6 December 1996

Avoid erosion in pig units

BEST practice guidance for outdoor pig units, aimed at preventing soil erosion, is being drawn up by MAFF and the Environment Agency.

Light land suitable for outdoor pig rearing from a husbandry point of view often tends to be susceptible to erosion, said Steve Woods, of the EAs rural land use group.

"It is an increasing problem, but at the moment it tends to be localised." There are several outdoor units in East Devon, for example, where bad siltation in feeder streams has been a direct result of outdoor pig rearing. "Its completely changed the nature of the ground and that is allowing quite rapid run-off."

High stocking levels could also lead to a build up of nutrients, particularly phosphate, in the soil. Those are lost to the environment if soil erosion takes place, added Mr Woods.

The EA, in conjunction with MAFF, is first investigating the problem, then best practice will be developed.

Mr Woods advice to producers looking to minimise erosion now is to look very carefully at site selection. If a watercourse runs near a field then producers need to consider whether that field was suitable for outdoor rearing.

Land with a notable slope was also best avoided.