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Pigerator

 
pollinator
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I’m interested in trying Salatin’s pigerator technique to raise a pig or two for pork and to compost deep bedding in my cow shed this coming spring. Has anyone here done this or known anyone who has? My main question is about the smell. (The shed is fairly close to our house; no neighbors but our 12.5 acres of mixed meadow/wooded property is flanked by USFS atv trails.) Secondarily, how well did/does it work for you? Finally, the shed is 16’ x 24’. Do I need more than one pig (for piggy happiness perhaps)? There are three heifers, not quite 20 months old. A big TIA for any info anyone can help me out with! :-)
 
pioneer
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Can't help with the rest, but pigs are happier if you have more than one.  I wouldn't keep one alone.
 
gardener
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Hi Cindy;  I can tell you from experience , if you feed your pigs 2% food grade diamatetious earth, the smell is cut in half.  If you sprinkle more DE on the poop piles it will knock it back more. Plus the added bonus of healthy parasite free piggys and not that many flies!

Trace was spot on about how many pigs to have.  TWO minimum is my recommendation.  They might bond with your cows maybe...but they will bond with another piggy.  They need a buddy or they will get out and go looking for one. Find a freind or neighbor to purchase the extra pig.

I know nothing about Salatin's pigerator but it sure sounds cool.  I can tell you that anyplace they root they also stretch out for a nap in , handily compacting anything they just airated !!! Darn piggys !

Pigs are inteligent personable critters, sometimes if they like you they MIGHT do what you wanted... the rest of the time... Well have you heard the term "pig headed "  ?   Guess where it came from... mainly they do what ever they want. Pure luck if it is what you wanted them to do :)

 
Cindy Skillman
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Thanks guys! Good news about the D.E. I guess it would work for cow manure too, then. I’ll try it if the world (and the poop) ever thaws out. Good to know about the piggy buddy system. I’ll definitely make sure no pigs have to be lonely. That seems to be the way with all farm animals. I’m sure my brother would like some nice pastured pork.

The pigerator thing is like this, as I understand it: you keep your cattle more or less shedded for the winter (which I’m not really doing this year since... I just didn’t think of it, I guess, though they do voluntarily spend quite a lot of time there). They’re fed hay in the shed (in feeding stations that didn’t look to me like they’d work with Highland horns... I just built mangers off the side walls). Every couple days he runs a tractor through there, spreading bedding over the whole area. (I sprinkle the hay they’ve wasted over the poop piles with a pitchfork.) Then he pours corn around all over for the pigs. No pigs are present at this time; he hasn’t bought them yet. He keeps doing this as long as the cattle are confined. The pack heats up and he says the cows hardly go out into their little loafing yard. They like the warm. I’m pretty sure my cows hardly even notice the cold... they’re in it for the hay. And it’s too cold for it to start composting, so maybe it wouldn’t work for me anyway. Once the spring grass is established enough the cows go out to do their intensive grazing routine, he puts pigs in the shed and they root around for the corn, turning the bedding. After a couple months you have compost and the pigs can move on to other work.

I’m fond of pork but rarely buy it because I know how it was raised. :’-( Soooo I’d like to raise our own, but hubby grew up within smell of a pig factiory or three east river and says no way. Very emotionally. Like really emphatically. I keep telling him they won’t smell bad if you don’t leave them in filth... but the pigerator thing maybe IS leaving them in filth... I don’t know. What do you think? Maybe I should just turn the bedding myself and let any pigs I manage to get away with acquiring, rotate around the place like I’m planning to do with the cows.
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Cindy;  
Having smelled industrial pig farms myself ... I can understand your husbands concern.
Assure him two piggys could never smell like that!  Really nothing smells that bad.
Yes , feeding  D.E. will help with all your animals and for the barn yard, sprinkled on the poop piles.

My wife was getting sick from eating store bought pork. She was considering quitting pork.  (Secret meaning there is, I would be quitting as well...)
We tried a very expensive package of organic local pork chops with no antibiotics or hormones and she had no troubles!
Since then we have been raising our own.
Now we can not even eat any other pork. OURS IS SO GOOD !!!  We are spoiled and so will you be.  
 
Cindy Skillman
pollinator
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Well, I’ll keep working on him. I’ve driven past the pig “farms” too. I always try, but I can’t hold my breath that long, not even going 80 mph. It is truly horrifying. I can’t even conceive of working in or living near such a thing as that. I’m gonna win him over eventually. LOL... I can hardly believe he’s going along with chickens, let alone cows. Pigs may take a little longer.
 
gardener
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The key is carbon, carbon, carbon.  You need a good source of wood chips, straw, sawdust, wood shavings or some other heavy carbon source to bury all the cattle manure.  The second thing you'll need are corn kernels to mix in with the chips and manure so that the corn slowly ferments as it gets buried in all that poop over the winter.  

Every couple of days, throw half a bucket of corn kernels around, and then put down a layer of chips and/or straw over the manure and corn.  The carbon will absorb a lot of the liquids and will help keep the manure from smelling.  You don't want it to compost, so the drier the chips, the better.  Continue to layer the corn and carbon every few days.  The cattle will stomp it down.  By the end of winter, it may be 3 feet deep or deeper.  THEN, once winter is over and the cattle are let out to graze,  you turn the pigs loose to dig it all up for you.  The one thing that pigs like even more than corn is fermented corn.  They'll be happier than, well . . . happier than pigs in shit.  

One thing you''ll need to figure out is how to elevate your mangers as the level of the ground continues to rise.  Salatan has his on some sort of pulley system so that he can raise them to a level where the cows don't have to reach down so low as they are standing on top of an ever increasing mound of chips and manure.

Best of luck.  Let us know how it turns out for you.  Take pictures.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Thanks, Marco. I was wondering about the mangers getting buried. Mine are screwed into the poles that support the shed, so I could move them up the poles... not as easy, but not too difficult to manage. I figured I d just let the girls reach down, but that’ll only work until the reach ends up being into an actual hole, by which time it might not be all that easy to move them. Only with three cows who don’t spend all that much time in their 12’x24’ shed, I’m thinking it may not get to that point. I might have to wait until next year to really do this.

I’m not too worried about the cow smell since it’s winter. Frozen poop doesn’t smell except a little on the occasional warm day. (Read: significantly above freezing for a long enough stretch.) LOL It’s the pig smell once they get in there and start pooping as well. Do you know whether that will be a factor?

I saw a vid of Salatin giving a farm tour. I think it was that NC guy who was touring around the country profiling all kinds of small farms who produced it. Anyway, when they got to the winter cattle shed, Salatin and his little daughter made a big point of the “pack” being very warm. The girl handed some to the videographer to feel. I’m pretty sure it’s warmer in WV than it is here, tho. I’d be really surprised if my pack were to start heating up. I was just concerned that the lack of compost activity could be a problem, but maybe it’s not necessary for the pigerator thing.
 
Marco Banks
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I think that the thing that keeps it from turning all that corn to compost is that there isn't a lot of oxygen being mixed down into the "pack" (as you put it).  The lowest levels go anerobic so decomposition significantly slows down.  But with all that nitrogen rich manure and urine, you've got to have twice as much carbon to slow decomposition down and soak up all that moisture.  

You wouldn't need to purchase your pigs until you're about ready to turn them into the mix.  March?  They'll need to be big enough to move the mulch around.

Best of luck.  Pictures, please!
 
Cindy Skillman
pollinator
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I think that the thing that keeps it from turning all that corn to compost is that there isn't a lot of oxygen being mixed down into the "pack" (as you put it).  The lowest levels go anerobic so decomposition significantly slows down.  



Good point. That makes sense. We’re going to town tomorrow morning early to pick up a chipper from the rental place. It can do up to six inch wood. We have loads and loads of carbon... it’s really dense and hard at present, though. By Monday morning, instead of burn piles we’ll have mostly chip piles. I guess we’ll just tarp them. Not sure what else to do better than that. Wish us luck! At my age that’s gonna be a LOT of exercise. LOL

Salatin did say the weight of pigs he uses... I’ll have to look it up.
 
Marco Banks
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Salatan talks about his "pigerator" from about the 4:00 mark till 7:00 or so.
 
Cindy Skillman
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I really enjoyed that video, Marco. Thanks for posting it! Lots of good info. It’s been a busy couple of days, but we now have a semi-impressive pile of bedding piled up next to the cow shed waiting to be tarped. Ordinarily I wouldn’t do that, but the chips are very dry and it’s been cold enough I’m not worried. Besides it was that or let it spread out in all directions. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be long gone by spring. DH remains adamant about pigs, but we’ll see what happens. 😉 He likes pork, too... the old kind you used to get before it was rehabilitated into a leaner, whiter, more PC meat. 😏
 
gardener
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Another waste disposal & soil building technique you might want to consider is worms. Dig or find a shallow pit. Fill with cow pies & occasionally some used chicken straw. Throw in some red wigglers or similar worms. Don't know first hand about feeding worms pig poo but that seems reasonable ... in moderation. About a month, maybe two, before spring planting either start a new worm pit or move the old to one side of the pit & start adding the incoming manure to the other side. Move 10-20% of the old manure into the new pile to help the worms repopulate. Then a month or two later use last year's vermicompost (& worms) in this year's gardens. It adds up fast. Builds soil fast once it gets rolling.

 
Cindy Skillman
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Ooh! Wonderful idea! We got a tractor (because we’re way too old to fix the road by shovel any more). Oh my goodness! Why didn’t we do that many, many years ago?! Instead of toys... The road is now flat for the first time ever, and we can dig holes! For worms! DH will be aghast, but he cannot complain. First, earthworms do not stink. Second, he now loves to dig holes. 😎

I am now the proud owner of a great big, wide pile of nice dry pine chips and we’ve gone to one small woodpile (of too-big logs) from three... four, maybe five or six if you count all the dead stuff we dragged down from the hillside. There could have been more, but DH has painfully swollen finger joints... arthritis aggravated by radiation and chemo drugs. (Otherwise, all better now, thank God and his bone marrow donor—his middle son). So... mostly just me on the hopper and I could barely crawl out of bed this morning. LOL. I had the time of my life. Now that was a machine I thoroughly enjoyed! He was so sweet to get up early and take the chipper back to the rental place for me. And I’ve been playing all day since that with my lady friends, painting a picture of my pretty cows. I’m all rested up and ready for the next adventure. Where does one go to buy verms?
 
Mike Barkley
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Under old cow pies & the local bait shops are often good places to find worthy worms.

Oh my goodness! Why didn’t we do that many, many years ago?!



Exactly.
 
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In my limited experience a couple of pigs do not make much smell. They always poop in the same corner making it easy to clean with a big flat shovel.
 
Cindy Skillman
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Thanks, Jon. That sounds encouraging!
 
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