Danish best practice highlighted at International Pig Seminar

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

Animal welfare an issue that is discussed a great deal in Denmark
Animal welfare an issue that is discussed a great deal in Denmark

Related tags Pig Denmark Livestock Pork

Pig welfare, advances in genetics, and strict hygiene practices were highlighted as key to Denmark’s success by leading industry figures at the International Pig Seminar this week.

Held as part of the biennial Agromek exhibition in Herning, Denmark, the afternoon programme of talks were attended by international members of the press and the pig community.

Among the strengths highlighted by the Danish was its SPF (Specific Pathogen Free herds) system for disease control. Bent Nielsen, head of the SPF Health Control and Pig Diagnostic Lab at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC), said that a lot of diseases have not been found in Denmark for many years. The last occurrence of foot-and-mouth was in 1983, while African swine fever has never been reported, for example.

"We have used a system called SPF for the past 40 years, to great effect,"​ he said. A voluntary system, it focuses on seven main infectious diseases: mange, lice, swine dysentery, atropic rhinitis, pleuropneumonia, enzootic pneumonia and PRRS, with 3,116 herds, including 7% of sows, having SPF-status.



As Nielsen pointed out: "Healthier pigs grow faster – the healthier they are, the more money you earn."​ He explained that the system also protected the buyer and that each farm had a unique number by which the disease status for every herd could be checked.

With around 90% of Danish pork exported elsewhere in the world, the country is also hot on ensuring its transportation system is the most hygienic it can be. Strict procedure ensures there is no footprint cross-over when pigs are transported from the farm, and any walkways used by workers and pigs are thoroughly disinfected afterwards.

A special SPF truck is also used, featuring climate control and a ventilation system, which means that no airborne diseases can enter the trucks, even if travelling through areas where these types of diseases are present.

All lorries are washed before they enter Denmark and are subject to a 48-hour quarantine period if entering Denmark from a high-risk country.

Nielsen also pointed out the importance of washing trucks at a reasonable temperature, as he said that washing frozen trucks was not effective in reducing the risk of disease spread as they could not be disinfected properly.



The Danish pig sector employs around 40,000 people and, despite its ‘open-access’ concept to knowledge, it is a global player when it comes to pork, exporting to 140 countries.

Last year it produced just under 30m pigs, with around 10m live pigs exported.

According to Martin Andersson at the Pig Research Centre, there is constant pressure to lower the use of antibiotics in the industry, with animal welfare an issue that is also discussed a great deal in Denmark. However, he said the country was looking to halve the use of critical antibiotics​ by the end of next year.

Another issue affecting the industry in Denmark was the significant loss being sustained due to the political situation with Russia and Ukraine, and the related import bans.

"If you produce 2-5% too much pig meat in Europe, the price increases by around 15%,"​ he said. However, he added that while price is very important, you have to have other qualities, such as premium quality, security of supply and food safety assurances.

Andersson said that the country’s use of genetics – its DanAvl pig breeding programme – has helped to increase the efficiency of its pig production, especially when it comes to sow units. "Total pig mortality is decreasing – down 25% in the past five years,"​ he said. The country also uses only Duroc boars, as it believes this gives the best taste to the meat.



Asger Kjær Nielsen, quality manager at the Danish Pig Research Centre explained that Denmark was subject to additional legislation than required by the EU, such as having straw on the floor, and specially designed hospital pens. There is also new legislation coming in from July next year, which will see fully-slatted floors banned in all buildings. Also, from January, all sows must be in loose housing in the service area in newly built facilities – and all facilities by January 2035.

"We have a three-level control system, which includes a self audit, and is made up of 18 different criteria,"​ he said. "There is a lot of focus on rooting and manipulable materials, as well as the safe disposal of dead animals."

He added: "The strict Danish legislation gives us challenges, but it also makes us innovate."

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