Data-driven sustainable pig production

In Brief

  • Significant improvements in production and productivity in crop and animal farming over the past decade, achieved through collaboration with various industry sectors.
  • Collaboration with breeding, housing, and feeding companies has led to increased meat production with reduced resource usage and environmental impact.
  • Swine producers are actively working to enhance production efficiency and sustainability despite notable progress in the industry.

If you can not measure it, you can not improve it

In intensive swine production it has become routine to measure temperature, humidity, water flow, and animal health status, and to utilize all these performance parameters in highly digitalized stable to make regular adjustments to feed and housing conditions for optimized farm performance. Today advanced analytical tools are also available in swine production to analyse the quality and nutritional composition of feed along with farm production parameters. Feed formulation tools enable farmers to meet the nutritional requirements of pigs in different production phases at an optimized cost. Nowadays the number of tools which can calculate the full environmental footprint of livestock production is increasing. dsm-firmenich’s Sustell™ is an intelligent platform, certified to ISO 14040/44, that offers to determine 19 impact categories, including climate change, freshwater and land eutrophication, and water scarcity, as well as the emission level of 10 pollutants, among others ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4) and fine particle matters (PM2 5). Thus, Sustell™ supports pig producers among other species to understand the full environmental footprint of their animal production and identify interventions for improvement through different simulations.

Modelling the carbon footprint of animal production

Based on the data set of the Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI) and by using Sustell™, we undertook simulations to identify the environmental performance of pig production. Sustell™ is built on validated protocols, calculation methodologies (eg. PEF, IPCCD) , and proven processes that meet international standards of Life-Cycle Assessment calculation. It provides accurate analyses and results of environmental impact assessments, interventions, and improvements throughout the animal protein value chain. Three scenarios were analyzed to calculate the climate change impact, expressed in CO2eq/kg produced live weight: the baseline, a second scenario with adapted/reduced crude protein levels, and a third scenario based on the baseline diet containing VevoVitall®.

Table 1: Technical parameters of the farm | Source: AKI database, Sustell™ calculation
Finisher pig barn 2019
Number of finishing place2,000
Average starting weight of piglets (kg)25
Average final weight (kg)123
Mortality rate (%)2.0
Manure management systemLiquid/slurry without natural crust cover
Slurry manure storage on farm (%)14
Electricity use on farm (MJ/year)91,959
Gas usage on farm (MJ/year)27,521
Diesel usage on farm (MJ/year)1,611
Water usage on farm (litre/year)436,301
Total feed intake (kg/animal)275
Digestibility (%)80
Gross energy intake (MJ/animal)4,443
Nitrogen content (%)2.5
Total live weight sold (kg/year)241,080
Inorganic nitrogen fertilizer replacement (%)50
Inorganic phosphorus fertilizer replacement (%)100

In the baseline diet scenario were used farm data from 2019 from a Hungarian finishing pig producer. (Table 1). From 25 kg to 123 kg, animals required on average 114 feeding days. The total feed consumed during the fattening period was on average 275 kg and crude protein levels were 17.2% in the grower phase, and 15.56% and 14.98% in the finisher I and II phases, respectively. The average daily weight gain was 860 grams/day with a feed conversation ratio of 2.81 kg/kg (Table 2). The calculated carbon footprint based on the above data was 4.74 kg CO2eq/kg live weight (Table 5).

Table 2: Baseline diet and production parameters (2019) | Source: AKI database, Sustell™ calculation
DenominationUnitGrowerFinisher I.Finisher II.Total
Production phasekg25-4545-8585-12325-123
Feeding daysday264543114
Weight gainkg20403898
Feed consumptionkg/animal30115130275
Daily feed intakekg/animal/day1.152.563.022.41
Average daily gainkg/animal/day0.7690.8890.8840.860
Feed conversion ratio (FCR)kg/kg1.502.883.422.81
Feed efficiency (FE)kg/kg0.670.350.290.36
Crude Protein%17.2015.5614.9815.46
Crude Proteinkg5.1617.8919.4742.53

The main contributors to climate change were the diet/feed-related raw materials (45%), manure/farm emissions (35%), and purchased piglets (17%) accounting for 97% of the total farm footprint (Figure 1.)

Figure 1: Distribution of carbon footprint (per kg of live weight) | Source: AKI database, Sustell™ calculation

In the reduced crude protein scenario (Table 3) compared to the baseline, the protein level was reduced by 4% in grower phase and 8% in finisher II phase by keeping the production performance. This led to a reduction of CO2eq emissions from 4.74 kg to 4.61 kg of produced kg live weight (around a 3% reduction) (Table 5). It should be noticed that this reduced protein application is today a general practice in several pig farms.

Table 3: Reduced crude protein feeding | Source: AKI database, Sustell calculation
DenominationUnitGrowerFinisher I.Finisher II.Total
Production phasekg25-4545-8585-12325-123
Feeding daysday264543114
Weight gainkg20403898
Feed consumptionkg/animal30115130275
Daily feed intakekg/animal/day1.152.563.022.41
Average daily gainkg/animal/day0.7690.8890.8840.860
Feed conversion ratio (FCR)kg/kg1.502.883.422.81
Feed efficiency (FE)kg/kg0.670.350.290.36
Crude Protein%16.5015.5613.8014.83
Crude Proteinkg4.9517.8917.9440.78

In the VevoVitall® scenario (Table 4) a baseline diet was used with crude protein levels of 17.2% in grower phase and 15.56% and 14.98% in the finisher diets. Based on available internal research, beyond the potential impact of VevoVitall® on performance improvement and climate change, ammonia and other emissions reduction was calculated. Applying the baseline protein levels and the improved performance due to VevoVitall® usage, Sustell™ showed an approximate 2.5% reduction in climate change impact, from 4.74 kg CO2eq to 4.63 kg CO2eq/kg live weight (Table 5).

Table 4: Baseline diet (2019) with VevoVitall® | Source: AKI database, dsm-firmenich internal research, Sustell calculation
DenominationUnitGrowerFinisher I.Finisher II.Total
Production phasekg25-4545-8585-12325-123
Feeding daysday254341109
Weight gainkg20403898
Feed consumptionkg/animal29110124263
Daily feed intakekg/animal/day1.162.563.022.41
Average daily gainkg/animal/day0.8000.9300.9270.899
Feed conversion ratio (FCR)kg/kg1.452.753.262.68
Feed efficiency (FE)kg/kg0.690.360.310.37
Crude Protein%17.2015.5614.9815.50
Crude Proteinkg4.9917.1218.5840.68
Table 5: Distribution of emission per scenario - Climate Change per kg of live weight | Source: AKI database, dsm-firmenich internal research, Sustell calculation
UnitBaseline (2019)Baseline with
Reduced CP
Crude Protein (%)17.2/15.5/14.917.2/15.5/14.916.5/15.6/13.8
Climate change (kg CO2eq)4.744.634.61
Ration (kg CO2eq)
Housing (kg CO2eq)1.641.561.63
Piglet (kg CO2eq)0.830.830.81
Manure boundary expansion (kg CO2eq)
Electricity (kg CO2eq)
Ammonia from manure (kg NH3)1.290.801.00

Modelling ammonia-emission of pig production

Ammonia-emission receive much less attention than greenhouse gas emissions, though the monitoring and reduction of this air pollutant is important on farms intensively rearing pigs. VevoVitall® is an acidifier containing 99.9% benzoic acid. The product has zootechnical registration for all swine categories. Benzoic acid is known for being an efficient feed preservative against yeasts and molds and helps to stabilize the gastro-intestinal tract with pH reduction and microflora modulation. It can acidify urine, which leads to significantly reduced ammonia emissions (Aarnink et al., 2008). Ammonia emission levels derived from manure storage and pre-treatment decreased notably, from 1.29 kg per average animal to 0.8 kg, i.e. a more than 38% reduction (Table 5).

In the case of the reduced protein diet compared to the baseline diet we also observed a 22% reduction in ammonia emissions (Table 5). Since ammonia may significantly reduce animal performance it is vitally important to keep levels as low as possible in the stable. The human respiratory tract can detect ammonia levels of around 10 ppm, but in well-run pig houses ammonia levels should be less than 5 ppm. Ammonia levels of 50 ppm to 100 ppm negatively affect performance, impacting growth performance, pig survival and sow reproduction (Miller et. al. 2000). Furthermore, at ammonia levels of 50 ppm and above the clearance of bacteria from the lungs is also impaired and therefore the animal is more prone to respiratory disease. Additionally, it can produce coughing along with eye, mouth, and nose irritation and poor weight gain and low feed intake.


The aim of this article is to create awareness in our industry of the power of Life-Cycle Assestment measurement and its use as a precision business diagnostic tool to identify where and how to make productivity improvements on the farm to reduce emissions while improving animal health and performance leading to more sustainable pork production. Sustell™ is an industry-leading platform that calculates credible, reliable, accurate environmental footprints for different farm animal species (swine, broilers, layers, ruminants, marine fish, and shrimp) and helps farmers understand the full footprint of their operations and where to make real, tangible improvements through nutrition, animal performance and farm management leading to improved business profitability and more sustainable animal protein production. Based on the results of this tool, farmers can not just improve sustainability of production, but meet the obligations of policy measures, by choosing among the best available techniques (BAT) included in the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).


  1. Sigrid Beth Rasmussen (2022): Balanced breeding for sustainable production, 2022,
  2. FAO (2023): Food and Agriculture Organization
  3. A.J.A. Aarnink, A. Hol, G.M. Nijeboer (2008): Ammonia emission factor for using benzoic acid (1% VevoVitall®) in the diet of growing finishing pigs
  4. Hannah R. (2019): Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. The Pig Site (2018):
  6. Janeth J. Colina, Austin J. Lewis, Phillip S. Miller (2000): A Review of the Ammonia Issue and Pork Production,,and%20feed%20intake%20in%20pigs.

Published on

16 October 2023


  • Swine
  • Sustainability
  • Precision Service
  • Eubiotics

About the Author

Dr. Richárd Márkus - Customer Excellence Manager, Animal Nutrition and Health at dsm-firmenich

Richard received his PhD in Animal feeding from the University of West Hungary, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. He joined dsm-firmenich in 2020.
He contributed to the business by working on digital strategy and by introducing Precision Service tools in Central Eastern European markets.

Edina Varga - Expert at the Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI) in Hungary

Her main focus areas include national-level feed monitoring, assessing the environmental aspects of farm livestock feeding to support policy-making and the feed industry, and promoting the adoption of sustainable production systems, with a particular emphasis on transferring knowledge related to environmental pollution mitigating technologies.

Dr. Ildiko Edit Tikasz - Director’s advisor at the Institute of Agricultural Economics (AKI) in Hungary

Her main focus areas include protein crops, with a specific focus on soybean production and its economic aspects; animal nutrition and husbandry, with a particular emphasis on sustainability, including the reduction of greenhouse gases and air pollutants; and the evaluation of the suitability of smart technologies in pig and poultry production in Hungary. These endeavours aim to provide support for decision-making processes in relevant policy areas and enhance the awareness of market participants.


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