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livestock manure/waste runoff management

 
Mitsy McGoo
Posts: 22
Location: zone 6b in upper east Tennessee
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We are planning to site our future pig pasture on part of our farm that is uphill from our main spring as well as the main buildings (two cabins and two sheds) on our land. This is partly because the site has a mature chestnut tree, two black walnut trees, and two mature apple trees as well as another spring adjacent to it that can be used to provide water for the piggies. It also gets ample sun for growing fodder crops. All our usable acreage for animals is hill/mountainside, with the main buildings at the bottom of the hollow. We are in mountainous NE TN where it rains regularly year round. We will probably only raise 4 to 6 hogs per year but will likely start with just 2 until we get some experience under our belts. What methods have y'all used to manage the runoff that occurs from animal waste? Do you clean up after the livestock (in this case, pigs) each day/week and compost it immediately? Is there some sort of runoff barrier that can be used?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Swales. In the pen, down contour from the pen, and protecting the spring itself.

If you can turn the end of one of them into a wallow pit, they will love you for it.
 
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela
Posts: 143
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I would recommend leaving a vegetative strip between your manure runoff zone and your water source. I would make it no less than 20 feet wide and make sure to leave the vegatation at least 8 - 12 inches tall. And, if you are unable to swale, as previously suggested, try hugelkulture to capture and help filter off some of those volitile nutrients.
 
John Polk
master steward
Pie
Posts: 8010
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I agree with the suggestions above.

Hard/fast rules are hard to give.
A lot depends on angle of slope, density/porosity of soil, water table, stocking rates, etc.

The key here is that if you are producing more manure than the soil/vegetation can absorb and use, you will end up contaminating your water source with the excess, unless you remove it to another area. One of the prime goals of permaculture is to create systems which reduce physical labor required for maintenance. Having to shovel manure weekly does not meet that goal. If you exceed an optimal stocking rate, you will have created a new (and not pleasant) chore for yourself.

The idea above for creating a wallow for the pigs is very important. Pigs do not sweat. To cool off, they wallow in a muddy pit, and cover themselves with a very thick "SPF". Tennessee certainly gets hot enough in the summer time (when feeders are being raised), where such a wallow will greatly improve their health, and consequently determine their growth rate. Healthy pigs reach market weight much faster than sickly, or uncomfortable pigs.

For a quick read on the basics for new pork raisers, I recommend this:
http://homegrownacres.com/more/2011/06/can-i-raise-a-pig/
It is not all of the details you will need, but it will give you the basics to begin planning an operation that will succeed.
If you don't know how to raise pigs, don't worry...the pigs will gladly teach you!

 
Walter Jeffries
Posts: 1085
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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We do managed rotational grazing with approximately 300 pigs on mountain pastures. The livestock poop and pee in the fields. We don't 'cleanup after them' because they are naturally distributing the fertilizer and 'cleaning up' is a waste of time and energy. Utilize their behaviors to your advantages, never make work.

Be cautious about having your livestock uphill of your water source. Use swales to direct the flow of surface water and a wide buffer. This is a good place to plant an orchard, berry bushes, gardens, etc.

A wonderful thing about having hills and a water source up hill is you can lay 1" black plastic pipe to waterers. We have several chains of waterers that are fed by springs. Each waterer then feeds the waterer below it through the pastures.

Another trick is the livestock are perfectly happy to walk to resources. Don't assume you have to have every resource in every paddock. Setup things to share.

A big advantage you have is that you don't get much in the way of freezing weather. We're in the mountains of northern Vermont where winter is, er, challenging. The warm season is the easy part of the year. Winter is a lot more work. If you keep your water flowing you won't even need to bury your water lines. Just lay them on the surface of the ground. Half or full barrels of 50 gallon plastic drums make excellent waterers. We bury ours in the ground for the most part as that helps keep them useful in the winter - ground heat rises up into them.

You may have times when you want to keep your animals off pastures to avoid damage due to rainy wet conditions. Have sacrificial paddocks that will get muddied up and highly fertilized. An advantage is the animals will kill off all the weeds. Then in the growing season plant those areas with fodder crops. We grow a lot of pumpkins, sunchokes, sunflowers, beets, turnips and such which then become feed for the animals in the next winter cycle. Use the manuring to your advantage.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
 
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