Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

CORE2: ProPIG Strategies to reduce environmental impact by improving health, welfare and nutrition of organic pigs - OD0220

Robust and competitive organic pig production needs to encompass low environmental impacts and good animal health and welfare. In theory, improving animal health and welfare reduces environmental impacts through
decreased medicine use, improved growth rates and feed conversion efficiency. However, as data on environmental impacts are scarce, the extent of such improvement has never been verified on working farms.

In organic pig production, health and welfare improvements must be implemented through preventive approaches, optimal disease management and innovative systems regarding outdoor areas. This poses a challenge to the farms. Together, organic regulations, different national welfare regulations and different building traditions have promoted the development of a variety of housing systems, outdoor rearing and management strategies across the EU. The relative environmental impacts of these have not been quantified. This diversity offers real potential to aid improvement, if the ‘best’ can act as role models for others, which might be more effective than adapting practice derived from experimental systems. This project includes data recording on organic pig farms, calculations of nutrient balances and Life Cycle Assessment for several contrasting scenarios
and the development and evaluation of farm specific improvement strategies.

At the beginning of the project husbandry systems will be defined, (e.g. outdoor / partly outdoor / indoor with concrete outside run). After development of on-farm assessment protocols a cross-sectional survey and a
prospective cohort study will be carried out on about 33 farms of each system across ten different European countries. Environmental impacts will be assessed using both Life Cycle Assessment and calculations of nutrient
balances at farm and outdoor area level. Animal health and welfare will be evaluated from outcome measures of clinical scoring and selected behavioural parameters. Results will be fed back to farmers as benchmarking
reports, based on which the farmer will decide farm specific goals and strategies to achieve these. As an outcome all farms create their individual health, welfare and environmental plan, which will be reviewed after one year to allow continuous development.

The relationship between health, welfare and environmental impacts will be examined using factor analysis and multiple correspondence analyses. Thereby, farms can be grouped based on common housing and management characteristics, and groups be compared regarding outcome parameters. Furthermore, the effect of farming system on health, welfare and environmental impact will be assessed with multivariate models, taking
into account the climatic conditions... The farm specific strategies will be evaluated by assessing within-farm improvement in measured criteria over 12 months. Dissemination activities will include the development of a
decision support tool for improvement of environmental impact and a summary of successful improvement strategies (codes of practice). These will be presented as a booklet and training material for organic pig farmers
and advisors, which will be introduced during national courses.

The proposed project will take a holistic approach and combine several key objectives: management of outdoor areas, disease prevention, optimizing nutrition and innovative interacting strategies for improvement to support
extension services.
01. To identify animal - environment interactions in the three different housing systems for organic pigs (outdoor / partly outdoor / indoor with concrete outside run) across the European climate zones.

02. To develop and implement farm specific strategies to reduce environmental impacts by improving health, welfare, nutrition and management of organic pigs.

03. To disseminate knowledge to national advisory bodies and farmers
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2011

To: 2015

Cost: £107,054
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Newcastle
Animal Diseases              
Animal Feed              
Animal Health              
Animal Welfare              
Organic Farming              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Health