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ProPIG - Organic pig health, welfare and environmental impact across Europe

Rudolph, Gwendolyn; Bochicchio, Davide; Butler, Gillian; Dippel , Sabine; Dourmad, Jean Yves; Edwards , Sandra; Früh, Barbara; Illmann, Gudrun; Meier, Matthias; Prunier, Armelle; Rousing, Tine; Salomon, Eva; Silerova, Jitka; Sorensen, J.T.; Urban, Jiri; Vertes, Francois; Winckler, Christoph and Leeb, Christine (2012) ProPIG - Organic pig health, welfare and environmental impact across Europe. Poster at: Minding Animals, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 4-6 July 2012.

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PDF - German/Deutsch


Organic production is perceived by consumers as being superior in animal welfare and sustainability and the demand for organic pork products is slowly increasing. Within the past ten years a variety of husbandry and management systems have been developed across the EU, ranging from farms with pigs outdoors all year round using local breeds to farms with housed pigs having concrete outside runs and using conventional breeds (CorePIG, Rousing et al, 2011). So far, mainly clinical parameters have been used to describe the health situation on organic pig farms, identifying some key problems, such as weaning diarrhoea and piglet mortality.
Organic pig production is - amongst others - characterised through a holistic approach based on the EU Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and the IFOAM principles: ‘health, ecology, fairness and care’. This clearly states that health is more than absence of clinical symptoms and, the relation between animals and their environment is identified: ‘Health’ is defined as ‘the wholeness and integrity of living systems. It is not simply the absence of illness, but the maintenance of physical, mental, social and ecological well-being’ (IFOAM; 2006).
Concepts of animal welfare include physical and mental welfare as well as the concept of naturalness (Fraser 2003), which is often interpreted as the ability to perform natural behaviour. Verhoog et al (2003) describe three main approaches within organic agriculture’s concept of nature and naturalness: the no-chemicals approach, the agro-ecology approach and the integrity approach.
Applying those concepts to organic pig production can highlight potential conflicts: outdoor systems are perceived as the optimal housing system for pigs, as they allow natural behaviour such as rooting. However, this behaviour can cause damage to the grass cover and furthermore the manure fate in outdoor areas needs to be considered. A few studies on outdoor pig production have shown a clear N and P surplus and a high degree of distribution heterogeneity in outdoor areas, increasing the risk of N and P losses (Watson et al. 2003). Robust and competitive organic pig production needs to encompass low environmental impacts and good animal health and welfare. So far few studies have quantified both aspects in different pig husbandry systems. In addition, the theory that improving animal health and welfare reduces environmental impacts through decreased medicine use, improved growth rate and feed conversion efficiency has still to be verified.
The aim of the CoreOrganic2 project ProPIG (2011-2014; carried out in eight European countries) is to examine the relationship between health, welfare and environmental impact. On-farm assessment protocols will be carried out on 75 farms in three pig husbandry systems (outdoor, partly outdoor, indoor with concrete outside run). Environmental impact will be assessed using both Life Cycle Assessment and calculations of nutrient balances at farm and outdoor area level. Animal health and welfare will be evaluated from animal based parameters including clinical and selected behavioural parameters. Results will be fed back and used by the farmers to decide farm specific goals and strategies to achieve these goals. As an outcome, all farms will create their individual health, welfare and environmental plan, which will be reviewed after one year to allow continuous development.
This will provide the opportunity not only to investigate, but also improve the influence of organic pig farming systems on animal welfare and environmental impact. This fulfils the fourth IFOAM principle of care: ‘Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment’ (IFOAM, 2006).

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Poster
Agrovoc keywords:
Subjects: Soil > Soil quality
Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Soil > Nutrient turnover
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Pigs
Knowledge management > Education, extension and communication
Farming Systems > Farm nutrient management
Research affiliation: European Union > CORE Organic II > ProPIG
Austria > Univ. BOKU Wien > Sustainable Agr. Systems - NUWI
Deposited By: Leeb, Dr Christine
ID Code:22582
Deposited On:25 Apr 2013 11:07
Last Modified:09 Dec 2014 10:58
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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