Continuing to seek answers to the industry’s problems, despite COVID disruption

In our latest International Outlook column, Lisbeth Shooter, director of innovation at Danish agricultural knowledge and innovation centre SEGES, explains how the COVID-19 disruption has not stopped some important work on behalf of the pig sector. 

Like all our European neighbouring countries, this year has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a national lockdown earlier on this year followed by several restrictions, we were forced to think of new ways of how to ‘meet’ and disseminate knowledge.

Online seminars and conferences emerged, and even the annual Pig Congress in Herning was held as a virtual event, with delegates gathered in smaller groups all around the country. There was also a series of technical webinars in the following week.

We missed the social aspect. However, we still managed to bring the newest knowledge to our pig producers, advisors and allied industry.

Despite COVID-19, it is business as usual. As 2022 is rapidly approaching, our focus on finding solutions on how to wean piglets without the use of zinc oxide is sharper than ever. We have this year joined forces with researchers and other European partners in projects totalling more than £13 million.

Two of the projects are aimed at developing new E-Coli vaccines, and the others are focused on feed interventions and management. We also have promising results from some of our demonstration farms, where we can see it is possible to wean piglets without zinc oxide and still maintain low antibiotic levels.

Piglet survivability and welfare was revived in a new national project this year, where the SEGES Pig Research Centre and local advisors joined forces. Over a period of six months, 56 pig farms participated in the project covering more than 60,000 sows.

The pig farms, their managers and staff combined regular visits from advisors with on-farm group training, which on average increased the survival rate by 1% across all participating farms. Of course, there were individual farm differences with the best performing farm improving by nearly seven percentage points.

Things like night shifts and securing staff availability in the farrowing house on the main farrowing days, ensuring colostrum to all piglets and correct feeding strategy around farrowing all helped to make a difference.

The newest campaign is focused on sow welfare and productivity. Through direct mail to pig producers, videos and social media, knowledge on how to manage and feed the sow throughout gestation and farrowing to improve the survival rate and the welfare of the sow will be shared.

With African swine fever (ASF) entering Germany, we are closely monitoring the number of wild boar in Denmark. The wild boar fence along the border between Germany and Denmark was completed last year.

Since then, the authorities have registered a decrease in the number of wild boar in our country with an estimate of fewer than 20 animals. If ASF enters Denmark, it will not only have a detrimental effect on the health and productivity in the affected pig herds, but it will also hugely affect our export market with an immediate stop to countries outside the EU, causing serious economic costs for the industry.

Finally, the pig industry is also contributing to the national climate challenge, where the goal is a climate neutral Danish agricultural industry in 2050.

This year, the pig industry, through the Danish quality standard mark DANISH, opted to require all soya used in pig diets to be sustainably sourced by 2025. It will be gradually phased in with a minimum of 20% sustainable soya in the diets next year, with further increases in the following years.

At farm level, approximately 21% of CO2 reductions can be obtained from technologies related to slurry management, but nearly 69% can be achieved through reducing the carbon footprint of feed.

Therefore, SEGES Pig Research Centre, together with Agrovision, is working on developing models to calculate the carbon footprint of feed diets according to the Product Environmental Footprint standards, as well as combining this data with the farm’s own production data.

A huge amount of data will be digitalised with automatic data flows, which aims to not only document the environmental and climate footprint in pig production, but also to produce a management tool for the pig producer and his/her staff to be used in their day-to-day jobs.

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About The Author

Lisbeth Shooter is a former BPEX knowledge transfer manager who’s now head of department for feed efficiency at the Danish Pig Research Centre.