asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the estimated annual cost of the handling and disposal of farm animal waste; how much his Department is spending on research into methane production from this source; and if he will make a statement on the various benefits which might be obtained from utilisation of this matter.
The cost of handling and disposal of farm animal waste is influenced by many factors, but, based on current stock numbers in England and Wales, the estimated annual cost to the industry is in the region of £100 million.Government-funded research on the anaerobic digestion of farm animal waste is conducted jointly in Scotland by the Rowett Research Institute and the North of Scotland College of Agriculture. This project is primarily a study into the reduction of the pollution load of the waste and to overcome odour problems. Production of methane gas is a secondary aspect of the investigations and is used in the process or to heat the piggeries associated with the project. The cost of the buildings and equipment was approximately £38,500 and the staff and other costs involved are currently running at £14,000 per annum.As to the benefits obtained from the utilisation of farm animal waste, farmers have traditionally recycled this waste back to the land, thus making use of the plant nutrients contained in the manure and reducing the need to purchase inorganic fertilisers. A leaflet on the profitable utilisation of livestock manures prepared by the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service is available to the industry.