Smart Systems Approaches for Climate Resilient Livestock Production

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Biology

Abstract

Resilient, sustainable livestock production is a major gap in the future food system. In the UK, outdoor pig production represents 40% of the breeding herd, but production efficiency and environmental impact are particularly vulnerable to changing climate and extreme weather events. This research will integrate local weather information and precision farming technology to improve our understanding of adaptation options for extreme weather events, with a view to developing a climate-smart, resilient and sustainable production system. Individual animal tracking and monitoring will be used to quantify feeding behaviour, activity levels and non-point source manure loading. Local weather data (temperature, rainfall, wind speed and humidity) collected from the farm's weather station and high resolution short-term precipitation forecasts will be integrated with the behaviour data to develop optimised precision nutrition programs to mitigate environmental emissions for different weather conditions. Weather data and land-atmosphere gas flux monitoring will be used to estimate transport to receiving waters of manure and soil nutrients via the routes of soil infiltration and overland flow and antecedent changes in C and N greenhouse gas fluxes. Process-based modelling of soil C and N dynamics will be used to estimate the effect of manure loading on GHG fluxes in different weather conditions. Weather-informed feeding strategies and stocking practices will be investigated using animal-based and production measures, soil pore water, gas emission and surface drainage chemistry. The research outputs will improve on-farm climate services and technology integration, ensuring future outdoor pig production is sustainable and resilient to climate variability and change.

Planned Impact

The Smart Systems Approaches for Climate Resilient Livestock Production project has the potential to benefit pig farmers, the pork industry, environmental managers and policy makers. The impact of the research developed is expected to reach beyond the duration of the project, generating knowledge about climate-smart pig farming, clear adaptation, mitigation and productivity applications.

This study will provide critical improvements to on-farm climate services and technology integration and will enable important first steps to be taken towards ensuring future outdoor pig production is sustainable and resilient to climate variability and change. The project will demonstrate the use of high-resolution short-term weather forecasts to support decision making regarding feed, housing and manure management. Pig farmers will benefit directly from knowledge generated on production efficiency considering a changing climate and extreme weather events. Workshops and field days demonstrating the application of precision farming and climate services in outdoor pig production will ensure engagement with pig farmers in the region, enabling the dissemination of climate-smart practices.

The pork industry will benefit from knowledge generated in this project on climate change adaptation strategies in outdoor pig production at the regional scale. Understanding potential climate impacts on pig production and risks associated with extreme events will contribute to a more resilient pork supply chain in the region. The industrial partnerships in this project will enable the co-production of adaptation options that are fully risk-informed, strengthening understanding of risk perception, drivers for behaviour change and implications for communication and decision-making with the end-users and actors in the system. Keeping pigs outdoors will require diet adjustments to ensure nutrition is optimal for the climatic conditions. Developing optimal feeding strategies for outdoor pig production incorporating environmental emissions reduction and improving productivity will bring direct benefits to the pork supply chain. Knowledge about improving feed efficiency considering climate change and extreme weather while minimising environmental impacts will be instrumental in achieving a more sustainable pork industry, with potential applications in supply chain sustainability assessments and environmental labelling programmes.

Environmental managers and policy makers will be able to use the expected outputs of this study to minimise the environmental impacts of outdoor pig production, with emphasis on nutrient management, soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions, from the farm to landscape scales. By combining precision agriculture, remote sensing, climate science and process-based modelling, this project can contribute to measuring, reporting and verifying environmental indicators, potentially leading to reductions in emissions to water, soil and the atmosphere. Besides supporting mitigation approaches, this project will also contribute to the development of climate change adaptation policies in the sector. Through process modelling, we will explore barriers to adaptation and the governance and policy frameworks required for implementation; these models will also provide a framework for assessing the economics and effectiveness of adaptation options. Using a whole-system approach in our process modelling and analytics, we will help to inform responsible management of the environment for benefits to the industry and to society at large.

In summary, this study will integrate local weather information and precision farming technology to identify key adaptation and mitigation options in outdoor pig production, highlighting key directions for future research to develop climate-smart, resilient and sustainable production systems.

Publications

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