Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Massive factory farm planned for Powys

Zero-grazing is a form of factory farming where animals that naturally graze are instead locked into huge warehouses. An application to set up Wales’ first proposed mega-dairy has been submitted to Powys, where 1,000 cows would be cooped up indoors for more than half of the year. The environmental impact of these huge dairy farms has been well documented in America – and there is real concern that we may just be importing those problems to our shores.

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Possible reasons for objection (adapted from the Viva site):

a) Environmental Issues
A large farm such as this will have negative and detrimental impacts on the environment in various ways. This includes

Waste Water
Research has found that for every 100 cows, 100 to 1000 gallons of waste water is produced, and, this is contaminated water which then pollutes the ground water. With over 1000 cows inside for much of the year, the amount of water needed to rinse the floors, palour, pens etc will be considerable. Not only would this greatly increase the pollution of ground water, but also could lead to eutrophication and anoxia (i.e., low levels of dissolved oxygen). Based on these figures, it could mean 1,000 to 10,000 gallons a day, or over 3 million litres of waste water being used each year on the farm. We note that some provision for this has been made, in the form of a water storage tower, there is a large surplus that the tower won’t able to provide, and will therefore need to put an enormous strain on the surrounding countryside.

Looking at the farm capacity and the figures, the slurry storage system is inadequate. On the planning application it states that the slurry stores would create a 8,520 m3 capacity in a four month period. However, a herd of 1,000 cows create approx. 83 cubic metres of slurry a day – this equates to (using 120 days as a four month period) 9,960 cubic metres – much more than the capacity allows for. And this is just for a herd of 1,000 cows – at full capacity the farm aims to have 1,200 on the farm. A further problem with the slurry storage is that it will also store waste water. In times of unsuitable weather, even for a short period of time, the capacity of the slurry stores would not be able to deal with both the slurry and waste water produced.

According to the United Nations, methane is the most damaging greenhouse gas there is, and the world’s livestock contribute the biggest amount. It is larger than the global transport CO2 emissions. On this basis alone, industrial sized factory farming units such as this one should be disallowed on the basis of the hugely damaging contribution to global warming and climate change. Based on figures of how much methane an average dairy cow can produce (up to 500 litres of methane a day), and allowing a reduction for feed changes, it works out as over 150 million litres of methane a year form this one development. As methane is 21 times more damaging than CO2 to the environment it means that this development alone will produce as much detrimental global warming gases as a village of 400 houses. This doesn’t even include the C02 emissions from the farm machinery, lighting, refrigeration, transport, production of fodder, transport of animals and milk etc.

Other pollution
Smells will be prevalent at all times for all the villagers. Noise levels from 1200 cows would also be considerable for Leighton residents.

b) Traffic Problems
The size of the farm (up to 1200 cows) will significantly disrupt traffic in the area given the large increase in daily movements, both on and across the highways. This will cause inconvenience to Leighton residents and in Welshpool itself, given the additional transporting slurry for spreading through such areas.

c) Animal welfare
Housing 1000-1200 cows inside for much of the year is not a natural environment. The proposed increase in farm size puts it on par with industrial factory farms, which evidence shows have significantly higher incidences of diseases, and related problems. Keeping animals indoors can also lead to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and high humidity which has been shown to lead to high levels of lameness and mastitis in cows. It is also timely to note that with the risk of bovine TB high, is now the most appropriate time to be undertaking such large scale animal farming?

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