Science - March 31, 2010

Twenty percent fewer pigs

Pig farming in the Netherlands will shrink by about 20 percent, according to the LEI's projections. Many pig farms are not in a position to invest in meeting environmental and welfare requirements.

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Pig farms have to meet strict ammonia regulations in 2013. There are also new regulations that stipulate that gestating sows should live in groups and that meat pigs should have more space. Fewer than ten percent of pig farms currently meet these requirement, says the LEI. And only one third of them are in a position to make the investments needed to do so.
Alternative
It is, however, possible to envisage alternative farming approaches that would cut the investment costs, says the research institute. For example, a meat-producing pig farm could opt to keep pigs in larger groups, halving the drop in income expected in this sector. How many pig farmers will take this option, the LEI cannot predict. It therefore doesn't want to hazard a guess as to exactly how many farms will close down because of the new environmental and welfare legislation.
The LEI estimate is based on data from 164 pig farms in the Bedrijven-Informatienet database in which the LEI tracks the companies' results. These companies form a representative sample of the pig sector. Sixty percent of the farmers with sows in this group have already invested in group pens and 23 percent have invested in cutting ammonia emissions. Investments in animal welfare cost a bit more than those in environmental requirements.
Creative
Last year there were about eight thousand pig farms in the Netherlands, with about twelve million pigs between them. The LEI research says that will go down to under ten million, while the investments will boost animal welfare and reduce environmental damage. An additional environmental benefit of smaller pig numbers is the reduction in manure production.
'The investments are difficult for many companies to finance, due to the low average prices and incomes over recent years', writes the LEI. 'Experience shows, however, that pig farmers are very creative and are very capable of coping with changing circumstances.'
 

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