Rotating Paddock-style Systems in Tropical Environments

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $17,196.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Paradise Natural Farm
Region: Western
State: Guam
Principal Investigator:
Hertha Van Beurden
Paradise Natural Farm

Annual Reports


  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, free-range, grazing management, manure management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
  • Crop Production: no-till, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, competition, cultural control, physical control
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, organic agriculture, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, urban/rural integration, analysis of personal/family life, community services, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

      The island of Guam currently imports approximately 95% of its food and agricultural products (Guam Statistical Yearbook, 2012). For poultry farmers, feed makes up the largest component of costs. It is 100% imported from the United States mainland, causing higher prices of anywhere from 25%-50% than mainland counterparts. At this rate, organic feed, which is already priced at a premium for farmers, is not an option for local poultry farmers which make up approximately 10% of farmers per the most recent Agricultural Census (2007). Pasturing hens is a viable option with regard to reducing the cost of feed, however, using the same pasture over and over tends to result in a concentration of manure which increases the odds of sickness in birds, humans, and a threat to the environment. A rotating paddock-style system of pasturing is a novel form poultry raising that reduces manure concentrations while renewing the soil as a feed source regularly. In a tropical environment such as Guam, its economic, environmental, or social responsibility efficacy has not been tested thus far.   The purpose of this project is three-fold: 1) to research the economic viability of year-long paddock style rotational (PSR) egg production in a tropical environment, 2) to assess the sustainable impact of utilizing paddock style rotation with regard to feed quantities and costs, and 3) to educate the agricultural community about PSR egg production in a tropical environment like Guam. An ancillary project purpose is to demonstrate the use of manure from pastured paddocks to build soil in nearby raised beds.     This project addresses a gap in both research and education in two ways: 1) while PSR egg production has been studied widely, the practicality of the paddock system and its results and benefits have yet to have been tested and adapted to a tropical environment such as Guam where the environment sustains extremes in the form of humidity, rain, wind, and heat making construction of a mobile system more precarious and 2) in remote places like Guam, there is a need for training about sustainable practices particularly in farming. This project would be the first to conduct outreach on PSR egg raising in even the smallest of subsistence farms.   Paradise Natural Farms is a growing small scale farm run by principal investigator, Hertha Van Beurden. The farm began generating income in 2014 primarily through egg sales. There are currently 120 egg laying hens with the experimental site to be approximately the same number of hens. The need for Paradise Natural Farms and other poultry farms arose from the amount spent on feed which exceeds 30% of the amounts grossed in poultry sales. Along with this, farmers wishing to diversify into crop production add the cost of imported fertilizer to their cost of goods. The project is expected to take place over twenty-four months. The control group will be 120 hens laying eggs in a traditional fixed hen house and pasture. The experimental group will be 120 hens laying eggs in a rotating paddock style system.   As protein is the largest and most costly component of feed, identifying a renewable sustainable replacement such new pasture land rich with organic matter would strengthen local farmers’ ability to be economically sustainable and environmentally responsible. Providing hens fresh pasture every two weeks through the rotating paddock system may result in a higher concentration of naturally derived proteins, fewer quantities of commercial feed, and a manure rich soil to be used in crop production.   The project team will be led by farmer Hertha Van Beurden and technical advisor, Melanie Mendiola, Project Director for Farm to Table Guam (Resume attached). The project will require the construction of a new hen house utilizing a paddock-style design. It will utilize an existing traditional fixed hen house and pasture area. For a valid research design, the control group pullets and experimental group pullets will be sourced from the same supplier at the same time. The same commercial feed will be utilized. The dependent variation will be the ability to pasture on a fresh field every two weeks in the PSR system versus a fixed pasture system. Data will be gathered through record keeping of feeding amounts, production numbers, and health-related qualitative entries. It is hypothesized that the PSR hen house hens will: 1) lay more eggs than the fixed hen house hens, 2) report less sickness than the hen house hens as evidenced by farmer qualitative journal entries, and 3) use less commercial feed than the traditional hen house hens. Any financial savings or operational efficiencies derived will be reported to producers and prospective producers during three onsite field days and a series of YouTube videos.   The outreach and education component will take place in the last 12 months of the 24 month project in the form of three educational sessions on the farm’s site. For individuals not able to attend, there will be YouTube Videos showing the construction, pullets to hens, and other notes of interest from the Principal Investigator. A How-to guide will be created and distributed in person and online. Lastly, the WSARE survey with additional pre-and post-visit questions will be distributed and collected during farm visits.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1.  To build one Paddock Style Rotating (PSR) hen house which can accommodate up to 120 egg-laying hens adjacent to a traditional confined non-rotating hen house system also accommodating 120 hens by month 3. 

    2.  To track commercial feed records separately for traditional hen house versus PSR experimental hen house to gauge costs associated with PSR versus traditional hen feeding systems for a 12 month period. This will take place from project month 9 – 21.   

    3.  To research and document a comparison study of egg-laying hens for twelve months: Control group raised in traditional hen house and Experimental Group raised in PSR style hen house system. (Months 9-21). The number of eggs collected will be counted on a daily basis, with results tracked weekly for one production year. In addition, journal entries will track bird health.

    4.  To research and document a comparison study of commercial feeding patterns of traditional style hen house systems versus PSR systems from the beginning of egg laying to project wrap-up (Month 6-21).  

    5.  To educate the agricultural community about best-practices regarding the adoption of the PSR system as a sustainable method of poultry raising and soil building in the region through three farm visits and YouTube Videos. (Month 1-24).

    6.  To create a demonstration cluster of at least 10 raised beds utilizing manures residue from temporarily retired paddocks and the hen house in the PSR system. Month 13-24.

    7.  To quantify the adoption impacts of this project via surveys during 3 site visits (Month 18, 21, and 22) and feedback on video on social media (throughout project duration). 

    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.