Skip to main content

Why the pig industry now cares about sustainability

Climate change, emissions and carbon footprints - sustainability issues seem to be overshadowing discussions about animal welfare in livestock farming at the moment.

Pressure is coming from many sides. Politicians and society, as well as the farming industry itself, have started to formulate requirements. Another driver is financial institutions and retailers who have to meet their own sustainability reporting requirements. Reason enough for DLG's Top Pig Farms Forum to address this issue. The 23rd meeting of the Forum therefore focused on sustainable pig production.

The topic was addressed in plenary lectures and parallel working group sessions. Where are the levers of sustainability criteria in lending and what is the relevance of the issue for companies?

As animal welfare does not replace sustainability, but is part of it, a working group also examined whether animal welfare pays off with or without subsidies. The majority of the DLG's top farms currently use housing system 2. When considering a higher housing system, one of the recommendations is to "first conclude contracts, then convert the barn". It is also important to check on an individual farm basis which support measures are available at federal and state level and which programmes seem to make sense. The answer to the question of subsidies can therefore be a clear "yes and no".

Analyses of the relevant farm performance parameters, which have been collected annually by the DLG for the past 23 years, have shown that the curves for both piglet production and pig fattening are flattening out slightly. Nevertheless, high biological performance remains an important prerequisite for top economic results on farms. For the most part, farms consider the market outlook to be stable, with piglet producers being slightly more optimistic than fatteners. The survey also found that 88% of farms said they would still be running their own farm as a full-time business in five years' time.

In a further spontaneous poll in the plenary session, participants were asked about the potential for optimisation. Animal welfare and long tails, digitalisation and AI, as well as energy management and sustainability were all mentioned as areas where the companies hope to see further innovation. It's a good thing that the next EuroTier is coming up, from 12 to 15 November 2024, when the exhibiting companies and organisations, together with DLG, will focus on these topics. Information on the EuroTier specialist programme can be found here: Programme - EuroTier 2024

Sven Häuser
Competence Center Agriculture
Division Manager Livestock Farming and On-farm Operations