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Outdoor producers to get best-practice package

by 5m Editor
12 August 2004, at 12:00am

UK - The race is on to make outdoor pigs more environmentally friendly. It should be possible, believes Howard Revell of BQP, to draw up a set of best-practice guidelines that will answer the critics and ensure producers escape crippling regulation.

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With this in mind he and his colleagues will be working closely with researchers over the next three years to find ways of improving the environmental credentials of outdoor pigs.

The aim is to produce a blueprint that meets the demands of government and its agencies, without being unduly restricting to producers.

There may even be benefits to producers - if, for instance, if it can be shown that wet-feeding minimises nitrate and phosphate pollution and at the same time reduces production costs and improves productivity.

A range of management techniques will be tried and quantified with the aim of combining them into a best-practice package that, by and large, will be straight-forward and inexpensive to implement.

For instance it may be possible to reduce nutrient pollution simply by positioning arks so that pigs don't always excrete in the same part of the field.

The researchers will also look at diets, ways to cut feed wastage (a major contributor to pollution), timely under-sowing, and rotation planning, all of which, when combined in a package, could go a long way towards answering the concerns of Defra and the Environment Agency.

Outdoor pigs, which are adored by welfarists, now account for over 30 percent of the national breeding herd. They are an important crop on some 12,000 acres on land, much of which is sand. The beneficial legacy they leave for following crops is considerable.

But increasingly they are viewed with a jaundiced eye by environmentalists, and producers have been aware for some time that they might have difficulty meeting the good agricultural practice requirements of cross-compliance.

Defra's recently announced intention to significantly reduce diffuse (multi-source) pollution of waterways has sent another warning signal that the industry must change its ways or face restrictions on its activities.

The drive to produce a package of best-practice guidelines is being financed to the tune of nearly half a million pounds by Defra. The research will be carried out by scientists at the University of Newcastle, Scottish Agricultural College and BQP, with trials being undertaken on BQP farms in East Anglia.

"It will take three years to complete," said Howard Revel, "but I am hoping it will throw up some useful pointers on the way and that the knowledge that best-practice guidelines will be available in due course will persuade the various authorities to give producers some breathing space."

Source: Digby Scott - National Pig Association - 12th August 2004

5m Editor