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Weekly Overview: Making Pig Production More Sustainable

05 May 2015

GLOBAL - This week has seen two interesting developments that could help to make pig production 'greener' and more sustainable: new research on growing algae in pig manure and testing a wheat co-product for grower-finishers. There are new guidelines to calculate the environmental impact of livestock production and a practical tip to minimise feed wastage by pigs.

Algae have potential as a new sustainable feed source, if the positive signs from work in Australia turn out to be practical.

Researchers at Murdoch University in Perth have been treating effluent from piggeries with algae, resulting in reduced waste and a potential feed source.

Three different types of microalgae that can grow on untreated piggery anaerobic digestate effluent have been discovered so far.

The proposals would cut costs, recover energy from waste and reduce the potential for groundwater contamination at piggeries.

Anaerobic digestion in lagoons or ponds on farms is currently the most common method used to process piggery waste. The discovery is a world first and offers a potentially cost effective means of remediating piggery effluent.

The microalgae remove ammonia, other nutrients and potentially reduce the pathogen load in the effluent, meaning that the treated waste water can be reused. And the algal biomass produced is potentially a protein-rich feed source for pigs and other animals.

The research team leader commented: "Pig slurry could well be viewed by the industry as a resource rather than a waste management issue."

Distillers dried grains with solubles made from wheat (wDDGS) offer potential to reduce reliance on imported feed ingredients without compromising the performance or health of UK pigs and poultry, according to the results of a four-year project presented recently.

An important co-product from the bioethanol industry, wDDGS could make a significant impact in improving the sustainability of these sectors by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on trials carried out during a four-year project, up to 30 per cent wDDGS can be included in grower and finisher diets for pigs, without compromising performance or meat quality.

A group of international organisations has released new guidelines for global feed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which address the impact of livestock feeds on the environment.

Work on the new guidelines was led by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the feed industry, with the aim to help reduce the impact of livestock products on the environment.

Cutting all inefficiencies can also contribute to sustainability and ensuring correct feeder adjustment can help minimise feed waste while maintaining the productivity of the herd, according to new research from the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada.

The number of pig farm samples that are confirmed positive for porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus in the United States in the most recent weekly report was 16. The relatively dry spring is thought to be helping to minimise the risk of spreading the PED virus.

There have been new outbreaks of African swine fever in wild boar in Estonia and Poland.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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