, Animal health & welfare and Farmer social wellbeing. The protocols were used to collect data from 68 farms which. Following analyses of these data, a set of more condensed protocols could be made. Simultaneously, tablet software was developed to collect data during the next farm visits and form the basis for the farmer decision support tool (WP4). In addition, collaboration with Agribenchmark-Pig was set up to include (parts of) the condensed protocols in their system.

Although it is too early to say for certain what outcomes will be achieved, we have laid the foundations for results we hope to realise in the second half of the project. Firstly, from the stakeholder workshops, the project has established a dialogue with stakeholders in the pork production chain in each of the participating countries about what contributes to sustainable production systems and what are the most useful metrics at farm-level. Even at this early stage we can be confident to have established sound communication channels with relevant stakeholders in several countries.

Messages to all stakeholders

The data collection carried out on the 68 pig farms shows a wide variation in systems and performance results between and within countries.

  • The diversity offers great opportunities for exchanging knowledge between farmers, and between stakeholders of different countries.
  • It also means that many pig farms have the opportunity to improve their results significantly.

Knowledge products

The main project outcomes include an integrative on-farm assessment and Farmer Decision Support tool (FDSt) to help pig farmers improve their sustainability.

The generation of scientific publications has begun with a series of related conference proceedings to be presented later this year. The SusPigSys team initiated two scientific sessions at the 2019 conference of the European Association of Animal Production (EAAP) in Ghent (Belgium) We aim to build upon these publications in subsequent journal articles.

Knowledge networks

Discussions are ongoing with AgriBenchmark Pig, which would provide the opportunity for continuous data collection after the project has finished.

Coordinated by: Dr. Sabine Dippel - Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (GERMANY) - Contact

Funded by: BMEL, BMLFUW, MMM, MIPAAF, NWO, NCBR and DEFRA as part of the ERA-NET Cofund SusAn through a virtual common pot model including EU Top-Up funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 696231).

7 research partners:

  • AUSTRIA: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences
  • GERMANY: FiBL Deutschland e.V.
  • FINLAND: University of Helsinki
  • ITALY: Fondazione CRPA Studi e Ricerche
  • THE NETHERLANDS: Wageningen University of Life Sciences
  • POLAND: Warsaw University of Life Sciences
  • UNITED KINGDOM: Newcastle University

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