Using Hydroponic Green Forage to Reduce Feed Costs in Natural Pork Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed formulation, winter forage
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal summary:

    The cost of corn and soybeans accounts to up to 70% of the cost of producing pigs. It has been steadily increasing for the past several years. At the same time, the price offered by the processors per cwt oflive swine weight has remained steady. As a result, pork producers are facing decreasing margins. Small scale pork producers have been hit especially hard as they cannot benefit from bulk pricing discounts that grain elevators offer for large feed purchases.

    In order to remain competitive, small scale pork producers need to explore alternative feeding methods. One such method is producing and feeding hydroponic green forage. Hector M. Leon Gallegos and Howard M. Resh give detailed instructions on how to build a simple system to produce hydroponic green forage. The system that we are testing consists of 4 10' racks with 5 shelves each and holds 150 sprouting/growing trays. Each tray will be seeded with 2 pounds of com to a depth of 2". The trays will then be flooded several times a day. The water will be allowed to drain slowly through the holes on the bottom of each tray and collect into a storage tank in order to be reused. We will flood the trays using a simple drip hose with a drip timer. We are estimating that the green forage will be ready in approximately 10 days from seeding when the com plants reach a height of approx. 10". We will use a rotating schedule that will allow us to seed and harvest 15 trays daily.

    We will raise 3 batches of 15 feeder hogs each. Each batch will be separated into a control group (7 hogs) and a test group (8 hogs). The test group will be fed hydroponic green forage and the control group will be fed traditional pork rations. Each group will be weighed monthly to record weight gain. We will also record condition and grade as assigned by the processor (Tyson) at the time we sell them.

    We are estimating that we are going to be able to produce approximately 251.32 pounds of green hydroponic forage per day at a cost of approximately $105.5 per ton. Currently, commercial hog teed is sold at $173.62 per ton. Using those numbers and the AG Decision Maker Decision Tool from the Iowa State University - University Extension, we believe we will be able to reduce the break-even price over all costs for feeder to market hogs by 11 % or $5.22 per cwt. To put this in perspective - we estimate the savings/or our 3 test batches 0/8 pigs to be $325.73.

    Raising hogs in small batches provides supplemental income to many Ohio family farms. We believe that using alternative feeding systems will provide an important advantage to those farms and allow them to be competitive in the market place by increasing their bottom line. The SARE grant will allow us to test this feeding system in Ohio (Resh and Gallegos describe similar systems in Mexico for feeding cattle), to create an easy-to-follow blueprint, explain the process in a workshop and provide hands-on assistance to Ohio farmers.

    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.