Scenario for structural development of livestock production around the Baltic Sea

Olli Niskanen, Antti Iho and Leena Kalliovirta


Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Latokartanonkaari 9, FI-00790 Helsinki


The ongoing structural change in livestock production in the EU is having wide-ranging impacts on agriculture, the environment and rural areas. The transition to larger production units increases the agronomic segregation of livestock and crop production areas. On the one hand, such specialization may strengthen the competitiveness of livestock production and promote innovations in hot spot areas; on the other, it may hasten a transition towards monoculture and impede the supply of organic matter in the form of manure to crop production regions. Structural change may also alter the pressure that manure nutrients place on nutrient runoff and water quality by increasing the agglomeration of animals and altering the distribution of production animal species and farm sizes.

Countries with a significant proportion (or all) of their land acreage in the Baltic Sea drainage basin (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Sweden) apply a total of some 218 thousand tons of phosphorus and about five times as much nitrogen in the form of manure in their agricultural production. Comparing this to the total annual anthropogenic phosphorus loading to the sea, currently around 30 thousand tons, it is apparent that any changes in animal agriculture that affect the handling, storage and application of manure may have sizeable  impacts on nutrient loading to the Baltic Sea.

The aim of the present paper is to search for methods to link manure nutrient production to structural change. In order to discuss the future baseline of structural development, ex-post macrodata of livestock farm structure is analysed from eight Northern European countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. A Markov chain model is developed to estimate probabilities of changes in farm size. Ex-ante development until 2030 is estimated with the model and adjusted by results for production volume obtained using the agricultural sector model CAPRI. The total quantity of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) is disaggregated by farm size category.

Observed data shows that between 2003 and 2013 more than half (1.1 million) of the farms in these countries exited livestock production. According to estimate, some 670 000 more livestock farms will further exit production between 2014 and 2030. Roughly 7.6 million livestock units (LSUs) in total would shift to farms in higher size classes by the year 2030. This would entail investments in annual animal housing for 380 000 LSUs; that is, roughly 2 % of production animals would change farm size class annually. Farms with over 500 LSUs would produce 63% of all manure phosphorus in 2030; as in 2010 they produced 32%. According to CAPRI baseline, the total number of animals however shows only a slight change.

It is possible that development induces pressure on the areas where livestock continue to concentrate and most manure is spread. If we assume a 170 kg limit for manure nitrogen, the average such area on livestock farms would grow from 6.4 hectares to 22.4 hectares per farm. In total, growing farms need to acquire or conclude contracts for 4.9 million hectares for spreading manure from exiting farms or open markets. This is 71 % of the total minimum spreading area in 2010 and 15 % of the total utilized agricultural area of the regions studied. Stagnant markets for arable land might precipitate a risk of the overuse of manure. Structural change thus creates risks of spatial nutrient accumulation, but also opportunities to address these threats if the utilization of manure nutrients is regulated properly and coherently across national borders.