Using Pigs as Seed Drills: Interplanting Small Grains into a White Clover Living Mulch

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2009: $6,038.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Brad Marshall
The Piggery

Annual Reports


  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, pasture renovation
  • Crop Production: double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal summary:

    Current issue

    Feed grain is the single largest cost of a pastured pork operation. Growing grain on farm is an option but many small operations cannot justify the expense of owning tillage and planting equipment. We have been experimenting with using our pigs as seed drills to interplant small grains into perennial white clover “living mulch” on a small scale. The small grains are allowed to mature and then “hogged off”. This system provides a low cost, low tech way for a pastured hog producer to grow and harvest his or her own small grains, eliminating some of the purchased grain bill. The only things required are hogs, a paddock of white clover and a seed broadcaster. My introduction to the idea of using white clover as living mulch was reading Nasnobu Fukuoka’s “One Straw Revolution”. The book details a technique of dual cropping barley and rice into a living mulch of white clover the author worked out in Japan.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We propose a low-tech, low start-up cost method of growing grains on farm by using pigs as seed drills to interplant small grains into white clover living mulch. We will “hog in” triticale into stands of native, ladino and intermediate types of white clover.

    The general description is as follows: In the spring, clover will be established on tilled paddocks with a nurse crop of oats and to smother weeds. The oats will be grazed off when they are in the milk stage and clipping will be used to control any ungrazed weeds and to keep the clover vegetative. In early fall, we will begin planting these paddocks to triticale using the hogs as the plows by feeding them corn spread on the ground in these areas. Each paddock will be grazed 6 weeks after planting to ensure triticale seedlings are not being smothered by the clover.

    The paddocks will be grazed again in late May, the next season. The triticale should be ripening in mid –summer in that season and we will use the hogs to harvest the grain. Production yield of the grain will be estimated by some hand harvesting and how well the hogs harvest the grain will be estimated partially on the growth of the pigs. An economic analysis and hog feeding trial will determine the cost-effectiveness of the strategy.

    We will publish a summary of our project results on our blog and send it out in our newsletter. We will make a one page summary of results to hand out at our Farmer’s Market Stand and give to the handful of pastured pork producers that sell there. We will apply to give a presentation at the January 2011 Northeast Organic Farming Association conference. If the project is successful, we will submit our results to The Stockman Grass Farmer, an industry newsletter for graziers.

    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.