Reducing and Eliminating the Reliance on Antibiotic Administration on Sustainable Hog Farms

Final Report for FNC05-578

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $16,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Russell Kremer
Missouri Farmers Union
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Project Information


My operation is typical of the other 52 families that make up Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative. It is a 156 acre diversified family farm with sustainable enterprises consisting of naturally raised livestock (hogs, beef cattle and meat goats), beans, vegetables, hay, and timber products. The farrow-to-finish hog operation employs humane production and handling protocols including deep bedded housing with access to the outdoors. The naturally raised cattle are rotationally grazed and are marketed after they are backgrounded. Meat goats are rotationally grazed as well. The 20 acres of cultivated land are rotated with beans, vegetables (such as sweet corn), rye, hairy vetch and various clovers. Sustainable management practices guide the timber production. All land will be organic certified soon.

I have been raising livestock with humane production standards and without the use of antibiotics for over 15 years. I have also utilized nutrient management practices on the land by soil testing and applying correct amounts of livestock manure. My timber stand has been managed according to sustainable standards.


• Restore profit opportunities for sustainable, beginning and limited resource pork producers.
• Ensure consumers a safe food supply
• Enhance environmental quality
• Enhance the quality of life for communities

In this project, we first identified means of measuring economic impact when comparing swine feeding and production methods common to the conventional model compared to practices used in natural/alternative systems. The measurements used in this study were: 1) calculation of the cost savings by reducing antibiotic usage, 2) measurement of feed efficiency 3) measurement of average daily gain, 4) pigs weaned per litter, 5) and survivability rate. These are economic-related measurements that swine farmers feel are most valuable to analyze. We selected sites and farms for research and demonstration purposes that had the same genetic backgrounds and health status. Feeding experiments were held on farm with animals in each group were of the same age, sex, genetics and environment. Each trial measured the performance of the following groups: 1) no feed additive and 2) alternative feed additive. We also researched literature to determine the average performance measurements of hogs fed in a conventional system using sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
Because consumers are driving the demand for a greater supply of pork free of antibiotics and from animals more humanely and sustainably raised, it was important that we recorded the increase in number of farm families and pounds of natural pork that was raised annually due to the research, demonstration and outreach efforts of this project. A before and after calculation was performed.

We wanted to determine if farmers that converted their operations from a style that routinely adds sub-therapeutic antibiotic to feed to one in which natural ingredients were used resulted in a healthier soil microbial activity and increased organic matter. Measurements were performed prior to and at the conclusion of the project.

We also wanted to determine if raising hogs in a more sustainable system had any effect on quality of life for communities. We polled family farmers and rural residents to determine which quality of life factors were most important to them. The following factors were determined as most important and were measured in this study: 1) sufficient family income, 2) increased local economic viability, 3) retention of young people, 4) reduced stress on family, and 5) food safety for community members.

Joe Kliethermes, Producer, Loose Creek, Missouri. Joe has designed and successfully implemented various free range and deep bedded production systems for sows and pigs. During this project, his farm and herd was demonstrated as he served host to four farm tours.

Danny Lewis, Swine Nutritionist & Producer, Curryville, Missouri. As an animal nutrition consultant to Pike Feeds, Pittsfield, Illinois, Danny advised us, developed rations, and helped set research parameters during this project. He also helped monitor, measure and record results.

Ted Neuner, Producer, Linn, Missouri. Ted Neuner owns and operates a family farm with his brothers Dan and Jerry near Linn, Missouri. The Neuners built 3 deep bedded hoop houses for hogs three years ago and use the composted straw, stalks and manure on their corn and soybean land. Ted coordinated and hosted four farm tours/demonstrations.

Gabe Bish, Producer, Linn, Missouri. Gabe’s farm was used to determine the effects of natural feed additives on sow performance.

John and Mary Lea Stegeman, Producer, Loose Creek, Missouri. John and Mary Lea Stegeman are fifth generation diversified farmers in Osage County, Missouri. Their farming operation epitomizes an integrated livestock and crop farm as they raise hogs, cattle, turkeys, corn, wheat, red clover, soybeans and timber. Their farm was used to research the effects of feeding probiotics to growing swine, examine water and soil quality effects and as a tour site.

Dr. Abner Womac, Dr. Mary Hendrickson, and Dr.Marcia Carlson, University of Missouri Extension and Outreach provided avenues of outreach for this project by inviting us to speak at agriculture seminars and university classrooms.

The feeding of the essential oils from oregano significantly improved production performance and livability of growing-finishing hogs compared to control diets (no additive). The results were similar to the outcome of the trials in which antibiotics were used for improved production (from literature). A pen of 170 Berkshire X Tamworth hogs on the Kremer farm were weighed at 10 weeks of age. They had an average weight of 56.8 pounds and were housed in a deep bedded building with free access to a one acre pasture. Each pig had an average of 19 square feet of inside bedded area. Adjustable Chore Time feeders were used with an average pig space of 4.8 pigs per hole. Water space was 9.5 pigs per nipple water. The pigs were fed a single phase, 15% protein ration consisting of 47% soybean oil meal (18% of ration), ground corn (73.5%), ground oats (5%), vitamin/mineral premix (3%), and oregano premix (.05%). The pigs were weighed after 120 days on test. A second pen of 170 hogs that averaged 57.1 pounds were put on test at the same time in the same housing environment on the Kremer farm. The genetics, health, spacing and other production protocols were the same. The only difference was that this group was fed the same ration as the other group without the addition of oregano. All variable and fixed costs were recorded for each group.

The results showed an improvement of feed conversion for those pigs fed oregano. It took 14.21% less feed for these pigs to produce a pound of gain. The group fed oregano also grew faster. Their average daily gain (pounds of weight gain per day) was 8.52% greater than those not fed oregano. Livability (percent of pigs alive at end of test) was also significantly greater for the oregano-fed pigs with a 97% rate compared to a 92% rate from the test pen. The cost of production was 13.3% less for the hogs fed oregano.

Production results of the oregano-fed pigs were compared to results of trials in which pigs were fed 50 grams per ton of the antibiotic Chlortetracycline (CTC) in a conventional setting. (from literature) Result differences were insignificant. Oregano-fed pigs had a feed efficiency of 3.28 pounds of feed per pound of gain compared to 3.25 by the CTC pigs. Average daily gain for the pigs fed oregano was 1.78 compared to 1.82 for the CTC pigs. Livability for the oregano-fed pigs was 97% compared to 95.7% for the CTC hogs and cost of production was $.51 per pound of gain for pigs fed oregano compared to $.52 per pound for the CTC pigs.

A research trial examining the benefits of feeding probiotics to pigs was conducted at the same time on the Stegeman Farm. A Probiotic premix blend made up of lactobacillus and acidopholus was used.. A process identical to the one used in the oregano research was followed. The pigs fed probiotics converted feed to pounds of gain 8.6% more efficiently than those fed without probiotics. The probiotic-fed pigs also gained 8.7% faster and had a livability percentage of 98 compared to 94.5 by the control group. The cost of production was 8.2% less for the pigs fed probiotics. These production results were compared to results from pigs fed in a conventional setting fed 50 grams of Chlortetracycline (CTC) added to their ration.

Probiotic-fed pigs had a feed efficiency of 3.32 pounds of feed per pound of gain compared to 3.25 by the CTC pigs. Average daily gain for the pigs fed probiotics was 1.73 compared to 1.82 for the CTC pigs. Livability for the oregano-fed pigs was 97.6% compared to 95.7% for the CTC hogs and the cost of production was $.53 per pound of gain for pigs fed oregano compared to $.52 per pound for the CTC pigs.

A feeding trial was held on the Gabe Bish farm to determine the effects on sow productivity when adding flax and canola to the breeding, gestation and farrowing rations. One group of Tamworth X Landrace crossbred sows was fed a ration that contained 5% ground flax seed and 5% ground canola. Another group was fed a conventional diet devoid of any added fiber. During breeding and gestation, all sows were housed in deep bedded buildings with each sow having an average of 40 square feet of space and one waterer per 6 sows. The sows were fed five pounds each daily.During farrowing and lactation, each group of sows was farrowed in 8’ X 8’ free stall bedded pens. Average daily consumption of feed by sows in each group was the same at 14.8 pounds. Pigs were weaned at five weeks of age. The results showed significant improvement for various economic and production measurements by the sows fed the fiber mixture. They had an average of 9.9 pigs born alive compared to 8.2 by the control group. The fiber-fed sows weaned 9.3 pigs per litter compared to 7.3 by the control. Pre-weaned mortality of pigs was less for the sows fed flax and canola at 6% compared to the control at 10.97%.

These results were incorporated into a manual entitled “Natural Production Standards for Swine” and a Powerpoint presentation, “Raising Hogs without Antibiotics” was developed.
These resources were used in the nine producer workshops that we held throughout the state of Missouri (Linn, Westphalia, Mountain View, Moberly, Columbia, Palmyra, Seymour, Pleasant Hope, and St. Genevieve). The purpose of the workshops was to provide information and education about how to raise hogs more sustainably and profitably. Total attendance was 191.

We also conducted four farm tours on the Kliethermes, Kremer, Neuner and Stegeman farms. Attendees observed various types of alternative housing, genetic, feeding and production methods that require less capital outlay, enable the growing of hogs without the use of antibiotics and in a more humane and more eco-friendly system. Total participation included 42 farmers, 6 chefs and 5 reporters.

We listed and recorded names of the attendees as they arrived and gave them the production manual and information on how to market antibiotic-free pork.

Due to our research, workshops, tours, demonstration and farmer-to-farmer consultation, we enrolled an additional 21 farmers to raise hogs without antibiotics. This represents an annual production of 405,500 pounds of pork and we have secured a value added market for this production. We calculate that 10,138 new consumers will have access to affordable, safe pork grown humanely and without antibiotics. This was based on 50 pounds of pork consumed by each person annually.

Soil and water samples were taken from random locations in the fields and streams where manure from on-farm research was applied. These samples were taken at the beginning of the project and at the end. Soils were tested at a certified laboratory for microbial activity and organic matter content. The soil sampled from the fields in which manure from the oregano-fed pigs was applied showed 6.2% more microbial population and a 3.1% increase in organic matter. The samples from fields in which manure from the probiotic-fed pigs was applied showed improvements in soil microbial population and organic matter at rates of 8.1% and 4.0% respectively. Water from streams was tested before and after the project for residues of the antibiotics Chlortetracycline and Penicillin. No differences were observed.

At the end of the project, we surveyed the participating farm families who converted to the natural production and feeding methods that we researched and demonstrated. Thirty-one families submitted the answered surveys. The results showed an average increase in annual net family income of $5,670. Those surveyed reported that 80% of this increased income was spent on goods and services within 25 miles of their respective farms. Four people under the age of 25 years began farming or continued farming due to our project’s efforts. All 31 families indicated that overall family stress reduced significantly since their engagement in a more sustainable swine production system.

We are satisfied that we have accomplished the goals of this project. I feel a repeat or duplication of the feeding trials is warranted. We regret not videotaping any of the workshop presentations.

During this project, we have learned that economic sustainability is most important to farmers considering production changes. They want to make some kind of living on the farm, present an occupational opportunity for their children and be able to support their local economy. The outreach that we provided yielded success as we recruited several farm families to make the transition to more sustainable practices.


Participation Summary
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.