RISING HOUSING costs and the need to meet emissions legislation has led to a huge growth in the number of outdoor pig units – and it’s a trend likely to continue.

More than 30% of the national pig herd is now kept outdoors, using more than 4850ha (12,000 acres) of land, mainly on lighter soils in the east, ADAS pig specialist David Moorhouse told a DEFRA-funded meeting in Norfolk.

He believes there is more future growth potential with the introduction of single farm payment. “Cereal growers may decide to substitute lower-value crops with pigs. But they will need to weigh up the value of pigs with risks to SFP, cross-compliance and nitrate vulnerable zones.”

Although SFP ties in existing environmental welfare and legislation, on rented units the effects of pig management on the environment will influence landlord’s payment, said Mr Moorhouse. It’s particularly important because outdoor pigs impact on soil management.

However, disease could become a greater problem should new units be close to existing units. “Different units of varying health status could end up next to each other. Individual producers will need to co-operate to minimise disease risk.”

shirley.macmillan@rbi.co.uk