Intensive Pig Production Intensely Green

by 5m Editor
21 October 2008, at 10:26am

UK - There may not be much grass involved but, in terms of energy use, efficient intensive pig production is greener than outdoor pig-keeping. This was the message delivered by Hugh Crabtree to a farmer meeting organised by the Larkmead Veterinary Group in Cholsey near Wallingford, Oxfordshire.

Going green means saving energy especially feed, says Hugh Crabtree.

Feed efficiency is very important in reducing the environmental impact of pig production. The energy cost of feed outweighs the prime energy (electricity and gas) used in pig production, as ‘taxed’ by the government under the climate change levy.

The prime energy cost of producing a single kg of pigmeat is about 1 kWh, but cereals cost 0.5-2.0 kWh per kg before they are even delivered as feed, said Mr Crabtree, who is managing director of Reading-based control and monitoring company, Farmex. At an FCR of 3:1 this might add a further 6 kWh per kg of pigmeat produced. Outdoor pigs use more feed than their indoor-reared counterparts and retailers may yet pay a premium for efficiency as well as – or perhaps instead of – welfare or organic, he suggested.

Speaking on ventilation basics, he pointed out that even with indoor pigs the cost of not exerting proper control over the environment through correct ventilation can be shocking. Over four batches through a finishing house this can amount to a whopping £39 per pig place a year!

Hugh Crabtree suggested that achievable targets in the finishing house were a daily liveweight gain of 850g, a feed conversion of 2.3 and a two per cent reduction in mortality.

The cost of getting it wrong by being just 0.1 ‘off the pace’ in feed conversion was £1.40 per pig, £1.05 for every 50g per day reduction in daily liveweight gain and 50 p per pig for each one per cent increase in mortality.

Evidence from ‘the field’ had show that new housing with good environmental controls could improve returns dramatically. An investment in a 2,000 pig finishing unit had improved returns by £6.60 per pig or £52,800 per year. Even with a capital outlay of £330,000, the payback period was under three years compared with the old ‘bed-and-breakfast’ contract finishing system previously employed.

5m Editor