Stimulating sustainable housing for farm animals
A2007 memorandum on animal welfare proclaimed that in 2012, 6% of all cattle, pig and poultry houses should be integrally sustainable. These houses are defined as housing and management systems where different aspects of sustainability are improved in an integrated manner, compared to standard housing and management systems.
The focus is on housing and management systems that improve animal welfare by applying measures that exceed legal animal welfare requirements and that also - at least - meet standards of other societal and legal conditions on environment, animal health and working conditions. These houses should also be economically feasible.
To encourage farmers to invest in these types of housing, several tax measures apply. Sustainable housing, which requires a much higher investment sum, can be written off at 100%, while regular types of housing will have a remaining property value of 50% on the balance sheet. In addition, there’s a tax regulation - the Energy Investment Deduction - that makes it possible for to write off up to 41% of the sum invested in energy-saving techniques and sustainable energy.
For a poultry farmer who builds a sustainable broiler house, that means roughly another 25% extra write off-potential on the total investment sum. So, for a broiler farmer able to run his establishment economically, the running costs of a sustainable broiler house will be less per broiler than a
traditional house. It’s more expensive to build, but the energy costs per cycle will be significantly lower and can make up for the extra interest that one has to pay to finance the a higher bank loan.
And that’s exactly the bottle neck. Building a sustainable poultry house that integrates new, energy-saving techniques (solar panels, air washers, heat exchange systems that re-use barn warmth in end of cycle-broilers to heat the floor for day-old chicks, ground cooling and heating systems that use the ground underneath the barn as a buffer) will cost significantly more than a traditional energy-consuming poultry house. But banks have certain fixed standards for financing poultry businesses - a fixed maximum amount per hen or broiler, based on the long-term exploitation figures in an average, traditional house. So getting the extra finance needed for building in a sustainable way is quite a struggle. Although in fact the market value of a sustainable poultry house, with lower running costs per annum, should be significantly higher than that of a traditional house.
So, what we see is that progressive poultry farmers that want to invest in sustainable housing something as a society we all want - have to put in more of their own money, or find alternative means of funding. Which is odd, paradoxical even.
Nevertheless they seem to succeed pretty well. In 2013, a huge survey was done to see if farmers had reached the targets set out in 2007. The results of that monitor show that on 1 January 2013, there were 83 346 houses for cattle, pigs or poultry in The Netherlands. The percentage of integrally sustainable houses was 5.7% for all species together. Cattle is lagging behind with 3.7%; pig farmers have more than reached the target of 8.8%; but the winner is poultry, with 15.7%!
The number of sustainable animal houses under construction was also taken into account. When these houses are realised, the percentage of integrally sustainable animal houses across species will be 6.5% - 4.7% for cattle, 11.6% for pigs, and a whopping 20.6% for poultry. So hats off to our poultry keepers!