What Does Being Sustainable Really Mean?

Posted on March 17, 2016

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Sustainability is back on the agenda and replacing Survival as the ‘S’ word our industry has concentrated on for the past decade. Sustainability is a term that has become very familiar to us. Some of the original uses of the term were in the science of ecology and pertains to the interaction of organisms and their environment. In today’s media, an example is reducing the effect of global warming to 2°C should provide a sustainable balance between our economic desire to produce carbon and the environment’s capacity to adapt. Beyond ecology, the term has become synonymous with developing projects, businesses and communities and even whole countries to include not only ecology but economics, politics and culture where the goal is often sustainable growth.


One way to look at sustainability is simply how well systems and processes can endure given the fluctuating physical, political, economic and social environments where we operate in 2016. This topic is important and timely and not just theoretical. Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) turns 25 years old this year. The original buildings and some of the key staff which migrated into the non-profit research corporation date back 35 years ago.


So for a new concept in industry-science collaboration, I think Prairie Swine Centre could define SUSTAINABILITY as embracing change and staying ahead of the curve. In a technology-driven industry where our business is the development and distribution of knowledge change is all around us and benchmarking progress is done against a background that is multi-factorial and moving rapidly.
Cost of production will always be important, that is the fuel to sustain an industry. Our focus, expertise and search for new technologies are firmly rooted here. However there is a sea change in expectations taking place outside the pork value chain and affecting every component of it. A partial list of these sustainability issues includes:


-Antimicrobial use
-Transportation Care and welfare of our animals
-Environmental impact Greenhouse gases
-Aging barn infrastructure and replacement
-Accommodating larger animal groups and freedom of movement
-Access to qualified personnel Occupational health and safety
-Access to financing to accomplish changes in the above list


PSC as an organization is committed to providing accurate and timely knowledge to businesses in the pork industry across Canada. That knowledge is based on developing science, very often in partnerships with other researchers and institutions, and going wherever the path leads to identify what is needed. Over the course of this next year you can expect PSC to be making a contribution to addressing all of these sustainability topics above. We are very pleased to see the personnel resources serving the industry are growing.


A new faculty position has been created at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, and our Dr. Yolande Seddon, Research Associate in Ethology, was the successful candidate. Yolande will be moving her office to WCVM and working with PSC and the College to build the National Chair in Swine Welfare. This collaboration makes it possible to bring many new resources, including program eligibility to matching the over $800,000 to date in new pork industry support research to address the changing landscape in animal care.


In March Dr. Denise Beaulieu will move to the position of Monogastric Nutritionist at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Agriculture. After 14 years with PSC, Denise has become a recognized resource in swine nutrition, especially in the area of sow and piglet nutrition.  Denise will continue her contribution as an active researcher and a regular contributor to this and other PSC publications but will assume a much greater role for teaching undergraduate and graduate students.


We are pleased that PSC has provided an environment for attracting and allowing researchers to grow and compete for internationally advertised positions. These scientists ‘cut their teeth’ in the commercial pig industry in Canada through the readers of this publication. We thank all our funders and supporters for nurturing young professionals to build a career that can be stimulating, rewarding and makes a difference. Perhaps the best case that can be made for sustainability is the continual development of people who seek SUSTAINABILITY as embracing change and staying ahead of the curve.

 

Lee Whittington
President & CEO, Prairie Swine Centre