Opportunities for short rotation coppice production on free-range chicken farms in Flanders: Farmers' perceptions and cost-benefit analysis

Lisanne M. Stadig, Frank A.M. Tuyttens, T.B. Rodenburg, Pieter Verdonckt, Erwin Wauters, Lieve Borremans, Bert Reubens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper focuses on systems producing short rotation coppice willows (SRCW) in chickens' free-range areas. We aim to map chicken farmers' motivation to implement SRCW, and to assess the economic viability of these systems. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 free-range chicken farmers. Farmers agreed that chickens would prefer SRCW over grassland, which could benefit chicken welfare. They expected establishing an SRCW system would be labor intensive, and doubted if it would be a profitable investment. Some concerns of farmers might be taken away by exchanging information with farmers with SRCW experience. A partial budget analysis was performed to calculate the net present value (NPV) of six different scenarios, differing in the type of chickens, in whether the produced biomass was sold or valorized on-farm and in harvest pattern, all over a 23-yr period. The NPV was positive but low for all scenarios. A sensitivity analysis showed that changes in biomass yield, wood chip price, a price premium for poultry products and current fuel price were most likely to influence the NPV. A risk analysis revealed that NPVs were positive in the majority of the modeled cases. Scenarios in which biomass was used for on-farm heat production showed the highest risk of a negative NPV. A price premium for poultry products may be most effective at increasing profitability, but may only be feasible for farms selling directly to consumers. Establishing a solid market for biomass energy, including guaranteed demand and availability of appropriate machinery for cultivation, may mitigate farmers' concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-295
Number of pages10
JournalRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Issue number3
Early online date22 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Economic analysis
  • farmer opinion
  • net present value
  • poultry
  • willow
  • wood chips


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