Research trends in outdoor pig production — A review
Abstract, Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences July, 2017
Since the industrialization of swine production in the late 1900s, swine farms in the United States, as well as in Europe, have largely become consolidated. Pig farms became larger in size but fewer in number, with 91% of market pigs being produced by large operations with 5,000 or more pigs on-site in the US, and only 3% of the total utilized agricultural land representing organic farming. Such change in the market made it difficult for small farmers to stay competitive, forcing them to find alternative ways to reduce the cost of production and increase profit using the outdoor production system. In contrast to the indoor confinement system, outdoor production system uses pasture-based units and/or deep-bedded hoop structures that promote animal welfare and environmental sustainability with a lower capital investment. In accord with the growing concern for animal and environmental welfare and food safety by the consumers, small farmers practicing an outdoor production system are seeing increased opportunities for marketing their products in the pork niche market. Unlike the general belief that the reproductive and growth performance measures of the outdoor sows and piglets are poorer in comparison with the animals reared indoors, studies showed that there was no significant difference in the performance measures, and some traits were even better in outdoor animals. Improved reproductive and production traits can increase the sustainability of outdoor farming. Present study reviewed the recent studies comparing the performance measures, meat quality and health of indoor and outdoor animals, as well as the efforts to improve the outdoor production system through changes in management such as hut types and breed of animals.