Newcastle University seeks volunteers for pig sustainability project

Researchers from Newcastle University are looking for volunteers to take part in a research project on sustainability in pig production across Europe.

The idea of the European SusPigSys project is to develop tools for the pig industry to enhance profitability, resource-efficiency and market access. It will build on existing and respected international databases such as InterPIG, ultimately to develop a sustainability app, assessing strengths and weaknesses driving business innovation.

The University’s contribution is funded by Defra and is working with partners in Austria, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy and Poland, covering a wide range of pig production systems.

More details on the project can be viewed here

In a letter to producers, Dr Jonathan Guy, the university’s senior lecturer in pig production, said the researchers were looking for ‘progressive farmers willing to share and benchmark data over a range of systems’.

“This important and ambitious project cannot progress without volunteer farms like yours. We accept involvement will be onerous, helping to assess anything that might impact on sustainability but it will give an excellent insight towards future-proofing your business,” said Dr Guy, who delivered a presentation about the project to the NPA Producer Group last year.

The initial stage will assess a comprehensive list of issues, potentially linked to profitability, environmental and social outcomes from the business.  Crunching this data will then identify key measurements driving sustainability – allowing the final app to focus on those, while ignoring aspects of minor influence.

Researchers will visit for a face-to-face interview and assess some pigs on the farm. As well looking at factors like housing, animal management, bedding, manure, land, cropping and labour, questions will cover less tangible aspects like marketing, how decision making may be influenced by consumer trends and social aspects like job satisfaction or work-life balance.

All records will be anonymised and only Newcastle University staff will be able to retrieve data for individual farms, preserving confidentiality.

Dr Guy added: “Signing-up will give a thorough insight into any potential weaknesses in your current practices and tailored advice on improving business sustainability, addressing potential trade-offs between profitability, environmental impact, consumer markets and farmer wellbeing. Participants will also have free access to the sustainability smartphone app once it becomes available.”

If you are able to participate and want to arrange a suitable date for your visit or would like further information, contact:

Dr Guy – 0191 208 6901, [email protected]

or Rachel Chapman, project officer – [email protected]

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.