Pig farmers in crisis: a lot of work, a lot of loss

in the middle

Status: October 21, 2021 9:40 p.m.

Pig farmers in Germany are under pressure: They are fighting against public hostility, poor sales prices and high operating costs. Many are thinking of giving up their business.

By Kathrin Kampmann, NDR

It only smells subliminally of pigs when you walk through Albert Bosche’s stable from Damme. The stable building with around 500 fattening places is brightly cleaned, there are only a few remains of the former residents sticking to the stable walls or drinking places. Actually, every day that such a fattening house is empty is a lost day for the farmer. Actually.

When he once again had to sell hundreds of animals at a loss in the summer, Bosche decided not to fill up this barn again for the time being. The constant hope and fear was just too much for the 53-year-old: “You always look at the market, you always only look at politics. You always extend your antennae and think: ‘What am I doing?’ And then it goes into the tens of thousands if there is a wrong decision. “

Around half of all pig farmers are thinking of giving up

Many of his professional colleagues across Germany feel the same way as Bosche. In a survey by the pig farmers’ interest group based in Damme in Lower Saxony, around 60 percent of piglet producers and 40 percent of pig farmers said that they would like to cease their operations in the next ten years. The industry representatives cite the ongoing price crisis as one of the reasons. In the corona pandemic, many folk festivals and other events for eating meat were canceled, and the demand for pork fell accordingly. At the same time, the African swine fever has ensured that important export markets such as China are closed to Germans.

The result: there are far too many pigs on the market, the cold stores are filled to the brim with animals that have already been slaughtered, and the price is correspondingly low. At the same time, the costs for feed and slaughter have risen. Pig farmers are currently losing up to 70 euros with each animal.

What also makes many pig farmers weary are the conditions that force them to redesign their stalls again and again and that never seem reliable. “Insufficient planning security” is one of the main points of criticism from farmers.

“We are slowed down from the start”

In the pig stronghold in the Vechta district, most of them still work conventionally, even if more and more people are realizing that this type of husbandry is probably being phased out. Only recently, Aldi announced that from 2030 it would only offer meat from husbandry forms three and four. A move that stunned many pig farmers – because not enough is being paid for lower forms of rearing and because converting the farm is not that easy.

Rolf Wolkemeyer, also a pig farmer in Damme, wanted to convert one of his stables into a facility with outdoor climate stimuli. He received a direct rejection from the district of Vechta. Open stalls are generally not planned in the district – out of fear that animal diseases will spread more easily in this way. “We are slowed down from the start,” Wolkemeyer sums up.

Albert Bosche wanted to take a breather first, let his stables run empty little by little and calmly think about how things could go on for him. But nothing came of it – loyalty to his professional colleagues. His piglet farmer called him and asked him to take animals because his barn was full. “The sows are occupied, the piglets are coming. That can’t just stop when you work with animals,” explains Bosche. That is why there are now fattening pigs again in some stall pens.

Consumers and politicians should keep their word

And Bosche also wants to continue, actually likes to be a farmer. But he wants a perspective. If he remodels his stall to meet the increasing demands of consumers, then he wants them to keep their word. “I also like reading the newspaper to my animals in the morning, but then you have to pay me for it,” he adds, which annoys many in the industry. On the one hand, society demands more animal welfare, on the other hand, many still buy cheap meat. “We are being wiped out between this dichotomy,” says Bosche.

He demands that consumers also keep their word at the shop counter. And from politics he calls for long-term concepts on what pig farming should look like in Germany. In addition, the standards according to which the German companies work will then also be applied to meat that is imported from abroad: “That means, also for the salami on the ready-made pizza from the supermarket.”


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