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Home > News > NPA blog - thoughts from a valuable fact-finding mission to Spain to look at farrowing systems

NPA blog - thoughts from a valuable fact-finding mission to Spain to look at farrowing systems

8th Mar 2024 / By Katie Jarvis

The NPA's Katie Jarvis discusses the findings from a recent industry fact-finding mission to Spain to gather information on farrowing systems. 

Farrowing systems are currently in the spotlight and are expected to be addressed in legislation following the General Election.

Katie JarvisThe NPA wants to be as forearmed as possible and ready to engage in conversations with Defra with as much evidence as possible. That is why, in the Autumn of 2023, the NPA commissioned a report into adaptive farrowing systems, with the aim of examining the commercial experience of these systems in this country.

While this is in development, the time was ripe for a visit to businesses elsewhere who are using them on a bigger scale.

The Building Suppliers Forum, an AHDB-convened group, recently led a trip to Spain to meet with large-scale producers and industry representatives to discuss challenges and solutions that may be aligned between our two countries.

The three-day trip to north-eastern Spain, where a large number of pigs are produced, was hugely insightful. A meeting with Miguel Angel Higuera from the Spanish NPA-equivalent organisation, ANPROGAPOR, showed us that we have a lot in common.

Balancing the anticipated demands of our respective governments (as well as the European Commission in Spain’s case), while trying to support producers is a difficult balance when nobody has a definitive answer on what these adaptive or flexible systems should look like.

The biggest question is over the pen size, with different European countries having different average sizes – Sweden 6m2, Austria and Spain 5.5m2 and Germany 6.5m2.

ANPROGAPOR has taken a bold approach by advising their members what to do, which feels risky but like us they have businesses desperate to invest and upgrade, so it is perhaps understandable that they’re taking a punt on what they might be allowed under legislation.

As part of a cohort of countries including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, an impact assessment was conducted into the costs of different systems, a valuable piece of work which helps to build the picture of what this could cost the industry.

On days two and three of the trip we visited two of Spain’s integrated businesses – Friselva and Batalle. The former is a 20,000 sow business with it’s own processing site, with capacity to slaughter 6000 pigs daily. The latter is a 30,000 sow business exporting large volumes of meat.

It was fascinating to hear the view of large integrated companies which are either not using flexible systems yet (Friselva) and one which is beginning to put in adaptive places (Batalle).

The Spanish approach to legislation is somewhat more relaxed than our own and the argument seems to be that for the entire industry to move it will require a lot of money, which the industry does not currently have, and time – sound familiar?!

Overall it was a valuable trip which, thanks to the openness of all those we spoke to, gave us a lot to think about as well as valuable evidence to incorporate into our own lobbying on this topic.