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Current Challenges for livestock farming and animal nutrition

EPP Vice President Taru Antikainen (Finland) participated in the Feed Additives Congress 25th and 26th September 2019 in Amsterdam and was part of a panel discussion about the present challenges in livestock and aqua production. The challenges in all areas of meat production seems to be the same…

Our struggles in pig industry now are to meet the current market demands. Finland built a model which includes ways to tell consumers about the sustainability of production and to create a way to increase the transparency of industry from farm to fork. However, this all should be built in a way which should not compromise the productivity and our competitiveness. And that is a huge challenge to deal with. In addition, all of this should be done at the same time with increasing the animal welfare.

We need co-operation from the farms via feed companies and slaughterhouses to food companies. We also need to utilize all digital tools which are available and call for new solutions and applications. This is a lot to do, but it must be done!

Actions of the value chain to reduce the risk of viral livestock diseases

In order to fight against ASF different actions have already carried out in different countries, e.g.  fences have been built, signs and at every border, airport, harbor or at many resting places on highways. In addition, co-operation with ministry authorities and hunters are necessary and also science is trying to find solutions. The most promising one being the contraceptive paste for wild boar sows. The results in this study are very promising and this could be the most effectives and quickest way to reduce the number of wild boars in Europe.To reduce the risk of diseases in pig farms the most serious ones were already eradicated in Finland. The industry has built a database called “Sikava” (Stakeholders health and welfare register) together with veterinarians and producers.It was founded 2003 by slaughterhouse companies in order to replace the separate health classification systems, which were run by different slaughterhouse companies. The Five largest slaughterhouse companies in Finland are members of Sikava. The system covers about 90% of the swine farms and about 97% of the production.

The system classifies pig farms into three different categories. A farm starts at the basic level and after it has fulfilled certain health criteria, it can be accepted to the national level. For the breeding farms there is also a higher level, so called special level, with stricter health and biosecurity criteria. Sikava has got quality management system since 2013 and it covers all the requirements of ISO 9001 standard. Similar systems are kept for cattle and poultry as well.

Which animal nutrition solutions do producers need to meet the current challenges?

With modern genetics the litter size of sows was increasing over the last decade. This brings challenges to feed sows and suckling piglets, to ensure good birth and weaning weights of piglets and to avoid excessive weight losses of sows and high mortality of piglets. The feed should be at the same time supporting superb performance, good health and overall welfare of the animals, without becoming too expensive. When there are such problems like tail biting or stomach ulcers, which in many cases are feed related, the nutrition plays a major role to solve these issues. There we need co-operation with the feed companies!

Our common goal is to reduce use of antibiotics and zinc oxide in pig production, so new nutritional solutions are needed to improve gut health and immunity of pigs. In general, pig diets are changing when considering the environmental impacts of production. New solutions are needed in order to improve digestibility of local protein sources and different kind of co-products of food production.

Emerging disruptors that could impact feed and animal production over the coming years

The biggest threat in our section is currently the African Swine Fever Virus (ASFv). The rapid spread of African swine fever will take its toll also on companies operating in the feed sector. The prices will plummet sharply both in pig and feed industry and the demand for feed will decrease significantly. The ASF will have effects, which will be incurable and will trigger mass culls. The consequences are rippling into other sectors that rely heavily on pig farming.

A thing which we also should take into account is consumer behaviour and demands. Activists are visiting farms illegally and meat consumption is the teeth of both, media and environmental people. Furthermore, the NGO’s are putting piling amounts of new regulation to add our producing costs. Therefore, meat must be produced in a sustainable way. We have to calculate our carbon footprint, concentrate on carbon sequestration, circular economy and use the manure in a sustainable way.

Written by:

Taru Antikainen

the Vice President of EPP