New research project aims to boost the production of young sows for organic breeding
The PorganiX project will create the first, organic, core livestock of young sows, genetically selected for organic breeding goals, to produce more robust, organic pigs. The outcome of the pioneer project will be an overall lift of the organic, pig producing sector, in Denmark and internationally.
Researchers from Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG), Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, and from the Department of Animal Science (ANIS), Aarhus University, have joined forces with Bovbjerg Økologi and Hestbjerg Økologi, both central actors of the organic pig industry, with the purpose of establishing the first, organic core livestock of young sows for breeding purposes. The organic livestock will provide new knowledge for organic farmers, and make it possible for them to select the best sows for breeding.
The researchers will provide the theoretical knowledge and genetic research on developing a breeding program for organic pigs, while Hestbjerg Økologi, Bovbjerg Økologi and Udviklingscenter for Husdyr på Friland will implement the knowledge, build up the organic core livestock and disseminate the results.
Currently, organic farmers use breeding animals from the conventional system, which are selected for intensive farming. This results in higher piglet mortality and poor lean meat content in organic animals. For farmers with an organic production of pigs, it is important to have a low death rate for piglets, improved robustness of pigs, and a high percentage of meat at the time of slaughtering. By means of genomic technology, the researchers at QGG can select the superior animals according to organic breeding goals. Subsequently, the best individuals can be selected and sold as production animals to organic pig producers.
Project coordinator Mahmoud Shirali explains why it is necessary to have an organic core livestock of young sows for organic breeding purposes: “The PorganiX project will improve organic farming through better animal welfare and robustness, and also provide a more economical organic farming due to less mortality, less labor cost and better value of the carcass due to improved lean content of the slaughter animals. You could say that PorganiX is the missing link in the organic pig farming.”
Dr. Shirali continues: “The project brings scientifically proven methods in animal breeding into organic pig farming practices, to further specialise the organic pig farming in Denmark in a state-of-the-art breeding program. It will allow selection of animals that are superior in the organic production environment in Denmark.”
At the National Danish Organic Association (Økologisk Landsforening), the chairman of the Pig Committee, Randi Vindfeldt, greets the project with satisfaction: “I welcome that the work focused on breeding more robust pigs fit for the organic production form is now really taking off. At the National Organic Association, we have participated in several pioneer projects in the area through the years, and we are happy that yet another, important step is now taken. I hope that the producers will support the initiative when they purchase pigs for breeding”.
- The most important outcomes of the 3-year long PorganiX project will be
- the possibility to offer all Danish, organic and free-range producers organically bred sows that are genetically improved according to an organic breeding goal,
- a scientifically proven breeding program that can support organic farming in Denmark, and
- development of genomic technologies and methods that can be implemented in any breeding programs internationally.
The PorganiX project prioritise not only high profit, but also animal welfare and sustainability. These are crucial values for further growth in the organic pig production.
The Danish Agricultural Agency’s subsidy programme GUDP has granted close to 9.5 mio. DKK to the PorganiX project, active from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2020. In the decision, the board has emphasized the project’s importance to the organic sector, as well as the project’s expectation of a value boost for the organic pig producers in both Denmark and abroad.