Pigs are farmed on a very small scale in Norway, with a total of 90,000 sows and average herd sizes of 50 sows. The three percent of land that can be used for agriculture, the caps on herd sizes of 105 sows per farm and the 2,100 slaughter pigs produced per year do not allow for further growth, although growth is not actually needed since the country is almost 100% self-sufficient in pork and the market is highly regulated.
Nonetheless, the Norwegian pig sector uses the latest technologies in pig farming and works closely with farmers to further improve sustainability and animal health. Sharing information across borders also plays an important role, as the 260 participants from eleven countries at this year’s European Pig Producers Congress found out. The congress took place in the Norwegian port city of Stavanger from 24 to 26 May.
In his welcoming address, EPP President Erik Thijssen spoke about the high animal welfare standards in Norway, which have gone on to be adopted in many EU countries in the form of a range of label programmes. Cooperation in the supply chain in Norway results in close contact between producers and consumers. One of the focal themes of the congress therefore took a look at what consumers want and the challenges of improving the image of pork, which lags behind that of other meat products. In Norway this is primarily being done by Matprat, a food promotion initiative of the Norwegian Egg and Meat Information Office, funded by a sales tax that is paid by farmers and that provides consumers with information on eggs and meat via different channels.
The emphasis is on identifying trends in the food sector and marketing pork in modern ways. Several studies and surveys have shown that the type of packaging and the provenance of the food (and therefore its production) play a critical role as well. There are plans to develop a ‘pig style’ and promote it through relevant campaigns.
The last few years have seen greater emphasis being placed on the quality of the meat and carcasses in Norwegian breeding programmes. In line with the adage ‘quality not quantity’, state-of-the-art testing and breeding methods such as genomic selection are being used to achieve good breeding results quickly and serve the various markets effectively. For example, work has been going on for several years on a boar line with 40 percent less boar taint which will meet the demands from boar finishers.
Spotlight on professional salmon production Aquaculture overtook salmon caught in the wild in 2014 and is therefore one of the forms of livestock farming that are undergoing the fastest growth. Norway produces and exports 2.5 million tonnes of salmon every year, making salmon production the second largest economic sector in Norway after oil and gas production. Pig farmers can learn from salmon producers when it comes to feed conversion, which is currently at 1:1.4 including all production stages.
At the EPP members’ meeting on 25 May, two new country groups were officially established, thus extending the network of pig farmers: Finland and Switzerland have exceeded the required number of members and can therefore delegate a representative to the EPP board. Switzerland accepted the EPP flag from Norway on the closing evening and has already started preparations for the next EPP Congress, which will be held near Lucerne from 30 May to 1 June 2018.