A multi-disciplinary approach to improve the environmental performance of niche pork production systems and marketability of Heritage swine breeds

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $175,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Sang Hyon Oh
North Carolina A&T State University

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: housing, grazing - continuous, free-range, grazing management, livestock breeding, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Body of Proposal

    This project will investigate niche pork production systems that address market demands and natural resource conservation concerns, with a specific focus on maximizing vegetative ground cover and nutrient distribution in pastures and understanding marketability of heritage breeds produced in alternative production systems. Several wholesale buyers are offering North Carolina growers twice the current market price to supply this demand. This represents an important opportunity for small-scale, limited resource farmers across the southeast. The majority of niche pork buyers require that pigs be raised outdoors on pasture or in deep-bedded hoop barn systems. In the case of North Carolina’s outdoor production systems, most operations are not sustainable if one evaluates nutrient loading, soil loss, and water quality impacts. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) planners recognize the near total lack of information available to guide them in developing conservation plans that addresses resource concerns on outdoor swine farms across the southeast. Lastly, consumer interest in heritage breed pork continues to rise however little is known about taste characteristics and production potential in alternative systems.

    The need for this project is a direct result of questions and challenges observed on farms of participants of the farmers NC Choices (www.ncchoices.com) program. Extensive input has been made by partnering organizations, including NCA&T University, Heifer International, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), and NRCS. This project also leverages a 2007 Conservation Innovation Grant from the NRCS to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems to coordinate the establishment of demonstration farms and develop guidance documents for conservation planning in outdoor swine. With support from SARE, we will be able to conduct replicated research trials, in addition to on-farm demonstrations, and determine with greater accuracy the key practices necessary to minimize vegetation destruction, soil disturbance, nutrient run-off and water quality impacts. Research outcomes will be widely disseminated through partner organizations directly to pork producers (many of which are resource limited) extension agents, NRCS staff, and niche pork buyers throughout the southeast. Project results will be evaluated by a certified outside evaluator in the context of a collaboratively developed project logic model.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. 1. Determine how stocking rates affect vegetation survival, soil disturbance and nutrient distribution under different management schemes on perennial pasture. 2. Determine the effect of grazing management on nutrient loading and nutrient distribution in pastures. 3. Determine which of four vegetation types will continue to protect the soil when gestating sows have access for grazing and lounging during the gestation period. 4. Analyze the growth characteristics for heritage crossbreds to be raised in the hoop barn. 5. Compare meat quality of heritage crossbreds produced with different sire lines. 6. Increase awareness of research results by niche pork producers and buyers, extension agents and NRCS staff.
    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.