Back to search


CO Cofound call 3: Robust Animals in sustainable mixed free-range systems

Alternative title: Robuste frittgående husdyr i bærekraftige blandede produksjonssystemer

Awarded: NOK 4.0 mill.

ROAM-FREE is a project funded through the ERA-net program Core Organic 2021. The project has partners from Norway, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia and Romania, and is led from the University of Copenhagen. The overall goal of the project is to find out whether free-range livestock have increased robustness regarding health and welfare compared to livestock without the possibility of free behavior. New knowledge is also being developed to improve environmental and economic sustainability and to strengthen the biodiversity associated with organic pig production. In Norway, we are involved in all phases of the project. This year of the welfare studies, the welfare protocol for outdoor piglets has been improved, and we have tested the protocols on several farms, also in Norway. We have interviewed additional farmers with outdoor pigs to get a more comprehensive picture on how outdoor pigs are kept in Norway and possible solutions for future outdoor pig farmers. In the studies of biodiversity associated with free-range pigs, insects have been collected in connection with the pigs' outdoor enclosures in Norway, Italy, Slovenia, and Denmark. We are leading the work and samples have been sent to the laboratory for species identification using DNA meta barcoding assays. The results will be compared with last year's results and published in a scientific article. In the studies of environmental sustainability, the Norwegian LCA model FARMnor has been expanded to calculate life cycle analyses for pigs and sheep. For pigs, it was important to make it possible to reflect outdoor farming. When using uncultivated land, it turns out that the right grazing has the potential for carbon sequestration. In the economic sustainability studies, analysis of 20 qualitative interviews with Norwegian free land pig producers has shown that there is a varied business structure in Norway, where the scope and economy of production is influenced by demands from the consumer market and local conditions.

Raising organic pigs on free-range complies well with consumer expectations and support the organic principles of natural living. Free-range access may reduce inputs needed, but managing pigs free-range is also challenging in terms of biosecurity and land requirements. Across Europe, free-range access is declining in organic farming. We believe Mixed production systems of pigs with other livestock or crop production may offer a framework to solve some of the issues with free-range systems while supporting farm self-supply of feed and biodiversity. Thus, the overall objective of ROAM-FREE is to investigate how mixed free-range production systems can improve animal robustness, environmental and economic sustainability and biodiversity in organic pig farming, and thereby support a wider adoption of organic farming across Europe. In ROAM-FREE, existing mixed free-range pig systems will be identified by partners in Norway, Denmark, Romania, Italy and Slovenia to cover the diversity in climate, diseases present as well as local traditions and different economic framework. Together with the owners, these farms will characterized and evaluated in terms of animal health, welfare, productivity, feed-sufficiency, biodiversity, economy, and environmental impact. A specific focus will be on potential benefits on welfare and immunity when animals are free-roaming. Animals will also be more exposed to parasites in the outdoor environment and we will look into developing preventive strategies, including use of bioactive crops or trees. We expect that ROAM-FREE will expose benefits and challenges in a variety of mixed systems and form the basis for knowledge-based practical guidelines to improve existing mixed systems. Innovative mixed farming concepts will be developed and discussed with pig producers at meetings and trainings session, facilitating a wider adoption of mixed farming strategies in organic pig production.

Funding scheme: