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A method to estimate the environmental impacts from genetic change in pig production systems

Lookup NU author(s): Mathias Ottosen, Dr Stephen MacKenzie, Dr Michael Wallace, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


PurposeThe environmental impacts (EIs) of the global pig production sector are expected to increase with increasing global pork demand. Although the pig breeding industry has made significant progress over the last decades in reducing its EI, previous work has been unable to differentiate between the improvements made through management improvements from those caused by genetic change. Our study investigates the effect of altering genetic components of individual traits on the EI of pig systems.MethodsAn LCA model, with a functional unit of 1 kg live weight pig, was built simulating an intensive pig production system; inputs of feed and outputs of manure were adjusted according to genetic performance traits. Feed intake was simulated with an animal energy requirement model. A correlation matrix of the genetic variance and correlations of traits was pooled from data on commercial pig populations in the literature. Three sensitivity analyses were applied: one-at-a-time sensitivity analysis (OAT) used the genetic standard deviations, clusters-of-traits sensitivity analysis (COT) used the genetic standard deviations and clustering based on correlations, and the sensitivity index (SI) applied the full correlation matrix. Five EI categories were considered: global warming potential, terrestrial acidification potential, freshwater eutrophication potential, land use, and fossil resource scarcity.Results and discussionThe different EI categories showed similar behaviour for each trait in the sensitivity analyses. OAT showed up to 18% change in EI relative to baseline for energy maintenance and around 3% change in EI relative to baseline for most other traits. COT grouped traits into a grower/finisher cluster (up to 17% change relative to baseline), a reproductive cluster (up to 7% change relative to baseline), and a sow robustness cluster (up to 2% change relative to baseline), all clusters including negative correlations between traits. By including genetic correlations, the SI went from being influenced by maintenance, and finisher and gilt growth rate into solely being dominated by maintenancen and protein-to-lipid ratio responsible for above 0.8 and 0.35 of the variance in EI respectively.ConclusionsWe developed a novel methodology for evaluating EIs of changes in correlated genetic traits in pigs. We found it was essential to include correlations in the sensitivity analysis, since the local and global sensitivity analyses were not affected to the same extend by the same traits. Further, we found that finisher growth rate, body protein-to-lipid ratio, and energy maintenance could be important in reducing EI, but mortalities and sow robustness had little effect.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ottosen M, Mackenzie SG, Wallace M, Kyriazakis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

Year: 2020

Volume: 25

Pages: 523–537

Print publication date: 01/03/2020

Online publication date: 14/11/2019

Acceptance date: 05/09/2019

Date deposited: 19/11/2019

ISSN (print): 0948-3349

ISSN (electronic): 1614-7502

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s11367-019-01686-8


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