Outdoor producers face land challenges in 2014

Outdoor pig keepers are facing stiffer competition for sites as cross compliance concerns make letting out land on short-term agreements for vegetable and root growing an easier option for some landowners.

Outdoor production ideally needs sandy, free-draining land and some are being forced to find new sites for their units or face the alternative of selling their herds and equipment.

Soil erosion and land management issues following periods of wet weather are the biggest cross compliance issues, with Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments claimed on most outdoor pig land.

Most outdoor pig units rotate on a two year on/two year off system and are stocked at around 25 sows/ha. This means the operator of a typical 750 sow herd will need access to a total of 60ha of suitable free draining light land, of which 30ha will be used at any one time.

At the same time great care must be taken to ensure that outdoor herds are kept within the overall 170kg/ha Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) limits.

Agreements between landowners and pig keepers must also meet Rural Payment Agency and Environment Agency rules.

Most agreements are Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) agreements or Pig Keeping Licence agreements.

In the case of FBT agreements, the tenant may need access to additional land for manure spreading to keep within NVZ levels or if a Pig Keeping Licence is drawn up this should allow the landowner to include the manure output from the pig enterprise within the whole farm-cropping rotation.

Rents for outdoor pig land are now £618/ha or more in some cases, which provides the landowner with a realistic return as well as improved soil fertility and a break from the usual arable rotation cycle.

Further land fertility benefits will be achieved as in most cases outdoor pig keepers will source straw from the landowner which is then returned to the holding in the form of manure.

Landowners and pig keepers are however recommended to take the appropriate professional advice before entering into any pig keeping arrangements of this nature as well as establishing if the landowner or pig keeper will be the SPS claimant.

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