Research project P'Orchard
The operational group "P’orchard" (agroforestry for outdoor pigs) was set up in September 2017. Inagro, ILVO and a number of committed pig farmers will work together in the context of this project to use agroforestry to set up an outdoor area for pigs. Each of the farmers strives to market a local, sustainable and high-quality product via a short chain in order to restore the relationship between the consumer and the producer. Unlike conventional pig farmers, they have a free-range meadow where the pigs can roam indefinitely
In Flanders, there is still very limited experience with outdoor pig farming and the spatial and economic integration of outdoor areas on the farm. Agroforestry in the form of an orchard can play a role in this; this project can be a first step in this direction. Through the operational group, any bottlenecks are identified and knowledge, experience and innovative ideas are brought together and exchanged. This can be done for very practical matters such as: "How can trees be cost-effectively protected against pigs?", "Which breeds of pigs are more suitable?", "Can nuts and fruit be used as an additional ration?", as well as legislative and health matters such as: "What about food safety when nuts and fruit from the outdoors area are used for human consumption?”, etc.
Three farmers participated in the project. They are very different in terms of organisation, pig breeds and marketing strategies, which makes cross-fertilisation all the more interesting. They have one thing in common: they aim to create a high-quality niche product with added value.
The participating farmers see several advantages in setting up an outdoor area using agroforestry: namely (i) improved animal welfare through shelter from wind, sun and rain, (ii) multilevel use of space in which fruit/nuts can be used as an additional feed ration or for human consumption, (iii) improving the image of pig farmers in the eyes of consumers, (iv) and indirect benefits in terms of the environment.
During the project, at least two outdoor areas will be set up on practical farms, which will also function as demonstration farms.
Because of the still limited experience in Flanders with outdoor pig farming in an agroforestry setting, this operational group can be an important step forward in this field. Knowledge, experience and innovative ideas from different pig farmers and other stakeholders will be brought together, exchanged and possible bottlenecks will be jointly identified. In addition, pig farmers are professionally assisted in this by Inagro and ILVO, who are involved as partners. These organisations have specific knowledge (with regard to both agroforestry and pig farming) and have access to a European network of agroforestry users. They are therefore well placed to assist pig farmers in the selection of suitable tree species, systems for protecting trees from pigs and providing advice on the legal framework, animal welfare, feed supply, housing, possible organic production, etc.
Finally, through this project, the possibilities of this cultivation system will be made known to other pig farmers through farm visits and communication via partner organisations and the trade press. The outcomes of the literature study and the mutual exchange of practical experiences will also be bundled into a practical guide for pig farmers aimed at helping them to organise their outdoor areas in the best possible way.
Final report (in Dutch)
Het eindrapport van P'Orchard gaat over varkens buiten onder de bomen. De toepassing van boslandbouw voor buitenvarkens is in onze regio nog beperkt en uitwisseling van kennis, ervaring en innovatieve ideeën zodoende een meerwaarde. Met de Operationele Groep P’Orchard brachten geïnteresseerde varkenshouders hun praktijkervaringen en knelpunten in kaart, hierin ondersteund door ILVO, Inagro en het Varkensloket. Op twee bedrijven werd een concreet inrichtingsplan voor boslandbouw in de buitenloop uitgewerkt en gerealiseerd. Ook ervaringen in het buitenland werden samengebracht, via rechtstreekse contacten en een literatuurstudie. In dit praktijkrapport brengen we die informatie samen.