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Sustainable systems for pig weaner management (AGEWEAN) - IS0212

Description

The post-weaning period is generally characterised by a marked reduction in voluntary feed intake, poor growth and development, and diarrhoea. The associated reduction in digestive and absorptive capacity of the gastrointestinal tract decreases the overall efficiency of nutrient capture and utilisation, thereby causing an increase in nutrient loading to the environment. The reduction in digestive and absorptive efficiency after weaning has implications for lifetime performance because overall growth rate and feed conversion are sub optimal. This extends the time taken for pigs to reach slaughter weight, and causes an increase in total nutrient loading to the environment. At present, pigs are offered diets containing antibiotic growth promotants (AGPs), zinc oxide (ZnO) and (or) copper sulphate (CuSO4) to enhance the efficiency of feed conversion, and hence maximise nutrient capture. However, there is serious concern with respect to environmental pollution (Zn and Cu contamination) and food safety (cross-resistance in zoonotic bacteria) from many sectors of the community regarding the continued use of AGPs and heavy minerals. It is likely that antimicrobial agents will soon be banned from use in pig diets. A ban on AGPs and heavy metals is likely to cause a deterioration in feed efficiency and exacerbate environmental nutrient loading (through increased N and P excretion), with allied concerns related to pig welfare and food safety. ,

This research package is one component of a proposed 4-year multidisciplinary research programme (SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS FOR WEANER MANAGEMENT) with funding from DEFRA, SEERAD, BBSRC, HGCA and the MLC. The objective of this package is to investigate the effects of weaning age (4, 6 or 8 weeks) in both an indoor lactation environment and an outdoor lactation environment on lifetime performance of sows and their progeny, and on parameters of economic and environmental sustainability, including cost of production, environmental impact and food safety. This will be achieved by multi-site systems study to compare long term effects of different weaning ages and their associated resource inputs and product outputs, combined with a detailed study of implication for production of potential pollutants in the form of slurry and gaseous emissions. The data generated, together with that from the other complementary packages, will be used to develop a physical/financial model, which can subsequently be used to predict the consequences for resource utilisation (eg energy or specific nutrients) and economic sustainability under different scenarios.

The proposed research in this package addresses the following DEFRA policy objectives:

1. To protect the public’s interest in relation to environmental impacts and health, including in relation to diseases which can be transmitted through food, water and animals and to ensure high standards of animal health and welfare.
2. To promote a sustainable, competitive and safe food supply chain which meets consumers’ requirements.
3. To promote sustainable, diverse, modern and adaptable farming through domestic and international actions and further ambitious CAP reform.
4. To promote sustainable management and prudent use of natural resources domestically and internationally.
5. To enhance opportunity and tackle social exclusion through promoting sustainable rural areas with a dynamic and inclusive economy, strong rural communities and fair access to services.

Results of the research programme will be realised through a knowledge transfer plan that will develop best practice to enhance biological and economic efficiency of the pig production system and limit the environmental impact of pig production, with particular emphasis on the excretion of N, P, and the heavy minerals Zn and Cu.

Objective

The overall objective is to investigate the effects of weaning age in both an indoor lactation environment and an outdoor lactation environment on lifetime performance and the cost of production, environmental impact, food safety and gut biology.

The individual components of this are therefore:
1) Assess the effect of weaning age on piglet lifetime performance (growth rate and efficiency of nutrient capture) in an indoor lactation environment and an outdoor lactation environment.
2) Assess the effect of weaning age on sow performance (fertility and efficiency of nutrient capture) in an indoor lactation environment and an outdoor lactation environment.
3) Assess the effect of weaning age on gut health, gut microflora and the presence of zoonotic organisms in an indoor lactation environment and an outdoor lactation environment.
4) Assess the effect of weaning age on slurry volume and composition and ammonia emissions.
5) Construct a whole system model for resource (nutrient, energy, finance) budgeting under different weaning age and environment scenarios

Project Documents
• Final Report : IS0212_Sustainable systems for pig weaner management (AGEWEAN)   (487k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2007

Cost: £1,417,136
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Meat and Livestock Commission, University - Scottish Agricultural College, ADAS UK Ltd., University - Newcastle, University - Harper Adams Agricultural College
Keywords
Agri-Environment              
Ammonia              
Climate Change              
Environment              
Environmental Protection              
Farming              
Heavy Metals              
Livestock              
Livestock Farming              
Natural Resource Use              
Nitrates              
Phosphorus              
Pigs              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production