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Neiker-Tecnalia presents the results obtained in the evaluation of environmental strategies on livestock farms

The Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development (Neiker-Tecnalia) has coordinated the European BATFARM project, which is seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of technologies and practices used on livestock farms in the European Atlantic region in order to reduce their environmental impact on the air, water and soil.

In this project a detailed study has been made of the technologies present on livestock farms belonging to various regions in the Atlantic Area. Together with Neiker-Tecnalia, the public body that reports to the Sub-Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community, the following are part of this project: Teagasc-The Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Ireland), IRSTEA (France), INTIA (Navarre), the University of Glasgow Caledonian (Scotland), and the Higher Institute for Agronomy (Portugal). Among the technologies evaluated in situ are floor type in cattle housing, use of additives in slurry storage, manure turning, flexible lagoons for collective slurry storage, biowashers for gases at the outlet of air ducts of the sheds, and the incorporating of slurry into the soil. This initiative comes within the framework of the Atlantic Area Operational Programme for Transnational Co-operation 2007-2013. In this part of the continent a considerable proportion of livestock production takes place in line with the intensive model, as in the case of pig, poultry and a large proportion of cattle livestock. So the problems in managing livestock waste are shared by all the regions involved in the project. The intensive production model provides considerable economic returns, but it poses numerous environmental problems, like the emissions of polluting gases (ammonia, nitrous oxide and methane) into the atmosphere and the polluting of soil and water by nitrates. In this respect, the members of the BATFARM project have developed software (BATFARM) to select the best farm waste technologies and practices to be applied according to the characteristics of the farm in question; it will enable the loss in nutrients (N, P, K, Cu, Zn) of the farm to be reduced, and the ammonia, methane and nitrous oxide emissions produced by each of the various production phases (housing, waste storage, waste treatment and the applying of it to the soil) to be cut. The software will shortly be available on the websites of the institutions that have participated in the building of this tool. The outcomes of the project have been made available to the various interest groups, companies, livestock management bodies, policy-making bodies, research centres, end users and the general public. Finally, it should be pointed out that there is no single technology or practice to be recommended, but that these need to be studied for each case; however, the effectiveness of collective treatments in waste treatment and use has been made clear. In connection with the environmental problems involved in livestock production, the EU 2010/75/EC Directive, also known as the IED (Industrial Emissions Directive), seeks to regulate all forms of emission into the atmosphere, water and soil coming from intensive livestock farms (farms with a population of over 40,000 hens, 2,000 fattening pigs or 750 sows), and makes the obtaining of comprehensive environmental authorisation compulsory. The Directive proposes adopting Best Available Techniques (BAT), which means farmers must choose and apply those technologies available on the market and which are economically affordable in farming, the ultimate aim being to prevent or limit emissions.