Pig farmers are being encouraged to engage in the sustainable management of waste from their farms as a means of reducing their production costs and improving their profit margins.
Methane, which is generated from the anaerobic breakdown of faecal matter, is being touted as a renewal energy source, which could be used to power small farm machinery as well as provide a "reliable energy source for famers and households," Cedric Lazarus said.
The livestock development officer for the sub-regional office of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), also lauded the environmental preservation and reduction of green house gasses, which could be derived from sustainable waste management.
"Waste from intensive swine production threatens the quality of the soil, water and air as well biodiversity," he said adding that the discharge of effluent into the environment can also pollute streams and underground water supplies and "subject neighbours to sickening odours".
Lazarus added that implementation of best practices in pig production, and on-farm bio-energy production could "increase farmers' income and profitability and contribute to the sustainability of pig farming in Jamaica".
"Methane can be used as a fuel source to provide heating for piglets as well as to heat the water needed for cleaning," Lazarus said.
The solid matter remaining in the bio-digester, Lazarus reckoned "can also provide revenue when sold as fertiliser".
"This fertiliser would even be of a better quality because of the high potassium and nitrogen content and would provide a more sustainable and consistent supply," he added.
According to Lazarus, one small pig produces at least one kilogram of waste per day solidifying the need for a sustainable approach to waste management.
"There has to be a culture shift in this regard," he said adding the Governmental support for the initiate is needed as the initial cost in installing bio-digesters would prove prohibitive for small farmers.
On the heels of a series of visits to local pig farms, vice president of the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association, Delroy Manya said "many of the islands pig farmers recognise the need to better management of the waste from their farms".
The organisation, however, echoed Lazarus's sentiment of the prohibitive infrastructure costs.
To this end, the pig farmers said the organisation has proposed that a central bio-digestion system be created.
The JPFA said it is also assessing the prospects of revenue generation from the sale of compressed and bottled methane for the automotive industry.
While conceding that this development "would be a long way off for Jamaica," Manya noted the use of bio-gas to heat hospitals and fuel buses in Germany as model for the country to emulate.
"We are also looking at discussions with the Ministry of Energy and Mining for incentives for farmers based on their reduction of carbon emissions," Manya said.
Manchester based pig farmer, Dean Collins has been using a bio-digester to provide heating for his farrowing house .
"Instead of using electricity, we use the methane to heat the farrowing unit and even cook for the farm hands," he said lauding the immediate financial benefits of his in-house energy source.
The operator of a five-acre pig farm noted that the mortality rate of his animals often increases in the colder month, cutting into his profit.
"The loss of an animal equals the loss of income so the bio-digester would increase the number of piglets that survive" he said.
The push or bio-energy has also been given the green light by the Caribbean Broilers Group (CB), which lauded its implications on the reduction of the nation's energy bill.
"The benefits go without saying," CB's environmental systems coordinator, Georgette Dallas said, "and we would readily jump at the opportunity to reduce the company's energy bill".
The discussions were ventilated at an animal waste and renewal energy seminar convened by the University of Technology (UTECH), the Jamaica Pig farmers Association (JPFA) and the FAO at UTECH in February.