With its competition paper entitled ‘Sustainable Nutritional Solutions for Reducing the Environmental Impact and Ecological Footprint of Slaughter Pig Production’, Bonafarm Agriculture won the technical Grand Prize of the 29th Hungarian Great Plain Animal Husbandry and Agricultural Days Exhibition and Fair in the animal husbandry category.
After the award-presenting ceremony Dominika Kovács-Igric asked Krisztián Czompó, the Sales Manager of Bonafarm-Bábolna Feed Ltd., a member company of Bonafarm Agriculture, about this outstanding recognition.
Heartfelt congratulations on winning the Grand Prize of the Expo. Could you please outline the technical background of your competition paper and the road that has led you to where you are at present.
Thank you for the congratulation, we are extremely proud of winning the Grand Prize, especially of the evaluation given by the professional jury which highlighted the complexity and practical benefits of our competition model. The road to this Grand Prize started with the change of genetics of the Pig Farming Division of Bonafarm Agriculture, which took place 8 years ago. From the Dutch genetics we changed over to the use of Danish genetic lines, and – parallel to that – pig nutrition experts of high-standard professional knowledge started development works at Bonafarm-Bábolna Feed Ltd. As a result of all this, an extremely good co-operation rapidly developed between our pig farming and feed divisions. In the past 6 years we developed a feeding technology which no longer focused on economic efficiency only but regarded meeting the ecological expectations also as an objective of prime importance.
Our market research studies rapidly showed that that consumer demands associated with the meat products manufactured by us far exceeded the level of the Hungarian animal husbandry typical of that time.
Already several years ago, the consumers started to raise high demands regarding animal welfare and product traceability, and these demands increasingly included efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of the activity.
Considering all this, we decided to examine our own production results also from a different angle. Thanks to the new genetics and the novel feeding technology introduced to serve the needs of these genetic lines, our economic indices clearly improved, and thus now we are capable of a more efficient, more economical and more profitable production. Our complex studies have also highlighted that this increase of efficiency went hand in hand with the decrease of our ecological footprint.
Our grand prize winning competition paper described this successful model, which highlights the key role of sustainable pig production, i.e. the fact that just because something is economically beneficial, it should not be ecologically harmful.
We successfully presented a good example of how more efficient production can be achieved by simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint of our activity. This enabled us to meet both the economic and the consumer expectations even in this sector which is now in a critical situation.
I strongly hope that we have successfully presented a well-functioning economic model which, we hope, will be able to improve the social image of our sector. We trust that many such positive examples will make the consumers see the beneficial effects of large-scale production rather than just its negative aspects. Our aim was to demonstrate this, and we have successfully taken the fist and biggest step in conveying this message to the consumers: the professional public has acknowledged the importance of our work and efforts.
Can other farms also use the technologies of the economic model described in the competition paper?
Yes, this is a study that presents a functional production system which is accessible to anyone, and we are operating this system further also in the farms of our integration partners.
I would like to pick out a practical example from our technology. Today our finishers are much more voracious than they had been before. Owing to their high feed intake capacity it is no longer necessary to have such high nutrient density per kg of feed; therefore, we can formulate our diets from feed raw materials of lower energy and amino acid concentration. This is important because in this way we can use less soybean – which has one of the biggest ecological footprints, as it is brought to Europe from South America. We can partially replace soybean with DDGS produced as a by-product of biodiesel production, with CGF, rapeseed meal and, thanks to the favourable cultivating conditions prevailing in Hungary, with sunflower meal.
By now more than two thirds of our previous soybean meal use are covered from these alternative feed sources.
In addition, we consider it important to produce on an appropriate technological level, as this is indispensable also for achieving our ecological objectives. We produce feed for the animals from raw materials on the smallest possible land area, which also substantially decreases the environmental footprint of animal production.
I would like to touch upon briefly on the use of zinc oxide used in piglet nutrition for the prevention of E. coli enteritis. As a heavy metal, zinc accumulates in the soil and indirectly contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance. For this reason, the European Union has decided to gradually replace zinc oxide in piglet nutrition from the summer of 2022. So far zinc oxide has acted as a type of protective screen in pig production, it masked several mistakes of farm management and made it possible to have diets of high nutrient content; thus, weaned piglets could be raised safely, with high body mass gain and low mortality rates.
To replace zinc oxide, we had to look for solutions that still allow a nice body mass gain, while the animal’s intestinal microflora can be kept in healthy balance, so that dysbacteriosis can be prevented. During the last three years this was the project into which we invested the greatest amount of research and development energy in the area of pig nutrition. As a result of all this, our company is the only company in Hungary which produces antibiotic-free piglets with such high animal numbers. Our partners also have the possibility to use our system for solving the problem of antibiotic-free piglet nutrition. We also offer premium-quality feed, the necessary technology and excellent experts, and thus can transfer our knowledge and experience to ensure their successful and sustainable production.
In summary: for animal holdings that have developed and upgraded their farm in recent years and, thus, adequate technological circumstances are available for raising animals, we can provide and deliver appropriate genetics and feed, and can offer high-standard expert advice and consulting as well.