Demonstrating Viability of Cooperative Swine Aggregator Using Inoculated Deep Litter System

Progress report for FW19-339

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Ohana Coffee Farm & Assi Piggery
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Atto Assi
Ohana Coffee Farm & Assi Piggery
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project investigates the economic viability of a cooperative aggregation model for small-scale swine production in a tropical environment. Pork is a critical part of the culture in Hawai‘i for local consumers including Native Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Tongan, and Samoan communities. Many of these consumer groups prefer to buy whole pigs directly from local farms as pork cannot be purchased in this form from any other source in the state. Small piggeries often cannot meet demand or provide a consistent supply for consumers seeking farm-raised pork, whether it be for on-farm sales, marketplaces, restaurants, or value-added product ventures. Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative (HSPC) aims to meet this demand by aggregating piglets from members, raising them to market weight, and selling them to local markets. In turn, this can increase the viability of small-scale local piggery operations by improving efficiency through economies of scale.

Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative members operate piggeries using an innovative method called the Inoculated Deep Litter System (IDLS). IDLS utilizes green waste bedding and enhanced microbial activity for low-maintenance, low-odor pork production with reduced environmental impacts. During this project, the Cooperative aggregation site will host two workshops to educate local farmers about the benefits and methodology of IDLS, promoting adoption of the system and recruiting producers for HSPC membership and aggregator participation. HSPC members will also construct a portable IDLS pen and lead presentations at local agricultural events to demonstrate sustainable pork production methods and recruit new members.

Throughout the project, costs to establish and operate the aggregation site will be tracked, including supplies and detailed labor records. These financial records will be used to assess the economic feasibility of the cooperative aggregation model. This cost analysis can inform the establishment of future IDLS piggeries and swine aggregation sites in Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands.

Project Objectives:

1: Construct deep litter system at swine aggregation center.

  • Purchase supplies
  • Install litter layers
  • Inoculate litter bedding

2: Develop and share standard operating procedures for the swine aggregation center.

  • Write SOPs for aggregation center with technical advisor
  • Revise SOPs after rearing first 50 hogs
  • Disseminate finalized standard operating procedures

3: Raise and sell first litter of 50 pigs.

  • Receive 50 piglets from Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative members
  • Identify buyers
  • Rear hogs to market weight, sell to buyers
  • Record operational costs and revenue (including in-kind inputs and time)

4: Host 2 on-farm workshops on Inoculated Deep Litter System; showcase swine aggregation services.

  • Educate 50+ local producers on IDLS and HSPC services through workshops
  • Conduct outreach and collect data from workshop participants and swine producers
  • Recruit 2-5 additional farmers to join Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative

5: Construct and present Portable IDLS Pen to producers and the public at 3 local events.

  • Build portable pen
  • Plan, publicize, and lead 3 presentations of the portable pen

6: Evaluate economic viability of cooperative aggregation and livestock-rearing center.

  • Evaluate income and expenses for deep litter system installation, feed, and rearing first 50 hogs
  • Determine potential for profitability at various scales of production

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Debra Hursey - Producer
  • Judi Mellon, PhD - Technical Advisor
  • Marcel Margarita Morales - Producer
  • Dr. Halina Zaleski - Technical Advisor

Research

Materials and methods:

Objective 1: Construct deep litter system at swine aggregation center.

In Month 1, the PI will purchase supplies for the deep litter system including cinder, hog wire, and mulch, feeders and watering system. Months 2-4 will be devoted to the construction of the deep litter system by laying down cinder, layers of cut logs and green waste, and inoculating the litter bedding with lactic acid bacteria and indigenous microorganisms. Feeders and watering systems will be installed. Once completed, the deep litter system will be prepared to support rearing the first 50 hogs.  

Objective 2: Develop and share standard operating procedures for the swine aggregation center.

Technical advisor Dr. Zaleski will work with the PI with input from participating producers to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the aggregation facility. These SOPs will be revised after the first round of hogs are raised to reflect the operational challenges of maintaining the piggery facility. At the end of the project period, cost analysis information will be added to the revised SOPs and the final guide will be shared with academic outlets and agricultural communities through email, websites, and social media.

Objective 3: Raise and sell first 50 pigs.

In Month 5, the first 50 piglets will be delivered to the site by Cooperative members. In Months 5-9, these piglets will be raised to market weight. During this time, marketing research and outreach will identify buyers for these hogs and develop markets for future sales. By the end of Month 9, these hogs will be delivered to Kulana Foods in Hilo for slaughter and sold to buyers.

Objective 4: Host 2 on-farm workshops on Inoculated Deep Litter System; showcase swine aggregation services.

The Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative members will plan and publicize two workshops in the local agricultural community. Members will conduct outreach at markets and other agricultural events to invite growers to the workshops and engage with prospective HSPC members. The workshops will be hosted by the new aggregation center in Months 7-8, showcasing IDLS methods and the facility’s services.

Objective 5: Construct and present Portable IDLS Pen to producers and the public at local agricultural and community events.

Project producers will construct a portable IDLS pen to serve as a mobile educational tool for the Hawai‘i Island community. The Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative members will plan, publicize, and lead 3 presentations of the portable pen at the following Hawai‘i Island events: West Hawai‘i County Fair, East Hawai‘i County Fair and the 4H Livestock Farmers Market. Presentations will serve to educate the public and local farmers about the benefits and methodology of IDLS, promote adoption of the system, and encourage future deep litter piggeries and swine aggregation sites in Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands.

Objective 6: Evaluate economic viability of cooperative aggregation and livestock-rearing center.

The project team will estimate total expenses for the construction of the deep litter system and rearing the first 50 pigs by reviewing actual costs and hourly labor requirements. A value will be assigned to labor by the hour (equal to or greater than minimum wage in Hawai‘i, $10.10).  After market research has identified potential buyers and the first litter of hogs is sold, revenue from sales will be included in the cost analysis. The team will then work with Judi Mellon of the Small Business Development Center to evaluate the business model for the cooperative aggregation center and determine potential for profitability at various scales of production up to 1000 head of swine. This information can then be used to set recruitment and production targets for the Hawai‘i Swine Producers Cooperative in order to ensure the viability of the operation.

Research results and discussion:

Economic profitability is a main driver of sustainability.  The Hawaii Swine Producer Members all run their own piggeries to raise piglets. They are selling their wean-off piglets to the aggregation center which is raising them to market size. As co-owners of the Swine Cooperative, they receive the net profit of the revenue after deduction of feed and labor costs. As result this model addresses challenges of pig production such as feed and labor cost, improving the profitability for member farms and expanding opportunities for the new producer by eliminating barrier to entry. This in turn increases the viability of local small scale piggery operation by improving efficiency through economies of scale.

Compare to the conventional system used previously (washed down system) a major consideration is that the IDLS requires a minimum start-up cost by eliminating the irrigation system and lagoon design and transportation of manure; reduces the risk of surface, ground and coastal water contaminations and requires less water to operate.

Participation Summary
7 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

56 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
9 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
1 Presentation at the International Food Day at KTA super Store in Hilo, Hawaii

Participation Summary

87 Farmers
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

We conducted a workshop and designed a questionnaire to be administered before and after the workshop. The goal of the questionnaire was intended to measure knowledge, awareness and skills about sustainable agricultural change. The barriers to sustainability demonstrated through a workshop included a) the sequential steps in the design/creation of the inoculated deep litter system piggery. b) the impact of the IMO-spiked aerobic method on swine health and the environment; c) identification of signs that the deep litter bedding is working effectively; d) pig care and feeding; e) the new laws effecting waste management, food safety and conservation water, soil and water.

Swine cooperative workshop
Swine cooperative workshop

The Hawaii Swine Producer Members all run their own piggeries to raise piglets. They are selling their wean-off piglets (50 piglets) to the aggregation center which is raising them to market size. As co-owners of the Swine Cooperative, they receive the net profit of the revenue after deduction of feed and labor costs. This model addresses challenges of pig production such as feed and labor cost, improving the profitability for member farms and expanding opportunities for the new producer by eliminating barrier to entry. This in turn increases the viability of local small scale piggery operation by improving efficiency through economies of scale. A major consideration is that the IDLS requires a minimum start-up cost by eliminating the irrigation system and lagoon design and transportation of manure.

Swine Cooperative Aggregation Center
50 weaned off piglets from co-op members

By far, the key success of this project was the presentation of the mobile livestock trailer.
This performance generated significant interest about the multiple benefits of the deep litter system.        Another highly successful project was our participation in the International Food Day at our largest supermarket (KTA super store). The visiting consumers (87) relished the opportunity to taste fresh roasted pork from the cooperative aggregation center. The roasted pork received rave notices. As a result we are receiving and continuing to receive orders for Fresh pork from the deep litter system piggery, and inquiries for help to set up an IDLS piggery or to convert existing washed down piggeries to the IDLS system.

International Food Day at KTA super Store in Hilo
Presentation at the International Food Day at KTA super Store in Hilo

Learning Outcomes

33 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Best waste management swine system: Specifically they are learning about the direct benefits of the IDLS system to the swine and the farmer. The major environmental boosts that this system provides i.e., the reduced risk of ground and surface water contamination is their first and most salient observation. The most robust and much discussed is the low-odor ambience of the piggery and zero odor in the surrounding acreage.

  • Social impact: Participating farmers are also now aware of the salient change in attitudes across the population of the neighbors as well as the public; from social ostracism to viewing and accepting pigs as good neighbors.

  • Improved rural life: participants understand the benefits associated with improved health and comfort for the livestock, the minimization of the workload for the farmer and positive impact to the health and safety for the farmer, his family and the environment. Our participating farmers no longer consider swine farming to pose a public health hazard.

Project Outcomes

11 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
23 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)
8 Grants received that built upon this project
7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

a) Agricultural sustainability: IDLS uses green waste bedding and enhanced microbial activity for low maintenance for low-odor pork production with reduced environmental impacts. The IDLS piggery is a sustainable system associated with a light carbon footprint and conservation standards which will benefit the environment and the livestock. When used according to the conservation and sanitation standards will benefit the environment, the farmer, the economic success of the farmer and enhance the quality of the rural community.

b) One of the main drivers of sustainability is environmental health. This model contributes to sustainability due to the dedicated conservation ethic of protecting the soil biology, surface, ground and coastal water from degradation and air quality. Further. This model emphasizes improved living conditions (health and comfort) for the livestock. This project model will contribute strongly to protein sustainability for the Hawaiian Islands.

c) Economic profitability is also a main driver of sustainability. The Hawaii Swine Producer Members all run their own piggeries to raise piglets. They are selling their wean-off piglets to the aggregation center which is raising them to market size. As co-owners of the Swine Cooperative, they receive the net profit of the revenue after deduction of feed and labor costs. This model addresses challenges of pig production such as feed and labor cost, improving the profitability for member farms and expanding opportunities for the new producer by eliminating barrier to entry. This in turn increases the viability of local small scale piggery operation by improving efficiency through economies of scale. A major consideration is that the IDLS requires a minimum start-up cost by eliminating the irrigation system and lagoon design and transportation of manure.

d) environmental The IDLS model entirely bypasses hazardous waste management methods like effluent irrigation or manure lagoons. This reduces the risk of surface, ground and coastal water contamination and requires less water to operate. These features in combination offer environmental benefits in the form of uncompromised air and water quality. Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations. Our dedicated stewardship here will not compromise future generations from meeting their needs.

Success stories:

 

Swine cooperative aggregation center workchop
Hand on demonstration

 

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.