With the world focus on renewable energy, he saw the system of biogas
production - converting pig manure into methane and then electricity â€” as a
competitive way forward.
His company is developing a "Green circle pig production concept" in which
the manure from 52,000 finishing pigs will be used to generate Â£1m (€1.3m) worth
of electricity annually. A 3 MW bio-gas plant is being built in Staffordshire
and this will also process 'kitchen' waste, which would otherwise go to
landfill. In addition, the waste processing will generate income since landfill
disposal fees for this amount to around Â£65 (€85) per tonne.
When the waste is processed an odourless liquid is produced, a valuable
fertiliser. Midland Pig Producers (MPP) is currently arranging agreements with
local farmers whereby they are supplied with free seed and fertiliser and in
return sell grain to MPP at prices reflecting the value of the inputs. The
fertiliser should be sufficient for 2,000 ha of arable land producing enough
grain for 15,000 tonnes of pig feed.
Pig farming survival
"Pig farmers survival might depend
on energy production and such a system could make pig farming profitable again,"
said Mr Barker.
He pointed out that most of UK land is now a NVZ (Nitrate Vulnerable Zone)
and many farms have IPPC regulations to contend with. Converting feed into meat
produces a by-product which is about 70% nitrate. Importing feed and nitrogen
fertiliser increases this burden. Oilseed rape production, for instance,
requires 150% more nitrogen than barley, so utilising home-grown feed for pigs
with home-produced fertiliser made environmental sense.
The bio-digester would produce heat for piggeries as well as cheap
electricity for milling the grain. In addition to reducing nitrates grain
produced within the Green Circle' concept would cut food miles, further reducing
the carbon footprint.
Adapt to high feed prices
With the supply of commodities
struggling to keep up with demand, high and volatile raw material prices are
likely to remain in the foreseeable future, so pig farmers would need to adapt
to live with them.
"Grain stocks are at an historical low, and there are no easy answers," Hugh
Burton, raw material manager for Associated British Nutrition, warned
He said that the good news was that there would be a greater availability of
co-products on the market from the biofuel sector, both wet and dry. It could
mean that the farm feeding practices would have to change to benefit from these
materials. For example, increased bio-ethanol production would result in greater
availability of distillers' grains. Traditionally these entered the ruminant
feed market, but there could be opportunities for mono-gastrics, such as
Bio-diesel production from soya and oilseed rape is likely to result in more
oilseed meals, which have a high protein content, on the market. This process
would also result in the production of glycerol, traditionally used in human
food and cosmetics. However, it was a good ingredient to incorporate in pig
Compounders would be able to incorporate these ingredients in diets, but home
mixers would definitely need nutritional advice, suggested Mr Burton.
He explained that while these ingredients would not be cheap, they would be
relatively cheap in relation to cereals.
Mr Burton said that ABN's own role was changing from a company just selling
feed to one providing a wider service through its ability to deal with the
intricacies of the raw materials market, incorporate these co-products correctly
and explain their use to producers.
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