Grain Free Pasture Egg Production

Final report for FNC17-1097

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $6,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Grassway Organics
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Charles Self
Grassway Organics
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Project Information

Description of operation:

We are a certified organic grass-only beef and dairy operation. We also raise certified organic finish-to-farrow hogs, turkeys, eggs and meat chickens. We just took over for the retiring farmers and we were the 5th largest transition that was not blood related in Wisconsin.

We also have an on-farm store that sells all our own farm goods as well as other imported local and organic goods.

My wife and three small sons are the main reason for operating our 210-acre farm. We both did not grow up on farms so getting into farming has been a great 10-year process. We recently purchased Grassway in March of 2016 but had a previous farm in Amherst, WI. We were land locked and took the plunge to farm full time in New Holstein.

We feel we can take organic pastured eggs one step further by growing insects. If we could get this mobile structure built we could revolutionize the grazing scene and pass our knowledge on to other farmers looking to make a living.

Summary:

Problem

We imported about $50,000 dollars worth of feed. If we could cut this down even by 50 percent we could make serious profit raising eggs.

This model can work for all grazing farms if we can do it successfully.

The other big problem is the waste that is found in our local communities. Talking just waste from grocery stores we could indicate at least a large portion of methane produced from decaying food. Soldier flies can consume the waste and produce sustainable protein while reducing a portion of the methane produced from thrown out food.

We have an endless amount of waste from our cows that will be the main food for our soldier fly production.

Solution

With the research grant we would hope to solve the need to import or grow grains to produce eggs. The research can be done with a hands-on approach right here on the farm. In one growing season we could easily see if it is feasible to produce soldier fly grubs in a mobile form. The research will also solve how to manage grubs in the hard winters in Wisconsin. This is a great area to see if this can work because if we can do it here we can do it anywhere.

Project Objectives:
  1. Use the data collected from this project to see how much protein (Black Soldier Fly larvae) can be produced without having to feed grain. I believe a path to sustainable agriculture will come with insects. We cannot maintain the earth’s population without finding alternatives to corn and soy. Insects are the fastest and most sustainable method of protein found on the planet to this day.
  2. Determine how to make this model work for other farmers. This could be the future of grain-free operations.
  3. Explore how to turn waste from the farm and grocery stores into a product (black soldier fly larvae) that does not produce methane and instead nourishes a community with eggs.  

Research

Materials and methods:

Episode one

 

 

Episode two

 

Episode Three

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 On-farm demonstrations
5 Online trainings
2 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary

3 Farmers
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

With the huge amount of work on a dairy farm it was very important for us to film everything. It was easier to strap a gopro on and make a young person do the editing. I know this method cannot work for everyone but noticed on our scale that people can learn when they want to and not have to battle schedules and weather for a farm visit.

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

This idea is by far one of the most revolutionary ideas. Even with the results that we are seeing this idea can be taken so much further. It gives pasture farmers a chance to create protein from waste. This research grant really did give us the idea that in a native climate for black soldier flies the labor it would take to create protein would be very little.

We did overcome so much more then we thought. Even without colonizing our own black soldier flies it proves that areas in the South can copy this model and create a protein machine.

We feel that at least a third of the diet could be supplemented with bugs on pasture. I am willing to stretch it further but this model will only work if they are on pasture. We currently have 600 egg layers and with 8 protopods you could easily supplement way more then you would need with a healthy environment for the soldier flies. I would say 8 protopods could easily supplement a flock on pasture with at least 1000 layers.

The amount of waste you would need would greatly range with a healthy population. The more the better in reality but in my research I would say at least 10 pounds of waste a day to supplement a healthy protopod. The amount of cost that comes with feeding waste is only in the use of equipment and your time. If you were to pay yourself $10 an hour you are looking at least 2 hours a day with a healthy rotation on pasture. I would safely assume $20 a day in labor. This project is well worth your time if you are buying organic feed at $.50 a pound.

This project can easily project 50 percent less feed cost for pastured farmers. Even if a farmer were to have a small grain such as oats to maintain crop health, that cost would reduce from pre-made feed.

I would tell them to watch our youtube channel. All the information needed to copy this model is on our website. The only thing we would ask is to share information that will make this more efficient or less labor for anyone else to copy. The only disadvantage to this project is getting dirty. I know that sounds funny but it really does get you into the thick of some pretty not so nice smells. For Real!

Project Outcomes

1 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
Success stories:

Recommendations:

Please watch the last video. This explains it all.

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.