This week the State Council put an end to so-called low-emission barns. Much is still unclear about what this means for dairy farmers. NU.nl spoke to Michel van Dorst, a farmer from Brabant, who has the type of floor that the judge ruled on. Years ago, he suspected that the low-emission floor claims were false.
This will not work, thought Michel van Dorst in 2013, when his new barn was equipped with a low-emission floor. But such a floor was required to get a permit, and so he did.
Almost ten years later, it turns out that his suspicions were correct. It is very doubtful whether the emission of nitrogen will be reduced with the low-emission floor.
In the barn of the dairy farmer from Etten-Leur, there is a floor with the code A1.13. It is one of the types that the Council of State has put a stop to on Wednesday.
- Michel van Dorst (31) is a dairy farmer in Etten-Leur in Brabant.
- On his farm are ninety dairy cows and about forty young animals.
- His farm has 40 hectares of land and 8 hectares of natural land. He rents that land from Staatsbosbeheer.
- The barn with a low-emission floor was built in 2013. Van Dorst also has an older barn from 1988. It has a traditional slatted floor.
Valves must stop gases
Just like in a traditional barn floor, there are slots in the floor. Between the slots there are movable plastic flaps. They must close the manure cellar under the floor so that gases remain in that cellar.
The cow’s urine flows directly into the manure pit. The manure remains on the floor and is regularly pushed between the slots with a manure scraper.
Ammonia is formed when urine and manure come into contact with each other. Because it only happens in the slurry cellar, the gases also stay in the cellar. At least that’s the idea.
“But every farmer knows that if the cow’s faeces get between these valves, they no longer close as nicely as when they were clean,” says Van Dorst. “If these valves are left open, it really has no effect.”
Stables also require liters of water
In addition, liters of water are needed to clean the barn so that the system works correctly. “About 10 liters per cow, per day,” says Van Dorst.
He has 90 cows, so that would be 900 liters a day. The fertilizer diluted with water then ends up in the slurry pit. “It’s not big enough for that. Let’s just say I haven’t always done so well.”
The low emission system was checked. The Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) came regularly to look at the barn. “But those people come to so many companies and systems. They look at the bigger picture,” says Van Dorst.
“Such a low-emission floor was mandatory. Then you can talk all you want, it makes no sense anyway.”
Michel van Dorst, dairy farmer
The dairy farmer from Brabant says that he is not the only one who has had doubts about the so-called low-emission barn for a long time. He also hears it from colleagues in the neighbourhood.
He has not considered expressing his doubts about the construction of the barn. “It was mandated then. So you can talk all you want, but it makes no sense.”
Building the barn with the special floor in it cost him 100,000 euros extra compared to a traditional floor.
It is still unclear what the Riksdag’s decision means for barns that have already been built. But Van Dorst is not worried about his stable, which is not yet ten years old. “The permit says it’s valid for at least twenty years. If the floor needs to be removed, I assume someone will guarantee it.”
It is still unclear what the consequences of a verdict are
The State Council determined that farmers may now only build a new barn if they can demonstrate that nature is not harmed by extra nitrogen discharge. This can be done through a so-called appropriate assessment.
The judge’s ruling also only concerns two types of stables (code A1.13 and A1.28). It is still unclear what the consequences will be for other types of low-emission stables.
It also remains to be seen whether farmers with a low-emission floor will be allowed to keep their permit.