Carbon footprint for UK pig farms drops significantly

Source: The Pig Site, 1 March 2021, photo credit: Reader’s Digest

New research that reviews 20 years of emissions data in England, Scotland and Wales reveals a 40 percent decline in the carbon footprint of British pig farms.

A study by Queen’s University Belfast has revealed a 40% decline in the carbon footprint of British pig farms.

The study, published in the journal Agricultural Systems, reviewed data on the carbon footprint of English, Scottish and Welsh pig farms over the last 20 years.

Animal feed was found to be central to the environmental impact of pig farms, accounting for between 75-80% of carbon footprint.

It suggests that changes to feed ingredients could alter the carbon rating of pig farms and the industry as a whole. Specifically, researchers suggest replacing soya imported from South America with home-grown crops such as rapeseed and sunflower meal.

Soya has a high environmental footprint associated with deforestation. But researchers found the increasing trend of replacing soya with home-grown feed had a “significant mitigating effect” on carbon emissions.

The study also reveals that advances in animal nutrition had a beneficial effect on carbon emissions – particularly the increased availability of synthetic amino acids and enzymes, the price of which decreased over the study period.

When added to domestic feedstuffs like rapeseed, these supplementary ingredients increased nutrient availability and improved feed balance. They reduced nutrient excretion in manure while boosting animal productivity by 30%.

Moreover, the study found that such supplements in animal feed helped lower phosphorus levels in run-off from pig manure by more than 20%, reducing the contribution of pig systems to freshwater pollution.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.