In 2022 we had as a partner of the project a good progression according to the working plans. We have developed an assessment protocol for the evaluation of free roaming pigs and initiated the studies of pigs at Norwegian farms in collaboration with the other project partners. Furthermore, we have started the studies of the impact of the free roaming pigs on the biodiversity by collecting insects at farms in Norway, Italy and Slovenia. The insect samples are now for DNA barcoding analysis for species identifications. We have developed a interview guide for interviewing farmers in all countries of the project about free roaming husbandry. We have also started the of economic and environmental analysis (life cycle analysis) of free-roaming animal husbandry.
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.