Farmer Focus: Dealing with new environmental permits

Running a 380-sow pig unit would, in normal circumstances, put us under the 750-sow threshold for which an environmental permit is required. 

However, because we have two poultry farms in close proximity, our pig farm was required to operate under the same permit. This certainly causes us challenges every time we think about expanding any of the three farms.

We recently had our audit – our first in more than two years. We were told that compliant and well-run farms only needed to be seen once every three years now, which was a welcome surprise. 

What is not so welcome are the changes to emission regulations, due to come into effect soon. The main change is the introduction of Best Available Technique Associated Emission Levels (BAT AELs). 

See also: Q&A: How the new environmental pig permits could affect you

This could be an issue because emission levels are being calculated using a formula based on historical data, meaning some farms may struggle to comply.

The Environment Agency is also due to run a consultation on new charges for environmental permits. These potential new charges are excessive and would only negatively affect the industry.

These changes may dramatically affect our decision-making in the near future. 

Expansion conundrum

Investment in the pig farm is well overdue. After several years of spending on the poultry farms, it has become clear that, with the batch system, we are short on finishing space. We only have enough room to take pigs to 21-22 weeks, followed by a very tight cleaning and disinfection turnaround. 

With many contracts taking pigs heavier, and real money to be made in the pigs growing those few final kilos, I think we need to have some serious discussions on whether to invest in more finishing space. 

This is subject to an investment appraisal and whether we will be permitted to do so, both from a planning and environmental perspective.

Last sire gave good growth

By the time you read this column our fifth and last batch of Hermitage Maxgro-sired pigs will have left the farm, making way for JSR 900- and Hampshire-sired pigs. 

Growth looks good, but feed conversion rate of completed batches has been a little disappointing, so an appointment with the nutritionist has been booked and we hope we can make strides to bring it down.

Sophie Hope, Cheltenham, farms 380 sows indoors from farrow to finish, producing 10,000 pigs a year direct to Tesco as well as 81,000 broiler-breeders. A straw-based system is currently in place with boars from composite commercial lines and some Hampshire used for hardiness.