It is important to recognise the achievements of the past and build upon those achievements.

Irish pig producers produced 1,350kg of pigmeat per sow in 1990. This figure has improved to 2,549kg of pig carcase weight/sow in 2021.

This was achieved by increased output/sow/year (ie 21.9 up to 28.1 pigs produced/sow/year) and increased slaughter weights (82kg liveweight in 1990 up to 118.4kg liveweight in 2021).

During this time, there has also been a strong focus on reducing inputs, in particular reducing feed usage per kilo of pigmeat produced along with achieving greater efficiency in the use of other inputs (such as energy, healthcare products, etc). This is evident in the crude protein levels in diets used in 1990 compared to the reduced levels used today, which has resulted in a reduced excretion of surplus organic nitrogen in pig manure.

Also, the level of phosphorus (P) excreted by pigs has greatly reduced from a figure of 26kg/sow plus progeny/annum in the early 1990s to a current level of 17kg/sow plus progeny/annum.

This was achieved through more accurate formulation of diets on a digestible P rather than a total P basis, and by the use of phytase enzyme to improve the digestibility of plant-bound P in the feed ingredients.

There is room for further progress, and new technologies and innovations should further enhance the “sustainability” credentials of the sector.