Evaluating environmental impacts of selection for residual feed intake in pigs.Animal. 2020 Jun 22 [Online ahead of print]A
To identify a proper strategy for future feed-efficient pig farming, it is required to evaluate the ongoing selection scenarios. Tools are lacking for the evaluation of pig selection scenarios in terms of environmental impacts to provide selection guidelines for a more sustainable pig production. Selection on residual feed intake (RFI) has been proposed to improve feed efficiency and potentially reduce the associated environmental impacts. The aim of this study was thus to develop a model to account for individual animal performance in life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to quantify the responses to selection. Experimental data were collected from the fifth generation of pig lines divergently selected for RFI (low line, more efficient pigs, LRFI; high line, less efficient pigs, HRFI). The average feed conversion ratio (FCR) and daily feed intake of LRFI pigs were 7% lower than the average of HRFI pigs (P < 0.0001). A parametric model was developed for LCA based on the dietary net energy fluxes in a pig system. A nutritional pig growth tool, InraPorc®, was included as a module in the model to embed flexibility for changes in feed composition, animal performance traits and housing conditions and to simulate individual pig performance. The comparative individual-based LCA showed that LRFI had an average of 7% lower environmental impacts per kilogram live pig at farm gate compared to HRFI (P < 0.0001) on climate change, acidification potential, freshwater eutrophication potential, land occupation and water depletion. High correlations between FCR and all environmental impact categories (>0.95) confirmed the importance of improvement in feed efficiency to reduce environmental impacts. Significant line differences in all impact categories and moderate correlations with impacts (>0.51) revealed that RFI is an effective measure to select for improved environmental impacts, despite lower correlations compared to FCR. Altogether more optimal criteria for efficient environment-friendly selection can then be expected through restructuring the selection indexes from an environmental point of view.