Control of Buckthorn with Hogs, Cutting Feed Costs with Food Waste
The grant funds were used to buy fencing, shelters and waterers for six feeder pigs.
We bought 2640 feet of Field Fence $2726.00. So far we have 2025 feet of fence installed. It took 16 hours X two people 32 hours @15.00 per hour $480.00.
Six hundred feet of temporary fence (Pig Quik Fence) was purchased to segment off small sections of forest for intensive grazing. $420.00.
The hogs were fed grocery store foods picked up six days a week from town. The original grant was written to pick up food every other day but the grocery store requested we pick up daily. We picked up daily for the first two weeks but found that our bins were mostly empty on the Sunday pickup so we changed to 6 days a week for the next 20 weeks. We saved some mileage costs by picking up on our way home from work. Mileage was paid at 50 cents/mile X 8 miles per day. $4.00 per day for 132 day = $528.00.
The food was unpackaged and either stored or fed to the hogs. The packaging was rinsed, stacked and stored for recycling. One worker 1.5 hours X 153 days = 229.5 hours X 7.50 = $1721/2 = $860.50
Food was stored in a refrigerator and two small freezers. Cost of Electricity estimated at $20.00 per month X 5 months or $100.00. (Grant Budget $140.00)
The amount of food varied each day, between 60-700 pounds, but averaged about 200 pounds per day. At times the freezers and refrigerator were full to overflowing and we had excesses of food. We fed as much as the hogs would eat twice a day. Any leftover food was picked over by the chickens. Wasted food was collected from the hog yards and put in the composter.
When the hogs first arrived we fed a bagged starter ration and introduced grocery store food. The hogs soon showed a preference for the fresh food and refused to eat the bagged ration when fresh food was available. Our total feed cost was $262.68.
The total amount of food collected was 30,800 pounds including packaging. We provided containers to the grocery store to collect the food in the produce and dairy departments. At the end of the season we began to receive food from the deli department. The deli food was a favorite of the hogs and provided high calorie feed. This year the addition of the deli food will increase savings on purchased feed and reduce the garbage hauling cost for the store.
The densest areas of Buckthorn are adjacent to the existing pasture. Last year Buckthorn was removed on the north side and enclosed with a permanent fence of woven wire field fencing. A low electric wire ran along the bottom of the fence to teach the hogs to respect the fence. Once the hogs were trained they were moved into a series of small enclosed areas, partitioned with temporary electric fence. The hogs cleared 2.25 acres of Buckthorn in 2011. Our goal is to establish 5 additional acres of pasture in 2012.
The bare soil provided good soil contact for the grass seed. However, the end of the summer and early fall months were extremely dry and the grass germinated through the mulch only to dry out. These conditions may reduce viability of young seedlings.
We used battery operated electric fencers. $79.97. The fencer unit mounts directly to a ground rod ($27.88) and clips to the fence. Four D cells lasted the whole season. $5.29. These fencers were easy to move and set up and saved much labor on installation. We purchased 132 step posts @2.50 each = $264.00.
We purchased two hog houses. The houses were easy to move and had a wide door for adding bedding. The houses cost $250.00 each X 2 = $500.00 Bedding was alfalfa/grass hay which the hogs chewed into nesting material. Cost $25.00.
Garden hoses were purchased for water lines (Cost $90.00). We used water tanks ($119.00) and a paddle waterer ($16.00).
A weed wrench from Puller Bear was purchased to pull out larger Buckthorn trees. By targeting the biggest Buckthorn with the weed wrench we were able clear areas faster than waiting for the hogs to get it all. The Puller Bear weed wrench cost $141.00 with shipping.
Hay was purchased for bedding. The hay cost $25.00 for one big round bale and lasted all year.
Recycling was brought to town once a month to Ogilvie. Round trip is 10 miles X .50 per mile. $5.00 X 5 times = $25.00.
The Best Method for Buckthorn Removal With Hogs.
First, fence off a small area with temporary PigQuik Fence. Move in hog housing and water and let the hogs remove all the leaf litter and vegetation around the stems in the Buckthorn thickets. Once the stems are clear attach the Puller Bear Weed Wrench to the largest Buckthorn trees and pull them out. Leave them on the ground. Don’t worry that the Buckthorn roots that make soil contact will re-root because the hogs will destroy the root ball while searching for earthworms and grubs. The hogs will remove the smaller vegetation.
It may be necessary to pull Buckthorn stems that were too near the electric wires or protected by larger tree roots and rocks.
Once the vegetation has been removed, broadcast grass seed onto the soil surface and mulch with used bedding from the hog houses.
We broadcasted seed onto bare earth with good germination. Though the seeds were mulched the young seedlings suffered from a very dry late summer and fall and no snow cover this winter. We may need to reseed some areas this year. The soil conservation service suggested frost seeding these areas and taking advantage of the natural freezing and thawing during spring weather to provide good soil contact for spring germination as well as the promise of our normal wet spring weather to irrigate the new seedlings. Early germination will help establish early growth for late summer grazing.
It worked out best for the grocery store to have daily pickup of food due to spoilage concerns. This required much more labor than anticipated. We picked-up, un-packaged, rinsed and recycled the grocery store food, six days a week. This year we plan to streamline the process with more tables and a wash area.
The hogs ate most produce and dairy products. Though their diets changed daily it had no effect on behavior, health or stools. We did not feed moldy or rotten foods and anything that looked inedible was composted. We soon found that feeding the hog ration was unnecessary and will likely decrease our hog ration purchases next year.
Foods that the hogs wouldn’t eat were eaten by the free-range chickens. Once the chickens were taken to the butcher, we noticed the hog yards needed to be picked up more often. We plan to run free-range chickens with the hogs again this year to keep the hog yards clean.
We found that small enclosures targeted the most Buckthorn. If the hog enclosures were too large the hogs rooted in their favorite areas and ignored other areas. Confining them to 1/4 to 1/3 acre plots encouraged the hogs to remove all of the vegetation down to bare dirt.
We found the Pig Quik Electroweb fence to be an excellent resource for this program. The fence was easy for one person to set up and remove. It saved many hours of labor and required just one person’s labor, not two. It was easy to step over for feeding and bedding the hogs, requiring no gate.
The hogs gained well on the grocery store food, however the cost of fuel and the labor to un-package and feed or store it may not be worth it. It could benefit a small farmer, especially one who commutes past the store each day from work.
The hogs gained an average of 1.69 pounds per day. Our rates of gain would have been better if we had not run into deer hunting season at our butcher. Once deer hunting season starts they don’t take other animals for two weeks. The butcher could only take three hogs before the deer hunting season and three hogs had to wait to be butchered after the season. We plan to start earlier this year.
The site visit with the foresters brought up several ideas on Buckthorn control. In the areas of the pilot project from 2010, grass was planted and several native species are growing, but very little Buckthorn is returning. Seeding grass may not be needed and it was suggested to leave a test plot unseeded and see if the Buckthorn returns.
The other suggestion was to open up the canopy by removing diseased old-growth Aspen trees. We removed dozens of trees in November.
It was also suggested that using larger hogs could remove more Buckthorn. But we are not set up for sows and piglets at this time. So we will use feeder pigs in 2012.
WORK PLAN FOR 2012
• We will utilize hogs to clear five additional acres of Buckthorn and avoid using herbicides and soil compacting equipment.
• We will establish quality pasture forage and install permanent perimeter fences.
• We will graze sheep in the established pastures using intensive rotational grazing to improve and maintain forage species while inhibiting Buckthorn re-growth.
• We will set up a test area (without grass) and monitor Buckthorn return in areas to be returned to forest land.
• We will pick up groceries six days a week to feed hogs.
• We will keep 30,000 pounds of food waste and packaging from area landfills.
• We will compost inedible food and recycle grocery packaging.
• We will utilize free-range chickens to clean up wasted food in feeding areas.
• We will soil test new pastures, and monitor for optimal forage.
• We will take fecal samples to monitor worm infestation in hogs and sheep.
• We will host a site visit for forest managers to view progress.
• We will prepare a Power Point Presentation to share with Forest Managers.
• We will raise quality pork, lamb, and chicken to sell locally.
• We will cut feed costs of raising hogs.
We planned to evaluate site conditions in partnership with Gordon Aanerud of the Onanegozie Resource Conservation & Development and Dana Raines of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, however both our contacts had their jobs cut and the programs they worked with were terminated.
I hosted a site visit and invited guests from the DNR as well as the NRCS office. Their names and contact numbers are listed below.
Nick Solomon TSA # 3 NRCS Office
2008 Mahogany St, Mora, MN
MN DNR Forestry
Ecological Classification System Program
1200 Warner Road
St.Paul, MN 55104
Invasive Species Program Coordinator
500 Lafayette Road,
St Paul, MN 55155
MN DNR Forestry,
MN DNR Forestry
Tony Miller did several site visits to monitor progress during this research. He will continue to monitor progress on the site.
I will make a Power Point Presentation of this project's progress, and make it available to all participants.