Pig production – the Danish way

Christian Fink Hansen has been the director of SEGES, the Danish Pig Research Centre, since 2017. Previously he was head of animal science studies and a Professor in pig production systems at the University of Copenhagen

SEGES director Christian Fink Hansen

SEGES director Christian Fink Hansen

Danish pig production is in the world’s elite if you look at our quality, animal welfare and sustainability. And according to InterPig, we are also among the most cost- effective European countries at producing pigs.

There’s a lot to be proud of, but it requires a substantial investment: every year Danish pig producers devote more than €50 million to research and development to secure our position as one of the leading pig producing countries and to maintain our reputation and competitiveness nationally and globally.

Our activities are split into three major areas:

Last year the DanBred Breeding programme delivered a record genetic gain worth €2.17/pig/year, not least because the programme includes a full genomic test of all breeding animals. To be as economic and sustainable as possible, one of our major breeding goals is to improve feed efficiency as much as possible.

Breeding for improved litter size has been successful, with surprisingly fast advances. In the future we will look more into maternal qualities of the sows and social behaviour of the pigs.

Innovation – R&D
Our research and development activities are focused on all the important areas of pig production: health, nutrition, reproduction, production systems, etc.

This is the only way to survive. Since Denmark is a high cost country, we must be in front when we talk about efficiency and productivity, but it is also important to develop pig production with added value.

One example could be production without antibiotics.

This means new procedures on farms and right now we are working with the farms that have started to produce this way and have ongoing research activities to support this way of producing pork.

Another area we must develop is animal welfare. Our strategy for the forthcoming years is focused on the following:

  • Local anesthesia before castration, which has been a requirement since January 1 2019.
  • Long tails without tail docking. and without decreasing animal welfare.
  • Loose sows in the whole cycle – Many of the new farrowing pens are now built for loose sows.
  • Increased piglet survival, even though it is already high in Denmark compared to pig production in many other countries.

Veterinary activities and audit schemes
Danish Product Standard is a quality insurance scheme we run with audits on all pig farms to ensure all Danish farmers live up to legislation, animal welfare standards and rules for special brands.

To be realistic, there will not be well-regarded pig production in Denmark if we don’t keep out diseases such as African swine fever. That’s why we have the DANISH Transport Standard, which adds an extra security layer to our disease protection with washing and disinfection of 25,000 trucks exporting piglets every year. As a precaution we have added resources in the form of more supervision and follow-up at the washing depots.

For many years we have run a monitoring program for Salmonella on the farms and abattoirs to keep levels at an absolute minimum.

Our Laboratory for Pig Diseases works closely with our health database. Buyers of piglets are able to check the health status on all pig farms. Most of our sow farms are part of the SPF (Specific Pathogen Free) system and can declare themselves free from important diseases like PRRS, AP and mycoplasma.

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