EuroTier 2016 had a lot of take-home messages to offer. For Vincent ter Beek, editor for Pig Progress, there was a remarkable gap between the ever-growing size and importance of the show on one side and the difficult situation of Europe’s agriculture on the other.
A roaring sound of texts could be heard in Hanover, Germany where last week between 15 and 18 November, another successful edition of EuroTier was held. The organising German Agricultural Society (DLG) was proud of yet again a record attendance 163,000 visitors – and also pointed to the 36,000 visitors from abroad as well as the 2,629 exhibitors.
Indeed Hanover had done everything again to make the show a success, with additional halls added at the already huge trade fair, English to be heard everywhere and hotel prices in the wide surroundings going through the roof, the last being a recurring annoyance for Dr Reinhard Grandke, the DLG’s CEO.
Yet the phenomenal outcome could not completely cover the ambiguity of Europe’s farming situation. Of course, on one hand, many countries all over the world are craving for Europe to share its innovative farming solutions to feed a rapidly growing population.
And yes, for innovations one needs to turn to EuroTier every 2 years again. Be it animal welfare or environmental pressure, as well as by antibiotics directives – time after time Europe is pushed to innovate further. The long list of innovations that appear at EuroTier can only serve as a testimony to that.
Something that struck me while being at the show was the attention to copper products. Recently EU in-feed copper levels for pig diets were changed for environmental reasons. Coincidence or not, ‘copper’ showed up in presentations (e.g. by Clare Gaukroger at Pig Progress’ Healthy guts, healthy piglets webinar), or in innovations, like the novel source of copper by Animine, to name a few.
On the other hand, while pushing innovations further, societal demands and tightening legislation are also threatening the foundations of agriculture. After all, how much more can be demanded from Europe’s (pig) farmers remains to be seen.
Retailers continuously and insufficiently compensate farmers in their attempts to meet all these demands. Many farmers decide to just move into a different business, others just choose simply not to embark on a career in agriculture – or at best put everything on hold.
The current situation in Germany’s pig industry may be exemplary for that situation. The trend of free farrowing seems now have to completely found its way into portfolios of many leading pig equipment companies – and a host of different varieties were on display at EuroTier. But where many looked and gazed, pig farmers haven’t really drawn their wallets as yet to invest.
Everyone in Germany is looking at and waiting for each other, I’m told. Will the European Union set new directives for the future of farrowing? Is it perhaps the federal German government? In 2017 there are German general elections and in an uncertain world (Trump, Brexit) anything can happen. And what exactly will happen in the country’s most pig-dense states (Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia), where the left-wing and livestock-unfriendly Green Party forms part of coalition governments?
All this led to a show in a continent in a bit of an identity crisis. Basically the question is: is sustainability to be found in further innovative agricultural solutions – or conversely in more extensive agriculture?
Whatever the answer is, let’s just hope it will not lead to Europe becoming a continent full of experts, knowledge and ideas – and a handful of leftover farmers. In that case, 163,000 visitors are numbers only to dream of at future shows.
Having said that, I turn back to the 2016 edition and could only smile when I spoke to one of the American visitors, attending EuroTier for the first time. He said, “I think the World Pork Expo in Iowa should change its name. It’s here in Germany where the pig world truly comes together.”