Reducinq freshwater use in pork production - the case study of Ireland

PhD project by Shilpi Misra. The livestock sector is highly dependent on water availability, as water is used for animal drinking, cleaning, feed production and product processing. At the same time, livestock production is putting pressure on already water stressed areas, contributing to water scarcity, irreversible environmental changes and harmful human health effects. This PhD project aims to reduce freshwater use in pork production, using the Irish pig sector as a case study.

In the pork production chain, water plays a crucial role. Freshwater is used for feed production, for drinking and cleaning purposes, both on the farm and in the slaughterhouse. However, freshwater resources are limited and unsustainable use can cause water scarcity in highly stressed watersheds. To make the pig industry more sustainable there is a need to quantify and characterize freshwater use and to assess strategies to reduce it. Insight into the variation among farms might open up new pathways for reducing water use on-farm (determined by farm infrastructure, management factors and water wastage), and off-farm (determined mainly by feed composition and utilization).

Collection of farm level data is essential to fully understand variation in water consumption among farms, and the impact of management practices and dietary choices. With regard to this latter aspect, food-feed competition should be accounted for. This study will use a life cycle approach in combination with extensive on-farm data collection to quantify and characterize freshwater use of pig production systems and strategies to reduce it. The Irish pig production sector is used as a case study.

The following objectives were selected.
1. Quantify the green and blue water uses from cradle to farm-gate on Irish pig farms, and, explore the effect of differences in farm infrastructure and management.
2. Study the effect of feeding strategies to reduce the freshwater use of Irish pig farms, while accounting for food-feed competition.
3. Evaluate the effect of cleaning procedures on blue water usage and water wastage for weaner stage on a pig farm.
4. Evaluate the effect of group size and environmental enrichment on blue water usage and water wastage through drinkers for grower finisher pigs on a pig farm.