Pig producers will no longer have to replace concrete slatted floors that fall foul of new rules by a single millimetre.

The decision follows warnings that British pig producers would face a £28m bill from a European directive requiring them to reduce the gaps in slatted floors.

Rules due to come into force next year require that the concrete slatted floors for rearing pigs should have a maximum gap of 18mm.

But many older British pig floors were built to imperial measurements with ¾ inch gaps – equivalent to 19-20mm.

Brussels has now told Defra that the relevant European Standard, which allows for a 3mm tolerance, should be “taken into account when checking compliance”.

The move follows lobbying by the National Pig Association and BPEX, which argued that the imprecise nature of concrete products meant a tolerance should be allowed.

BPEX said farmers with a slot 19-21mm slot width would now heave a sigh of relief. But those with a width greater than 21mm would still have to make some unpalatable decisions.

The NPA conducted a website survey of pig farmers to support its argument, explained NPA general manager Zoe Davies.

“We have certainly saved many producers sleepless nights and much needed cash over this issue, but we couldn’t have done it without the industry pulling together.”

Members had given the NPA the evidence needed to prove their case, and Defra officials had proved willing to listen and help rather than taking a hard line stance.

“We are also very grateful that on this occasion, the commission has seen sense and listened to our logical arguments. A great result.”

A number of producers were also concerned about whether the space occupied by free-access feeders could be included when calculating unobstructed floor area for gilts and sows.

Brussels has confirmed that the space taken up by free-access feeders can be included when calculating 1.64m² of unobstructed floor area for gilts and 2.25m² for sows.