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Open Access PIGSustain: Predicting the Impacts of Intensification and Future Changes on UK Pig Industry Resilience - Global Food Security programme

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The global human population is expected to rise from 7.2 billion in 2015 to 9.6 billion by the middle of this century. At the same time, the average amount of meat each person consumes per year is steadily increasing, with global meat consumption predicted to double within the same time frame. In order to be able to feed this growing population, intensification of our agricultural systems will be necessary. However, while further intensification in agriculture might enable the industry to fulfill future meat demand, the sustainability of the industry as it currently stands is threatened by numerous external factors, such as competition for depleting natural resources, climate change, disease, and environmental concerns for which recent intensification of livestock production is, at least, partially responsible.At present, the situation is such that we do not have a continuous, objective and quantified understanding of the health and welfare of our national pig herd, and equally, we have no objective and quantified predictions of how this will be impacted by future changes to the industry through intensification, climate change, changes in global production and trade, and in consumer demand. Equally, we are unable to predict how resilient the UK pig industry is as a whole, and whether and how it will be able to remain stable in the face of such changes.

This project will use a systems approach in order to understand how sustainable intensification and predicted climate changes are expected to impact on the pig industry as a whole - we will produce models to predict the impacts of intensification on the health, disease and welfare of the animals: how consumption patterns and retail prices are likely to be affected, how these changes will impact farmers, and how these in turn will impact on the health and welfare of the animals.

We will collect data from a wide range of sources in order to assess how health and welfare are linked with climate, geography and other factors. Detailed, real-time measures of health and welfare on-farm are seriously lacking and a system for quickly, efficiently and accurately collecting and recording health and welfare measures on a continuous basis on-farm is urgently needed. We will develop a cutting-edge, automated computer vision system capable of collecting real-time information on health, welfare and productivity on-farm, which will provide us with a detailed understanding of how on-farm health and welfare measures match up against measures collected at the slaughterhouse. This system will be developed with a view to making it commercially available for continuous monitoring of pigs 24/7, with outputs for vets and farmers to understand the changes that have taken place within pens over a period of time. This system has been identified by representatives of the pig industry and pig vets as something which is sorely needed to supplement vet consults, in order to improve welfare management and auditing.

We will collect retail data and consumer pattern and attitudes data to understand the socio- and geographical demographics underlying consumer behaviour. We will investigate how agricultural economics are affected by health and welfare issues, and develop predictive models of how these components of the pig industry system interact. We will investigate the links between disease prevalence and agricultural economics, market stability, and consumer choices. Using this information, we will develop a systems model to explain how each component is related to, and has the potential to influence each other. Using alternative future scenarios and predicted future trends for the different components of the pig industry within the system model, we will determine how resilient the UK pig industry is, and what factors are critical for the maintenance of future stability.
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Keywords: GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY; LEEDS; LISA COLLINS; PIGSUSTAIN; SUSTAINABLE INTENSIFICATION; UK PIG; UK PIG INDUSTRY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2018

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