Enhancing growth rate and well-being of pigs raised on pasture through the use of mobile evaporative cooling while improving pasture fertility and reducing environmental degradation

Project Overview

FNE13-783
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $11,033.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Peter Lowy
Pete and Jens Backyard Birds

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: swine

Practices

  • Animal Production: housing, free-range, grazing management, manure management, pasture fertility, grazing - rotational, stocking rate, watering systems
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    With the rise in average temperatures worldwide and some of the hottest and driest summers on record occurring just over the past few years, the challenges of growing pigs on pasture without adequate access to proper cooling is becoming more of a problem, especially for those farms which have limited woodlots for natural shade. The raising of pigs on pasture has become widespread on small diversified farms over the past 10 years. Many growers without adequate woodlots to raise pigs have resorted to constructing temporary shade shelters which are cumbersome to relocate and provide inadequate cooling for the pigs. Because they are often difficult to move, growers who are overwhelmed with the summer growing season often leave pigs in one area longer than they should resulting in heavy manure loads, excess damage and erosion of soils, and increased potential for intestinal worm proliferation.
    Having access to a mobile shelter which combines shade, access to clean drinking water as well as providing additional automated evaporative cooling will allow farmers to move their pigs (or other animals) anywhere on their farm with ease while using less water. This in turn will reduce land degradation, improve fertility by more evenly spreading manure, and provide more palatable forage for pigs to consume. With increased pig comfort studies have demonstrated faster weight gain and a more profitable enterprise. Pigs are excellent grazers when provided the proper environment and thrive in outdoor production systems and can add significant profitability and fertility to any farm if managed properly

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The key data we are seeking is to determine if using such a cooling system for pigs on pasture will equal to or improve weight gain in pigs raised in woodlots but without the potential for environmental degradation. In all the studies we have examined from the conventional hog industry, the use of an evaporative cooling system "should be encouraged in swine systems for growing-finishing facilities. These systems will improve the growing pigs’ environment, reduce the time to market, and improve profitability." (Taken from Bridges, Gates, Overhults, Turner; Assessing the Benefits of Misting-Cooling Systems for Growing Finishing Swine in Kentucky. University of Kentucky Coop Extension.)

    Aside from the final result of final carcass weights we will be looking at several other areas of supporting interest. From June through September we will be capturing temperature and relative humidity (RH) in three separate locations. This data will be collected using data loggers which will allow us to compare, in part, the cooling effect of the wagon vs. the woodlot. Data loggers will be located under the wagon where the pigs will have access to shade and cooling mist showers, on top of the wagon to assess normal daytime temperature and RH, and in the woodlot where the control group of pigs will have shade access.

    During the growing season we will also be recording total feed provided to each group of pigs. This will allow us to determine feed conversion rates at the end of the study.

    Finally, we will be observing the impact on the land. While difficult to ascertain in concrete data we plan to determine if there is reduced incidence of "moonscaping" which occurs when pigs are in one area too long resulting in large depressions and compaction of the soil. We will also observe manure dispersal and foraging behavior differences

    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.