Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I used the term "intensification" somewhat loosely to mean increasing the herd size above the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in regular winter feed shortages and the importation of large quantities of animal feedstuffs. This is over and above the use of fertilisers to increase the feed production per hectare.

In Ireland  CAFO, as you describe it, is largely confined to pigs and poultry, and cattle during the winter when the land is too wet to graze and when there is too little growth in the first place. The manure collected is generally spread on the land as fertiliser which can result in watercourse pollution, but is generally being done in a more efficient manner with improved technology.

There is considerable interest in anaerobic digestion but I haven't been able to find figures on how widespread its use is. Another idea I find fascinating is feeding seaweed to cows which can apparently reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 82%. (It is a regular part of my sushi diet!).

No less than other industries, the economics of scale are driving agricultural change. The use of robots in milking has huge advantages but requires a herd of at least 70 cows, a large initial capital outlay, and a larger than average landholding. The Common Agricultural Policy is increasingly geared to environmental standards, but again requires a professionalisation of the industry beyond the capacity of some small or part time farmers.

The importance of traceability and quality controls at all links in the food chain is increasingly recognised by regulators and consumers, with organic produce commanding a premium price. This is another reason why I am anxious that Irish food does not compromise its quality image through imported feed stuffs and environmentally destructive practices.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 23rd, 2021 at 11:53:38 AM EST
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