Science - March 13, 2012

Alterra report brings about mega-barn law

State secretary Henk Bleker wants to limit the size of livestock farming companies. He is concerned by the growth in the number of mega-barns, as highlighted by Alterra at the end of last year.

Alterra published a report in December 2011 on large-scale livestock farming in the Netherlands, in which it carried out a re-count of the number of mega farming companies in this country. Alterra did a previous count five years ago. The institute concludes that the number of mega-companies has doubled in the last ten years.
For a company to be considered by Alterra as 'mega', it should have at least 7,500 porkers, 1,200 breeding pigs, 120,000 laying hens, 220,000 broiler chickens, 2,500 veal-producing calves or 250 cows. And the farms have to be 300 NGE big. 'Nederlandse Grootte Eenheden' are units used by the LEI to indicate the size of farming concerns in the Netherlands. While there were 334 farms in the Netherlands larger than 300 NGE in 2000, there were 660 in 2009.
Bleker wants to put forward a bill to the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament before summer to stop the growth of the number of mega-farms. The Society for Animal Protection and the Party for the Animals have asked Bleker to retain the Alterra standard of 300 NGE in his bill on mega-barns. Companies would then be prevented from growing beyond this size.
On the whole, the Dutch livestock industry has been expanding vigorously, claims Alterra. Between 1985 and 2008, the size of dairy and laying hen farms had doubled, the size of pig farms had tripled and the size of broiler farms had quadrupled. Bleker sees a trend in the growth of large-scale livestock farming concerns and now wants to limit the size of these companies. A public debate on mega-barns had previously taken place under the supervision of the Alders Committee.