Why Danish pig farms have far more land and pigs than Dutch farms? Implications for feed supply, manure recycling and production costs

22-02-2016 | Publication

An average Danish pig farm has 3500 pigs, 170 ha of agricultural land, whereas a typical Dutch pig farm has 2500 pigs with only 10 ha. The main factors for the contrasting development are a stronger competition for land, resulting in higher land prices, and stimulation of intensive animal husbandry in the Netherlands, while in Denmark environmental policies more strongly coupled manure production to land area.

Feed supply and manure disposal

The Netherlands and Denmark are the two biggest pig meat exporters in Europe, both with a strong focus on the German market.

Dutch pig farmers have to purchase all feedstuff and need to dispose nearly all the manure off-farm. Danish farmers grow a major part of the feed cereals and dispose pig manure on farm. As a result the Dutch pig farmers have focused on intensification of livestock production on small holdings using external sources of feed supply, and Danish farmers on efficient production of feed cereals on large holdings.

Costs and risks for pig production

Due to a gradual lowering of manure and fertiliser application standards, Dutch farmers increasingly have to process manure and export manure, further increasing the total costs of pig production. Manure disposal costs per kg of slaughter weight in 2011 were on average 3.5 times higher in the Netherlands than in Denmark. Manure is exported mainly to Germany and France, which also supply the feed cereals. Therefore manure export contributes to closure of nutrient cycles.

Danish pig farmers are less sensitive to nutrient policies and feed prices than those in the Netherlands, but the high debt rate makes the sector vulnerable to low pig prices.

For more information, contact Hans van Grinsven.


  • Average pig farm in Denmark has 3500 pigs on 170 ha of land, a Dutch pig farm has 2500 pigs with only 10 ha.
  • Higher land prices in the Netherlands, a stronger coupling of manure production to land area in Denmark
  • Pig sector in the Netherlands vulnerable due to high manure cost, in Denmark due to high debt ratios.