The outlook for Europe’s farmers is positive, according to Dr Reinhard Grandke, general executive manager of the German Agricultural Society (DLG).

At the pre-EuroTier press meeting in late September, Dr Grandke quoted the results of the latest Trendmonitor Europe, a survey conducted by the DLG in conjunction with market research institute Kleffmann Group.

The survey, conducted during the previous two weeks among some 3,500 farmers in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and the UK, revealed improvements in current sentiment and future investment plans in comparison with the last survey, carried out in the spring.

In Germany, investment plans are stable, with every second farmer planning to invest, however, there has been a shift in investment plans in comparison with the spring survey. The core farming activities of farmyard work and field operations have moved back into focus, while interest in bioenergy has slowed somewhat.

In France and the UK, the improved economic climate is leading to greater investment plans, while in the Czech Republic investment is focusing on animal husbandry for the first time. Forty-five percent of farmers questioned plan to invest in animal production, while in contrast, despite improved expectations, the inclination of Polish and Hungarian farmers to invest can be classified as relatively reserved.

Dr Grandke continued that, while the number of farms keeping animals is continuing to shrink, the total animal population is roughly the same as farm sizes increase.

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Pig sector  

Robert Hoste, pig production economist at the Research Institute for Agricultural Economics, Wageningen University and Research Group, the Netherlands, noted that, in 2006, the OECD predicted that demand for pork would increase by 14% up to the year 2014. He contrasted this with the fact that between the autumn of 2006 and the summer of 2008, feed prices increased by 50%, and that the situation was exacerbated by growing demand in the area feed-food-fuel.

It is becoming clear, he continued, that efficiency in production must increase in order to keep feeding the world.

There are substantial differences in performance, even among the countries of North-West Europe, and from farm to farm. For example, the slaughter weight production of piglets per sow and year varies between 1,608 kg in the UK to 2,279 kg in the Netherlands. In some production systems in southern Europe it can be as high as 2,681 kg.

If the performance levels of the Netherlands could be achieved worldwide, 44% fewer pigs would be necessary globally to achieve the same production levels (in tons slaughterweight). In particular, improved feed efficiency would make distinct savings in feed consumptions possible. Further potential for savings exist in the processing chain.

* As of Jan.1, 2013, all pregnant sows in Europe must be kept in groups. During the intervening period, sow farms will have to invest, as new building must satisfy this requirement. The BFL, which promotes agricultural building construction and livestock management, will showcase various examples of new husbandry methods at EuroTier at an event entitled “Sow well-being – in group housing”.