Pasture Pork 101: Comprehensive Agent Training in Pasture-based Hog production

Final Report for ES06-083

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $62,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Todd See
North Carolina State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project developed the Pasture Pork 101 program which included a series of in-service training workshops for agriculture agents. In-depth training was provided to agents in Pork Muscle Quality, Value Added Processing, Pork Marketing, Production Practices, Pasture Management and Food Safety. In addition, a "Pasture Based Pork Production Manual" was initiated providing resources to agents. Agents were trained on the use of the Pork Information Gateway (ncsu.porkgateway.org) and provided state specific resources at http://www.ncchoices.com/farmer_tools.html. This program has aided small farmers in establishing production systems and markets.

Project Objectives:
  • • Provide county extension agents with advanced knowledge and skill set in pasture-based hog production, bolstering the agent’s attitude towards sustainable agriculture, ending a reluctance to provide comprehensive training to local farmers.
    • Facilitate a series of comprehensive training session for extension agents covering all aspects of pasture-based hog production enabling these agents to provide more one-on-one technical assistance.
    • Focus training on incorporation of pigs into diversified farming operations to encourage agents with both crop and livestock appointments to attend and collaborate on farmer training in their own counties.
    • Use “model farms” each located in the three distinct regions of North Carolina (Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal), giving extension agents a hands-on training appropriate for their own environment and a local contact for future county-run workshops.
    • Create a series of extension bulletins as part of a larger manual for agents to use and distribute from home offices.
    • Build on and learn from other successful SARE-funded projects.
Introduction:

Since 1970, numbers of hog farms in North Carolina has decreased while numbers of hogs per farm has increased (Honeyman, 1996). Despite this rise of confined hog production, many North Carolina farmers have turned to small-scale hog farming enterprises as a way to diversify and bring more income to their farms. With this trend there is a new demand on county extension agents to provide guidance on pasture-based hog systems with which they may not be familiar, In response, collaborators form North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Carolina farm Stewardship Association, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and a diverse group of farmer advisors have developed a comprehensive series of training in pasture-based pork production. With this series, entitle Pasture Pork 101, we can encourage a shift in agent’s attitudes towards sustainable agriculture and empower them to offer their own county-based workshops and to work one-on-one with their local farmers.

This series included seven, one-day workshops on all aspects of hog production and incorporated “model farms” located in the three distinct regions of North Carolina (Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal), giving extension agents a hands-on training appropriate for their own environment and a contact for their own future workshops hosted in their counties. Workshop topics included, planning and managing for profitable pastured pigs, breeding and gestation, farrowing management, pasture management, nutrition and herd health, pork muscle quality and value-added processing, pork marketing and pork safety.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Sarah Morgan

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

A series of training workshops were conducted to lead extension personnel through all aspects of alternative pork production. From setting up the land to marketing the animals and/or meat. North Carolina (and indeed the Southeast) has a very diverse geography. From the mountains to the coast, farms and systems were featured in different environments in order to showcase best management practices for each region. Workshops were held on three different cooperator farms in different regions of the state that showcased differences in production methods, soils, and pastures. Workshops were also held at the NCSU Meat Processing Laboratory and in conference centers geographically distributed across the state.

Outreach and Publications

  1. Presentations and Publications Created for this Program

    Pork Quality

    Pork Slaughter

    Impact of Production System, Breeds and Nutrition on Quality

    Record-keeping package

    Hog Breeds and Genetic Selection for Outdoor Produciton

    Swine Herd Health

    Parasite control for outdoor swine produciton in North Carolina

    A healthy hog tool kit

    Targeted Tips

    Creating healthy sows for niche reproduction

    Nutrition for outdoor production

    Conservation planning guidelines for outdoor swine operations

    Determining effects of hog stocking rate on soil and vegetation disturbance in established stad of tall fescue

    Research priorities to assist in the development of sustainable outdoor swine operations

    Selection and planting of forage and pasture plants

    Grazing guide

    Fence:Conservation practice job sheet

    Frequently asked questions about processing and marketing beef, pork, lamb and goat meats in North Carolina and South Carolina

    Marketing and produciton of niche pork in NC

    Resources for extension program outreach

    Strategy for creating a sustainable local food system

    Cost of produciton for a 28 sow herd producing 16 weaned pigs/sow/year

    Opportunities and challenges for direct marketing niche pork in North Carolina

    Current market opportunites, challenges & profit potential for farmers

    Additional resources were obtained from other states and agencies and made available to participants.

Outcomes and impacts:
  • Generated excitement amongst Extension Livestock Agents in providing educational programs for pasture-based pork producers.

    Enhanced knowledge on the establishment of niche markets and direct markets for pork products.

    Enhanced knowledge on niche market pork production practices.

    Trained and certified agents to deliver the Pork Quality Assurance plus program.

    Provided materials to Agents for delivery of extension programs to pasture-based pork producers.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The following "success stories" were reported to the NC Cooperative Extension System by participants in this workshop series. These stories detail how this information was translated to economic and social benefits in their local communities.

Year: 2008
Number: 24576
Name:McAdams, Karen J
County: Orange
Entered: 2008-06-27
Story: The demand for locally grown and pasture raised meats is increasing in Orange and Durham counties. New small farmers, as well as traditional farmers are finding that they can market meat directly to consumers or to high end restaurants and grocers at a premium. To help provide educational information and support for these new swine producers, a series of three Pastured Pork meetings were held to provide growers with information on herd health, pasture management, nutrition and marketing. The meetings were co-sponsored by Orange Cooperative Extension and NC CHOICES. Nineteen different growers from across the state participated.

Year: 2008
Number: 24579
Name:McAdams, Karen J
County: Orange
Entered: 2008-06-27
Story: Farm diversification continues to be of interest to local farmers. The Annual Agricultural Summit was again held this year in February with over 125 in attendance. Programs were provided to growers on alternative enterprises including organic grains, pastured pork, grassfed lamb, a potential new value added center, the growing interest in "local foods" and marketing options. This event generates a great deal of interest from county commissioners, other legislators, as well as the news media. Many farmers over the years have attended this event and gone on to add some type of new enterprise to their farming operation.

Year: 2008
Number: 25245
Name:Hartsfield, James
County: Sampson
Entered: 2008-09-12
Story: In 2008, the Small Farm Outreach Training and Technical Project in Duplin County in conjunction with the NCA&TSU-CEP, assisted a small farmer in getting maximum land use practices for his outdoor pasture pork operation by planting a cover crop. As a result of his cover crop the farmer was able to get better land use by rotating hogs from one area to another area this help the soil by putting nutrient back into the soil, fertilizing cover crop from animal waste, keeping his swine from rooting the ground, protecting his land for soil erosion and run off, grazing his hogs and getting nutrient from it and providing better shelter and safe environment for his out door swine operation.

Year: 2008
Number: 25627
Name:Hartsfield, James
County: Sampson
Entered: 2008-12-09
Story: Niche pork producers in Duplin and Sampson Counties are facing higher input costs, due to increasing grain and feed prices. In an effort to assist area niche pork producers to receive a premium market price for their products, Area Farm Management, Livestock agents in Duplin and Sampson County partner with North Carolina A&T State University Cooperative Extension Associates and Specialist to conduct workshop to assist small pasture raised pork producers: 1) alternative grains, 2) supplements, 3) grazing on rotational cover crop and 4) economical methods for feeding swine. As a result of participation in the workshop, fifteen (15) pasture pork producers has reported an increase in income. Participating farmers are now able to deliver and market sixty hogs per week to Whole Foods Market are receiving$1.04per lbs. with an averaging of 200lbs. per carcass weight. The combined income earned for all participants was $648,960.00.

Year: 2008
Number: 25774
Name:Burns, Linda Paige
County: Richmond
Entered: 2008-12-15
Story: The Richmond County Horticulture Agent co-hosted a Farmer to Farmer Program with Moore County Agent Taylor Williams. The original program, sponsored by University of North Carolina at A&T, was the model for this program. Growers interested in alternative crops, markets, and production systems visited growers in Chatham County who had current activity in these areas. Cover crops, pastured pork and poultry, and organic feed and hay production were some of the topics featured. Seven participants answered the program evaluation form. Six out of seven reported they had planted cover crops as a result of information from the program, while 5 stated they had improved pest management. Five of seven stated they had increased farm sales as a result of information gathered in the program. Six stated they had increased acreage and planted new crops since participating. All seven respondents stated they would strongly recommend the program to others.

Year: 2008
Number: 26748
Name:Kendall, David
County: Madison
Entered: 2008-12-31
Story: Small farmers are facing many difficult and complicated changes as they search for replacements to traditional income sources such as tobacco and beef cattle. New entry farmers as well as seasoned multi-generational farmers must re-tool themselves as well as their farms to meet new market demands. Many are not well suited for these changes-especially regarding market assessment and interaction. Cooperative Extension in Madison County has responded by researching market information and reaching across to marketing and other professionals to help. In 2008, the Small Farms Program helped connect at least 40 small farmers in a four county area to buyers, marketers, health and safety experts, public relations professionals, and new equipment and facilities available for them to try out new products. From this effort, among the new products created and marketed were: dried shiitake mushrooms, dried tomatoes and apples, dried herbs, heirloom cornmeal, and specialty pork products. Many participants are now

Year: 2008
Number: 26784
Name:Pless, Carl D
County: Cabarrus
Entered: 2008-12-31
Story: Cabarrus County Commissioners have the vision of a more sustainable community. They want food produced locally to be available to local folks. Cattle have been the county’s largest income producer for quite a few years. The closest slaughter plant is an hour and a half. Extension assisted the county in the successful application for a NCDA Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation grant to add a livestock slaughter plant to an existing meat processing plant. The process of obtaining water, waste water and construction permits is underway. When the plant becomes operational, local farmers can market direct to consumers, institutional buyers and restaurants fresh, natural, forage or grain fed beef, pork, lamb and goat. Extension conducted several educational meetings to help interested farmers determine if direct marketing meat should be a part of their production enterprise.

Year: 2007
Number: 21469
Name:Jackson, Star
County: Duplin
Entered: 2007-03-08
Story: 12 niche swine producers attended a Pork Quality Assurance class taught by Star Jackson in Duplin County. There was a 67% increase in knowledge through the use of pre and post tests and all 12 participants became PQA Level III certified. These same producers also attended a Trucker Quality Assurance class taught jointly by Nicole Thompson, instructor at James Sprunt Community College that same day. 6 of the 12 participants passed the test to become TQA certified.

Year: 2007
Number: 21711
Name:Lanier, James M
County: Orange
Entered: 2007-06-25
Story: During the past six months I have been coordinating efforts of a local restaurant entrepreneur, whose goal is all local food in his restaurants, and local hog farmers who produce hogs outside with no growth hormones or antibiotics. Efforts during the past six months were limited to a small supply so that the business owner could understand his costs and how to best utilize all the cuts and also produce value-added products. Farmers have received $1.19 per pound carcass weight, a price significantly higher than commodity prices, which also caused Whole Foods to raise its prices. The entrepreneur has developed partnerships based on my suggestions and has developed a brand called Farmers’ Pledge. The partnership, which already has strong ties to the local high-end restaurant market, plans to distribute local pork from local farmers to upscale restaurants and markets with the eventual goal of 500 local, outside-raised hogs per week.

Year: 2007
Number: 21747
Name:Jackson, Star
County: Duplin
Entered: 2007-06-26
Story: 12 producers were certified in Pork Quality Plus and Trucker Quality Assurance by Star Jackson, Duplin County Extension Agent and Nicole Thompson, James Sprunt Community College Instructor. By obtaining these certifications, they can now sell their niche swine pork to companies for up to a 46 cent premium per pound. This equates to a potential of $132,480 dollars of increased income to be earned from their feeder pigs to be sold during 2007.

Year: 2007
Number: 22030
Name:McAdams, Karen J
County: Orange
Entered: 2007-06-29
Story: The demand for locally grown and pasture raised meats is increasing in Orange and Durham counties. New small farmers, as well as traditional farmers are finding that they can market meat directly to consumers or to high end restaurants and grocers at a premium. To help provide educational information to swine producers, a series of four Pastured Pork meetings and a tour were planned to provide growers with information on herd health, pasture management, conservation issues and marketing. The meetings were co-sponsored by Orange Cooperative Extension, NC CHOICES and NC A&T SU. Twenty two different growers from across the state participated.

Year: 2007
Number: 22307
Name:Hartsfield, James
County: Sampson
Entered: 2007-07-11
Story: In 2007, the Sampson and Duplin Small Farm Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Project, in conjunction with the NCA&TSU-CEP organized two vital educational workshops to assist small pasture raised pork businesses to: 1) Be trained and certified in the safe handling and transporting of value-added pork products; and 2) Develop and complete a comprehensive animal health management plan required by the Animal Welfare Institute http://www.awionline.org/farm/. As a result of participation in these workshops, seven Sampson county minority owned pasture raised pork businesses are now able to sell their value-added pork to the specialty grocer Whole Foods Market. Seven participants of this class who agreed to be evaluated three to six months after taking this class have each reported an increase in business income. The combined income of all seven participants was $42,792.47, of which they attributed this increase to attending and applying the knowledge imparted in these two educationaL programs.

Year: 2007
Number: 23552
Name:Guth, Leigh
County: Lincoln
Entered: 2007-12-28
Story: Extension expanded markets for farmers with the opening of the Lincoln County Farmers Market at Denver. One pasture-raised pork producer reported $10,000 in sales at the Denver market in 2007. Survey results showed average weekly sales ranged from $65 to $380. Peak weekend sales ranged from $300 to $758. Approximately 20 vendors participated throughout the season including organic and traditional farmers, plant vendors, artists, meat producers and value added products such as salsa, cheese and marinades.

Year: 2007
Number: 23712
Name:Roos, Debbie L
County: Chatham
Entered: 2007-12-28
Story: Successful farmers who produce vegetables and cut flowers to sell at farmers’ markets and to area restaurants regularly add new crops and enterprises to increase diversification, capture a new income stream, and reduce risk to their operation. Many area farmers are integrating small-scale livestock into their horticultural operations to meet demand for pastured raised meats. These farmers often face a sharp learning curve in dealing with animals. Cooperative Extension conducted a Pastured Pork workshop for 65 farmers to teach them how to integrate pigs into their operations. In a post- workshop evaluation, 81% of participants rated the workshop as "excellent" or "outstanding". 90% responded they had gained “much” or "very much” knowledge as a result of the workshop, and 96% said they acquired knowledge that would make their farm more sustainable. Participants commented: very outstanding program; informative and well-detailed notebook, enthusiastic well-informed speakers; outstanding speakers and great panel.

Year: 2006
Number: 18801
Name:Jackson, Star
County: Duplin
Entered: 2006-06-13
Story: 25 Small Scale Swine producers have been participating in relevant educational programs provided by the Duplin County Cooperative Extension and A&T State University. Topics covered over the last four months have included: Record Keeping, Learning to Secure Niche Markets, and Production Management Techniques. This will be an ongoing educational series with monthly meetings to address issues faced by the producers. Over the last four years approximately $2.3 million (gross sales) of pastured raised pork has been sold to Niman Ranch by the 25 producers in Duplin County. The pork product is marketed under the agreement that the animals are fed no animal by-products, given no antibiotics, and have been given no growth promotant hormones. The goal of the local producers is to create a market for their product in this area, which will provide them with a premium price and the consumers a quality product.

Year: 2006
Number: 19047
Name:McAdams, Karen J
County: Orange
Entered: 2006-06-28
Story: There has been considerable interest in the Triangle area from livestock producers wanting to improve profit potential on their livestock operations by direct marketing grass-finished, grain finished, or pastured local pork, lamb, goat and beef. Partly as a result of extension educational efforts and programs, a total of twelve producers are now increasing farm income by marketing meat directly to consumers. Educational programs on a multi-county and local level have provided both management and marketing information to these producers and to potential customers.

Year: 2006
Number: 19897
Name:Hartsfield, James
County: Sampson
Entered: 2006-11-16
Story: Limited resource farm businesses often choose non-stable, but initially lucrative farm markets. This was the case for 50 NC small livestock operations who marketed specialty pork solely to Niman Ranch (NR). In September 2006, NR announced NC purchases would cease due to meat processing facility. This income loss to limited resource pork producers represented $2.3 million dollars (gross sales) since 2002. Over the last four years, producers scaled up operations to meet the demand asserted by NR buyers, but in so doing failed to maintain high quality. In response to this crisis, the NCA&TSU Small Farmers Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Project (Sampson/Duplin counties) organized and conducted a Pork Quality Assurance School to build producer skills to improve pork quality. 22 producers were trained by NCCE Specialists on applied livestock quality skills and research. Attendees are now selling to alternative markets, with the hope of gaining back Niman Ranch trust.

Year: 2006
Number: 20102
Name:Worden, Lara
County: Gaston
Entered: 2006-12-12
Story: In the Spring of 2006, a Cleveland County livestock producer contacted Cooperative Extension, requesting support in evaluating an expansion of their current agricultural enterprise: pastured pork production. The area farm management agent met with the farm family and made suggestions on how to best manage their existing pastured pork operation and the new pastured poultry, and lamb operations. As a direct result of suggestions made by the farm management agent, the farmer joined the NC Choices program and implemented BMP's to optimize the use of their existing pastures, with the hopes that these efforts will increase their total gross income per pound of product sold.

Year: 2006
Number: 20436
Name:McAdams, Karen J
County: Orange
Entered: 2006-12-20
Story: The demand for locally grown and pasture raised meats is increasing in Orange and Durham counties. New small farmers, as well as traditional farmers are finding that they can market meat directly to consumers or to high end restaurants at a premium. To help provide educational information to these growers, two meetings in Orange County were planned for November and December. One meeting focused on management of pastured poultry and backyard poultry flocks. The other meeting was a Piedmont Pastured Pork meeting that was co-sponsored by Orange Cooperative Extension, NC CHOICES, and NC A&T SU and provided small pork producers with information on herd health and cropping rotations. As a result of this meeting an upcoming series of monthly educational meetings is scheduled for growers in Orange county and the rest of the Piedmont area.

Year: 2006
Number: 20480
Name:Brooks, G T
County: Granville
Entered: 2006-12-20
Story: A local specialty crops producer wanted to add beef and pork to his Community Supported Agriculture business. The Granville County Cooperative Extension worked with him in selecting his animals and helped him developed a feed ration that he could mix on the farm. As a result of the correct animal and feeding selection his beef and pork products have been consistent and demand has been great. The addition of meat products to his farm products has increased his farm income and helped him to become more sustainable.

Year: 2006
Number: 20765
Name:Lanier, James M
County: Orange
Entered: 2006-12-27
Story: Worked with Joe Thompson, a local farmer who harvested his first prawns this fall, to help him with his marketing efforts. I introduced Joe to chefs at about a dozen Triangle area restaurants, as well as buyers at Weaver Street Market. In addition, I helped Joe with a flyer he used to attract local consumers to his farm, wrote a story about him in "The Local Foods Gazette", and contacted several area newspaper journalist on his behalf. These efforts helped Joe sell all his production within two days of harvest and created enough demand that Joe was able to sell prawns produced by other NC farmers. I continue to work with Joe, introducing him to other opportunities, such as pasture-raised pork and organic grain production for "local bread".

Year: 2006
Number: 20767
Name:Lanier, James M
County: Orange
Entered: 2006-12-27
Story: Developed a relationship with the owner of the Q Shack that began as a result of my online newsletter "The Local Foods Gazette" and has created opportunities for local farmers. The restaurant wants to transition to all local food and has already begun buying sweet potatoes and collards from one farmer and has met with 12-14 local farmers and has committed to a trial where he will use local pork in his restaurant one week per month for six months. This is a story that the news media will love and with some publicity should create other similar opportunities for local farmers. In fact, one other local high-end restaurant has already said they are interested in one hog per month from these farmers.

Year: 2006
Number: 21078
Name:Jackson, Star
County: Duplin
Entered: 2006-12-30
Story: Niche swine producers in Duplin County have the potential of increasing their profits by up to $23,000 per year. 11 niche swine producers out of 15, after an initial assessment, can sell their natural finishing pigs to a national company. They went through an assessment that was developed by the company to ensure producers are meeting their animal welfare standards for organic pork. Star Jackson (Duplin Extension), Mike Jones (NC A&T), and Ginger Deason (Heifer International) are working with these producers and the company to help the niche swine producers obtain a higher level of management so that they can sell their pork at the "Compassionate" level. This means up to 34 cents per pound more for their product.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

This project has added to the available body of information on pasture pork prodution and trained a large cohort of cooperative extension personnel to better aid individual producers. This model of training can also readily be extended to other areas.

Future Recommendations

While this project served to rapidly move extension forward in a new program area the future will require methods of ongoing communicaitons and updates. While many of the intensive hands-on activites conducted in this project could/should be offered on a periodic basis there is a great potential for electronic and distance education methods to be utilized to keep participants current and to develop teams of agents with similar needs and differing skills in various regions.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.