Research already underetaken at Harper Adams University has suggested that anaerobic digestion (AD) could provide a viable solution for the on-farm disposal of pig carcase material (PCM). The institution believes the process could reduce the cost of fallen stock collection on some farms, and reduce the movement of vehicles between farms, potentially improving bio-security.
The initial study established that the AD process could significantly reduce a number of particularly resilient pathogens in PCM, while at the same time generating considerable quantities of biogas that could be used to generate heat or electricity.
Consequently, AD may potentially be used as a self-sustaining on-farm system for storage or disposal of PCM, reducing the use of fossil fuels.
Now a second stage of research, funded by BPEX and Defra, has started at the university to gather evidence on the efficacy and safety of the process, which may help towards this becoming a reality for farmers.
To be considered by the European Union (EU) as a safe alternative system for disposal of PCM, this research project aims to provide evidence that the on-farm bio-reduction process is equivalent to existing methods of disposal in relation to both public and animal health.
This evidence will then need to be submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for consideration. A positive outcome and a change in EU regulations will be required before the process can be developed commercially.
“Following the BSE epidemic in cattle, and other livestock diseases, EU legislation prohibits farmers from burying fallen stock on farm,” Harper Adams principal lecturer and researcher Dr Robert Wilkinson said.
“Instead, they must be collected for disposal by approved methods such as incineration or rendering. The development of sustainable on-farm alternatives for storage or disposal of fallen stock could be of significant benefit to the agricultural industry.”
According to BPEX environmental projects manager Sue Rabbich, a pig producer questionnaire had revealed that AD was a method of fallen stock disposal that farmers would like to see on farm.
The project began in October and is expected to take 18 months.