Nutrition, key factor to reduce environmental load from pig production

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In different parts of Europe animal production is highly concentrated. Pig production generally is the main animal production activity in these areas. Main concerns of these large numbers of pigs are the amount of surplus nutrients in excreta and gaseous losses to the environment. Main nutrients of concern are N, P, and heavy metals and main gaseous losses of concern are ammonia, odour, and methane. Although losses are inevitable to a certain extent, nutrition seems to be a key factor in reducing these losses. Main nutritional strategies to reduce N and P excretions from pigs are: phase feeding (N, P), supplementation of limiting amino acids to the diet (N), and addition of phytase to the diet (P). Nutritional strategies to reduce heavy metals excretions from pigs are: finding alternative, natural, growth promoters that could replace Cu and Zn in the diet; using feedstuffs for the diet that are less contaminated with Cd. Main strategies to reduce ammonia emissions are: 1) lowering crude protein intake in combination with addition of limiting amino acids; 2) Shifting nitrogen excretion from urine to faeces by including fermentable carbohydrates in the diet; 3) lowering pH of urine by adding acidifying salts to the diet; 4) lowering the pH of faeces by inclusion of fermentable carbohydrates in the diet. These strategies proved to be independent from each other and effects are additive. By combining these strategies a total reduction of ammonia emission in growing-finishing pigs of 70% could be reached. Strategies to reduce odour emission are: 1) reducing protein fermentation by balancing available protein and fermentable carbohydrates in the large intestine; 2) Minimizing breakdown of absorbed sulphur amino acids. More studies are needed in this area of research, but results until now are very promising. A clear relationship exists between fermentable carbohydrates in the diet and methane emissions. This disadvantage should be considered when tackling ammonia emission by this strategy. It is concluded that there is a large potential to reduce environmental load within pig dense areas by nutritional means.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-203
JournalLivestock Science
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • growing-finishing pigs
  • ammonia emission
  • nutrient digestibility
  • electrolyte balance
  • livestock buildings
  • nitrogen-excretion
  • microbial phytase
  • animal production
  • dietary-protein
  • piggery wastes


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