By Emily Otto-Tice, Ph.D., Purina Animal Nutrition swine nutritionist
Sometimes certain words get used so often they lose meaning or can become annoying. “Sustainability” is one example. We see it used so often we tend to tune it out. But its true meaning is valuable in pork production.
In short, a sustainable business consists of three areas:
- Is profitable (economical).
- Has a positive impact on its employees and community (social).
- Uses resources responsibly (environmental).
Like a tripod, when you examine the three “legs” — environmental, social and economic — none is more important than the other. If you remove one leg, it’s not a tripod, and it falls over. In the same way, if your business practices aren’t meeting the three aspects of sustainability, you might not be positioned for the best long-term success.
You can apply the tripod concept to your operation when you consider how making a change in one “leg” of your business can impact the whole. I’m a nutritionist, so I’ll use an example of how a common diet reformulation delivers results to support the three elements of sustainability.
Replacing crude protein with amino acids in swine diets reduces nitrogen in swine manure. What happens when we minimize nitrogen in manure? A lot.
Here is a closer look at what happens when you minimize nitrogen.
Better pig performance (Economic)
In the manure pit, where oxygen is limited, nitrogen converts into ammonia, a primary component of manure odor. Less nitrogen in manure correlates to less ammonia and a more comfortable, productive environment for your pigs.
If you minimize ammonia in your barn and avoid wasting nutrients, you can get the best return on your feed investment to drive your operation’s economic sustainability.
Improved employee comfort (Social)
Your pigs aren’t the only ones who will benefit from fresh air in the barn. University of Nebraska research1 showed ammonia levels greater than 20 part per million inside swine facilities impacted humans, causing coughing, laryngitis and eye irritation. Reducing ammonia emissions makes work more pleasant and more comfortable for you and your team, and minimizes potentially negative impacts on your neighbors.
Looking out for your employees and your neighbors aligns with social sustainability.
Protect water quality (Environmental)
Nitrogen is a leading contributor to reduced water quality. Minimizing nitrogen in manure supports your operation’s environmental sustainability.
This example of replacing crude protein with amino acids is a small change that can have multiple, sustainable impacts. Many other ingredients, including fiber, phytase, distillers dried grains with solubles and direct-fed microbials can impact pig performance and manure management to support your operation’s economic, social and environmental sustainability.
What small change have you made on your farm lately? Did you set out to be sustainable or to improve your business? Chances are, you did both.
Talk with your nutritionist about diet changes that can make significant impacts.