Research: Pigs in the woods

 
 
A new project led by scientists from Aarhus University has  studied the benefits of allowing organic sows and their piglets to roam on areas  planted with trees. This can help in improving the health and general wellbeing  of the animals and is in fact also better for the environment than keeping pigs  on pasture.
Research: Pigs in the wood

The concept of free-range pig production will soon take a different turn with  the start of a new project led by scientists from Aarhus University. The project  aims to improve the environmental impact and pig health and welfare of organic  pig production by allowing the sows with their piglets to spend more time  together and to spend this in wooded areas rather than on open pastures. The  biomass from the trees can be used for energy production.

Organic pig farmers receive twice as much for their product as conventional  farmers and exports of organic pork have contributed significantly to Danish  exports of organic products reaching one billion kroner in 2012. But organic pig  production is not without its challenges – in terms of impact on environment,  climate and animal welfare.

In the organic systems used today, the climate impact is not significantly  different from conventional production. At the same time, the existing pig  houses with solid outdoor areas are often inappropriate in terms of hygiene  management and are characterised by large ammonia losses, explains section  manager and leader of the project, John E. Hermansen.

Post-weaning scours can also be a big problem in free-range production when  the piglets are weaned from their mothers and moved indoors. The scientists  therefore propose a new kind of organic pig farming production system where  there would be even higher consideration for the environment and animal health  and welfare. The new project will test the system in practice and examine the  effects on animal health, welfare and productivity and on nutrient emissions and  carbon storage.

Organic woodland pork

The concept is based on integrating the production of free-range pigs with  woody biomass for bioenergy.  The enclosure for the outdoor pigs is more  than just a simple pasture; the field will also be planted with trees for  biomass production. The trees can reduce the leaching and evaporation of some of  the nutrients that the pigs leave behind in the form of manure and urine. By  converting the trees into energy, greenhouse gas emissions from the production  can be reduced. The trees will also provide shade and activity for both sows and  piglets.

The pigs are weaned at a later age than usual and are finished in a new  housing concept with no paved outdoor area. The piglets are thus outdoors with  the sow for a longer period. The outdoor life can promote healthier and more  robust pigs. Less disease and happier pigs will improve animal welfare and  reduce the need for antibiotics.

The new form of production can help to make this type of competitive,  responsible and resource-efficient organic pig production more popular, says  John E. Hermansen.

The 3,5 year project has been granted 8.9 million Danish kroner from the  Green Development and Demonstration Programme of the Ministry of Food,  Agriculture and Fisheries. Participants in the project include Aarhus University  (project manager), Center of Development for Outdoor Livestock Production,  Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, Pig Research Centre, Organic Denmark and two  organic pig farmers. The project, called pECOSYSTEM, is an Organic RDD2 project,  which is funded by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and  coordinated by the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems  (ICROFS).

Aarhus University

by Pig Progress Feb 3, 2014

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Thanks for this Art, it will be interesting to see their results over time.  I think they will be very pleased.

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