Dale Hodgins wrote:I'm sure we will try several types of pig. These large black ones are well adapted to the climate and they are good foragers. It's important that at least some of our pigs, not only root for their food, but also consume browse from trees and shrubs. We may want to use them to clean up ground cover in the edge zone between silvopasture and field crop zones. On hot days, which is almost every day, I would like to allow them to retreat to dense stands of giant lucina and neem. Some testing will be needed, to see if they decide to debark those trees. We can't have that. If they are bent on destruction, we will put chain link around maybe one acre of trees, so they can have a shade run. If they are well-behaved, I'd like to run them in many areas.
They will never be allowed to just roam the entire farm. I intend to grow several things that they are bound to destroy. I hope to make moringa leaf a big part of our income. The bark is tender, nutritious and tasty. Just about everyone throws moringa to their pigs, branches and all, and they completely debark it.
When managed for leaf, these trees are cut to within 3 feet of the ground, at least twice a year. The soft wood rots very quickly and does not make good charcoal or firewood. It is worthless as a building wood. So, I expect to throw all of our tops to the pigs, so they can eat it and then stomp all over it. It will then be mixed with manure for composting.
Dale Hodgins wrote:Starting a Tropical Piggery
I hope some nice moderator will put this thread in Tropical and Pigs. I put it here because I plan for this farm to be quite large.
Here in the southern Philippines, the weather is perfect for pigs. We never get under 70 Fahrenheit and it seldom gets over 90. Pigs raised with a wallow and shade, don't require any heating or cooling. This helps with feed conversion. Every pig wallowing in mega-farm shit, wishes he could live on a tropical island.
Good quality mixed feeds are available. Small farms almost always supplement this feed with waste products from other operations, like cut and carry feed, including grasses, unsaleable fruit, and leaves from nitrogen producing trees. Restaurant waste and leftovers from the markets, are fed to pigs... Successful use of supplemental feed often determines profitability.
Pork is worth between 2 and 4 dollars per pound, at the market, depending on the cut. I expect to market most of mine on restaurant plates. Sometimes we will roast whole hogs on a spit. Very popular here. The cost of pork is often the single greatest cost for a restaurant. I want to have my own supply and all of the vegetables that grow well in pig manure.
One goal, is to have all of the manure I need, to get thousands of young trees up and going, on a plantation that will specialize in dried leaf and spices for the foreign market. There will be lots of other crops grown between the trees. Sweet corn and beans are popular and their waste can be ground up and fed to pigs.
I expect at least half of our trees to be nitrogen producers that far surpass clover and alfalfa in their ability to provide protein and biomass.
The primary export crop will be moringa leaf. When the little leaves are stripped from the stems, to make dried leaf powder, about 25% of the weight is a fairly soft stem that has protein, vitamins and minerals. Sounds like pig food to me.
We will cover much of our land, in nitrogen producers such as giant luceana, tagasaste and pigeon peas. Giant luceana will be grown for saw logs, but probably half of the volume will only be good for firewood or charcoal. I want to be in the energy business. In rural Philippines, that doesn't mean oil wells. It means fire wood and charcoal. Two things that are in great demand and sometimes short supply.
It all starts with pigs. When I first decided that we need a plantation, I thought we would start with trees.
I didn't realize until recently, that my export spice and leaf business, with rental rooms, horses and camping, must start with pigs.
Most land that is available at rock bottom prices, has been seriously abused. A program of forage tree planting, manure application and crowd grazing, is required to turn it into something other than scrubland. I want that to be a mixture of regenerated forest and useful farmland. It must be a beautiful place to visit, and to live.
For just about anything to be successful, someone must live there full time. This is to prevent theft of tools and crops and to prevent others from squatting on the land. A pig farm gives an instant reason for workers to live there. That is the preference for most farm workers. They don't want to have to pay rent somewhere.
Areas to be planted, must first be cleared of other growth. In most cases, what is already there won't be palatable to pigs. It often requires machete work and yields some firewood and very fibrous material that might be suitable for bedding. After ground has been cleared of this stuff, it can be fertilized with pig manure and it will grow grasses, sweet potatoes and other things that pigs like.
The default crop in many areas, are coconuts that are barely worth picking off the ground. Lots of places that are for sale, contain the trees that the last guy couldn't make any money from. They can be worth 50 cents each in the city, but often only five cents in the countryside. They make excellent pig food. Coconuts don't live a long time. As they die out, we will replace them with more profitable crops.
Since I've never run a pig farm, I will hire someone who has. They are available for about $6 a day. I will also hire my brother in law, but he will not be in charge. I want someone experienced to teach him everything, so that he can one day do it himself. Most of his work experience involves swinging a machete at a coconut. He will be in charge of gathering cut and carry feed and digging tree planting holes anywhere that I put a stake in the ground.
Manure handling will be the most difficult thing to teach workers. I want this manure to be used for the establishment of trees and other crops. I want it to be mixed with lots of bedding.
I want it kept dry and contained, so that nothing ever runs into the river. I don't want it to stink.
This all sounds simple enough, but manure handling is the most common thing I see going wrong on small farms, mostly because no one has impressed it upon the workers that this is important, and that their jobs depend on it.
Often, pigs are kept without bedding or without enough beddeng. This creates a stinky situation, where nutrients are leaving by air and often by water. I want to convert a lot of rough fiber, to usable compost and mulch. This is easily achieved by mixing it with pig shit.
So, I have to find a way to make Sonny, my brother in law and the other guy, prioritize the creation and utilization of bedding. Pretty easy to do when I'm there, but there will be times when I'm away for months. It might be as simple as insisting on a video call every day. And we could mark out daily allotments for machete clearing. The cleared material becomes bedding.
Rice hulls, bagasse and some other waste materials are available free, in large quantity.
I envision using a large concrete sewage lagoon that has a roof over it. Right beside it should be a silo for rice hulls, corn cobs, peanut hulls etc. that could be used to absorb liquid and smells.
You can almost always trust workers to feed and water the animals. It will take lots of oversight to make sure that they clear the land, to create bedding and gather manure to the lagoon on a daily basis. Given the opportunity, many people will avoid jobs they consider unsavory.
Big side note...
I have witnessed hundreds of employees in this country, lounging and socializing when there is work to be done. When there are few customers, the girls at 7-eleven make phone calls and chat, while every table is covered in food packaging and ketchup splatters. When I ask for a washcloth, one of them usually rushes out to clean one table, before she goes back to yakking.
I had to yell several times to get the attention of the girls selling rice at a roadside market, owned by their parents. Both were so engrossed in Facebook, that they allowed several customers to move along, without buying anything. It's absolutely rampant, and probably the number one reason why I will look for mostly male workers. They don't seem nearly so attached to their phones. Even then, phones may need to be locked in a cabinet during work hours.
Marketing... With many endeavors, probably most of them, marketing is what makes or breaks it. Marketing is simply not a problem with pork in the Philippines. If the price and quality are right, it's a very easy thing to sell. So it's all about production. Feeding the animals and keeping them healthy and growing, at low cost. Preventing theft is right up there as well, which is why the operation needs to be large enough that it's worth always having someone there, night and day.
The majority of new agricultural enterprises seem to focus on producing one or a couple of commodities, often with purchased inputs.
My goal is to improve the land by covering it with crop trees and forests. It has to be nice enough that people will want to rent a room, a horse, a motorcycle or spend money in other ways.
It can't look or smell like a regular pig farm. Pigs must occupy a small percentage of the land at any given time, but if they are a good money maker, it's ok for much of the farm to be given over to producing their food.
Pork production will allow me to feed a restaurant, workers and motel guests. It will also feed the soil.
Pigs can be used in land clearing and maintenance. The moving of fencing and tethers, the bringing of water and feeding in remote corners of the farm, can be a labor-intensive thing. That's ok, when the entire cost of employment is under $10 a day, for a person to handle these tasks while at the same time, doing machete work and digging holes in prescribed places for new trees.
The costs of doing this is low enough that I don't mind giving it a year-long trial. It's likely, that at first, the majority of feed will be purchased, which will consume most income. All that bought feed, will give a nutrient boost to the land.
Low-grade sugarcane can be the primary energy source for pigs. The juice is pressed out, leaving large amounts of bagasse which is a good mulch.
Rock powders and mineral rich salt licks will help to build soil.
I expect to improve the land in an ever widening area around the pig house. As land becomes productive, it will be put into paddock rotation. We will also produce fruit and vegetables in the improved areas, and graze each block after harvest.
Forage grows all year. Mixtures of corn and beans and other things can be produced all year. There's a 2 month dry period, but even then there's pretty regular, light rainfall.
Forage trees can produce some roughage when annual crops are in short supply. Many crops don't have a season, they just give you a harvest somewhere between 40 and 120 days after planting.
It's easy to see why poor farmers, with small amounts of land are able to deplete it so thoroughly. Many crops per year, in a wet climate, often without replenishment of nutrients. Works with slash and burn, but much of this land has been continuously cultivated for generations.
During periods of abundance, we will fill a silo. Some things are more easily digested after fermenting. Luceana and tagasaste are more palatable when fermented with sugar cane or molasses. When cassava is finely chopped and sun dried, then turned into silage, most cyanide is removed.
Pigs have been shown to thrive on silage that is 70% azolla. Azolla can be over 25% protein when dry. The remainder can be mostly, cassava, sugar cane or corn stocks with other starches, such as sweet potatoes or breadfruit.
It's possible to raise pigs on pasture, without purchased grain. Native pigs don't usually get grain unless they steal it. Pasture that contains lots of pigeon peas and beans, can provide more protein than if only grasses were used.
Azolla produces more protein than any other thing I could grow. Areas that hold water naturally, will be managed for azolla, mostly by controlling phosphorus levels. I've seen pigs and chickens eating azolla on YouTube. Temporary ponds made by laying out rubber and raising the sides, could be used to contain water for azolla growth and when the pond is moved, we would have soil beneath with all weeds smothered.
Azolla is by far the fastest nitrogen producer to release that nitrogen to other crops. Within a few weeks of seeding a pond, it can be fed to animals who will spread fertility around the farm. Narrow ponds could be used to build a moat around crops that need to be protected from ground crawling critters. Chickens can feed directly from azolla ponds. Pigs would destroy the liner, so they must be fenced out , except for a small area just big enough to drink from.
One video showed pigs harvesting their own azolla from a pond, but it is so wet that it can cause the runs. After spending a day in the sun and losing 3/4 of its weight, pigs readily consume it. It can provide virtually all protein but must be mixed with sources of energy and fiber.
Smell control is mostly about proper manure handling. Workers will be instructed to gather up every bit of manure that is near the house. Manure around pig housing will be either smothered in bedding or placed in a covered lagoon. Wallows can get smelly. Sometimes the old clay may need to be spread, away from the dwelling and new clay put in place of it.
Every new thing that gets planted will need manure. If work is being done as instructed, there should never be a surplus.
Every new tree that is planted, could use a wheelbarrow load. Every new banana pit, could use 10 wheelbarrows.
Eventually I want most manure to go into a biogas generator. The gas is needed, once we start cooking for many people. It could also power a forage chopper or generator.
Chickens. Chickens can be raised in the tropics without any supplemental feed. My mother-in-law collects eggs daily, but does not feed her chickens. She provides them with housing and a dog that scares away predators. They are responsible for finding their own food and water. It's working for her. She does no other management of her little plot of land.
Chickens can be part of a rotation with pigs and they don't eat much of what the pig would want. They will pick fly larvae and dung beetles anywhere that manure has been deposited, and in the process, they spread that manure over a wider area. They eat many insects that consume forage crops. They are better mousers than the majority of cats.
I'm not sure what the chicken to pig ratio should be, but I suspect that we could have many more chickens. They are much smaller. There's probably a population density where they will eat up all of the dung beetles and I'm not sure how important that is. Chickens will also extirpate certain types of snakes, mostly through the killing of baby snakes. So, there needs to be places of refuge for those snakes. Pretty easy to do in the sort of rough land I've been looking at, where only 10 to 50% could ever be cropland. Lots of steep rocky spots that are best returned to forest.
Goats, cattle and buffalo. When sugar cane or corn are being used to feed pigs, there are portions of the plants which are better utilized by ruminants. The tops of sugarcane are readily devoured by all of them. Corn stalks and bean vines and other fibrous crop residue that pigs may reject, are suitable for the ruminants. Several types of nitrogen producing tree are not top dietary choices for pigs, but the others do well on them, so it is their manure that would spread that fertility around the farm.
The carabao, descended from the Chinese swamp buffalo is a very powerful animal, but also a docile and cooperative beast of burden. I expect to use at least one of them to haul the big cart that would be loaded with cut and carry feed for the pigs. They are also very useful in log skidding and general land clearing.
Ruminants will only be added after pigs and chicken are well-established, along with the forage trees that they help to grow. I think we would start with just enough goats to consume roughage that the pigs reject. There's no point getting a carabao, until there's at least half a ton of cut and carry to be hauled each day.
We are going to need some biochar. I wasn't completely sold on biochar while living in Canada, where hugelkultur performs pretty well. Wood placed in 80° soil that is wet all year, disappears very quickly. I want something that doesn't have to be replenished constantly.
We have pretty much the same type of climate and soil, as in the Amazon, where Terra Preta soil was first discovered.
Charcoal manufacture is often quite primitive. I know how to build a good quality kiln and can come up with lots of uses for the gases that are normally burnt off or allowed to pollute the neighbourhood. So, I will produce charcoal from my own tree cuttings, but also from free rice hulls and bagasse.
I will also offer my services to create charcoal from other people's trees. This will be done for a percentage of the finished product. Little bits and bark, often flake off of charcoal and are left as waste in the bottom of the kiln, along with some ash. I will use or sell my good charcoal and the low grade stuff, along with ash, will be added to the soil. It probably won't be broadcast on the soil. I think it makes sense to mix it with manure in order to control odour, but also to raise pH and allow the charcoal portion to become saturated with nutrients.
After a certain amount of time in the lagoon, manure will be mixed with rice hulls or other materials, to make it dry enough that it can sit in big piles, under a roof, with a tarp on it. I don't know how long it will take for this manure to be ready to spread. It's likely that a pile like this will stay a little warmer than the average temperature of 85 degrees. There's only a three degree difference between the hottest and coldest month.
I think it's best to write the book after this project is well established, so I will stop here and await input from others.
Do any of you have other ideas of how you would make money and build soil fertility, using pigs, 6.5 degrees from the equator?