EU backs down on pigs slatted floor rules
The European Union has backed down on a directive which would have made UK pig farmers replace concrete slatted floors in finishing units at the cost of thousands of pounds, in order to reduce the gap by around 1-3mm.
The rules, which will reduce the gap in concrete slats to a maximum of 18mm, will come into effect on 1 January 2013, alongside the partial sow stall ban. However, the EU has announced that, because of the imprecise nature of concrete products, a 3mm tolerance should be taken into account when checking compliance.
Many pig farms in the UK were built using imperial measurements, with gaps of 3/4in, or 19-21mm, and replacing these older slatted floors would cost the industry over £17m, according to the National Pig Association (NPA).
The NPA, which presented a case to Defra arguing for the tolerance, applauded the pragmatic approach adopted by Defra and Brussels. It pointed out that seemingly minor technical issues had the potential to inflict considerable cost on an industry already operating at a loss as a result of high feed prices.
Dr Zoe Davies, general manager of the NPA, said: “We have certainly saved many producers sleepless nights and much-needed cash over this issue, but we couldn’t have done it without the industry pulling together, giving us the evidence we needed to prove our case, and the willingness of Defra to listen and help rather than taking a hard-line stance. We are also very grateful that, on this occasion, the Commission has seen sense and listened to our logical arguments.”
However, it looks likely that finishers who have concrete slots with width of over 21mm will still have to comply with the legislation.
The EU also announced that the space occupied by free-access feeders could be included when calculating unobstructed floor space allowance for gilts and sows. However, Defra is awaiting information from Brussels about the new rules on continuous solid flooring requirement for gilts and sows, and a maximum of 15% may be reserved for drainage openings.