Natural Farming Pig System Demonstration
One of the newest additions to the ECHO Global Farm is the Natural Farming Pig System located in the Tropical Lowlands area.
This component is based on the Natural Farming approach developed in East and Southeast Asia which focuses on harnessing the impact of beneficial microbes for enhancing both crop and animal production systems. Either commercially derived microbes (i.e. Effective Microorganisms - EM) or farm produced cultures (Indigenous Microorganisms - IMO) are employed in these farming systems.
Beneficial microbes, such as lactic acid bacteria, help to:
- Enhance soil-improving composts and natural fertilizers by accelerating the breakdown of organic matter in the soil and increasing plant access to nutrients
- Strengthen crop defenses against various pathogens
- Minimize and eliminate odors associated with livestock production
- Produce fermented animal feed that can be made from local vegetation such as banana stalks
ECHO's Natural Farming Pig System is comprised of a deep-litter pig pen in which hogs are raised atop a one-meter deep layer of bedding comprised mostly of sawdust, rice husks and ground charcoal. By excluding the rain and preventing excessive spillage of feed and water, the bedding remains minimally moist, offering pigs relief from the heat. The bedding is also great for pigs to burrow into when they are cold. Microbes in the bedding (enhanced by periodic sprays of IMO solution) break down wastes which are incorporated into the litter by the rooting of the animals. After eight to 12 months of use, the nutrient-rich litter can be removed for application as compost on the farm.
Working with the deep litter system has been interesting and has made pig rearing much easier than I ever expected. When we first got Tiger (our commercial breed hog), I was worried about finding enough food for him. But, with the ample supply of banana stalks we have as a side-product of harvesting banana bunches, I had plenty of material to ensile (to make into silage).
One of my favorite things to do with our guinea hogs (Humperdink and Groot) in the deep litter is to bury sugar cane pieces or corn into the deep litter and then watch them use their noses like shovels to dig the treats up. This rooting also helps aerate the litter, saving me the labor of turning my compost.
Our hogs have been really enjoyable to work with and even train. They love when people visit and talk to them, enjoy belly rubs and scratches behind the ear, and will always accept treats.
- Stacy Reader (ECHO Intern)
The pigs are fed twice a day with silage made from sliced banana stalks fermented with small amounts of brown sugar and salt. The silage stores well for over a week, eliminating the need to harvest, slice and boil the banana stalks on a daily basis as is commonly practiced in Southeast Asia. The ECHO silage ration is mixed with a much smaller amount of commercial pig feed and fed along with excess ECHO fruit, vegetables and forage. Less reliance on commercial feed lowers overall production costs. Observations at ECHO Asia regarding pigs raised on balanced silage-based diets is that they tend not to be excessively fat, instead developing into "sturdy lean" hogs.
Related to Natural Farming techniques that employ the positive effect of microorganisms, ECHO offers the following resources:
- Textbook in Natural Farming - Principles, Concepts & Appropriate Techniques in Tropics ($25.00)
- An Introduction to Natural Farming: A Local and Microbial Approach to Agriculture (slide presentation)
- Multiplication and Use of Soil Natural Organisms (ECHO Development Notes 110 article by Dawn Berkelaar)