The UK pig industry are awaiting a decision on whether or not the “megafarm” proposal in Derbyshire gets the go ahead.
Midland Pig Producers, the company behind the proposal, is currently seeking planning approval for 30 acres of land adjacent to Foston Prison, Foston, Derbyshire, to develop a pig farm with an integral biogas plant to generate environmentally friendly energy. When complete, it is planned that the site will house 2500 sows and offspring in a state of the art unit, producing 1000 pigs a week for sale. The company says its aim is to reduce pig production costs by 50%.
Most pig farms depend on imported soya products. This one would get all its own feed grown locally and would supply the growers with all the nitrogen-based fertiliser they need using odourless by-product from an anaerobic digester. The digester would be fed with manure and gases from the pigs and a bit of top-up from waste food which would roughly equal the pork production – a “green circle” with next-to-nil resource consumption or environmental emissions.
The digester, and a system for recovering body heat from the pigs, would supply enough heating for both the farm and the prison next door – and generate enough electricity to power the farm’s feed mill and supply a surplus to the National Grid. The digester would be built to an American design, not yet used widely in this country, and would be fed with manure and straw washed into it while still warm, for maximum efficiency.
Midland Pig Producers says: “This environment is radically different to conventional systems as it is believed to be the first system in the world that has the ability to house pigs without the need to tail dock – the holy grail of animal rights groups.”
However there is also opposition to the project. The Soil Association and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) released a joint report saying that hundreds of UK farmers could be driven out of business if planning permission is granted for mega farms in Britain. Based on government figures, up to 350 of the smallest pig farms could lose all their sales if the pork from Foston hits the market.
Richard Lister, of Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, vice-chairman of the producers’ group in the National Pig Association, commented: “It is a very innovative set of ideas and it is unusual to see anybody proposing to make such a significant investment in the British pig industry in the circumstances we are in. It would be good for the industry to see it go ahead and it is a shame that some people are automatically opposed.”