Integrated Hog Farming and Market Gardening for Small Farmers in Tropical Areas of the Western Region

1992 Annual Report for LWE92-002

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1992: $36,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $31,500.00
Grant Recipient: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Kent Fleming
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Integrated Hog Farming and Market Gardening for Small Farmers in Tropical Areas of the Western Region



  1. To demonstrate a farm which efficiently produces farrow-to-finish pigs and compost using the “deep litter” system.
  2. To demonstrate a farm in which livestock production is well integrated with the efficient production of market garden and orchard crops, especially in regards to transforming green waste and animal waste problems into useful compost fertilizer.
  3. To demonstrate that a farm which is more environmentally sustainable can also be more economically sustainable.
  4. To explore the possibility of a composting cooperative in which orchard crop farmers who do not have a convenient source of nitrogen or necessary composting facilities, bring their green waste to the demonstration farm for conversion to compost. 

The purpose of this project is to transform a conventional 55 sow farrow-to-finish pig rearing operation into a deep litter system, and then to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of the system. The pig operation will be integrated with a market garden and orchard production. Green waste, which will be chopped and shredded for litter, will be converted into compost and returned to the crops as fertilizer. The livestock and crop enterprises are integral components of a sustainable whole farm system. 

The system is simple. Pigs are maintained on a bedding of carbon material (e.g., chopped or shredded green waste and nut husks); over time the added manure, bacteria, and enzymes, worked into the litter by the pigs, assist in initial decomposition; eventually the pigs work the material along the slightly sloped floor and into the composting facility. At this point the compost is finished by mechanical turning. The compost is returned to the crops where the carbon material was originally collected. The market garden produce and the orchard crops (coffee, bananas, macadamia nuts, and citrus) are thus integrated with the livestock enterprize. The system should be more profitable and more environmentally sound.

Abstract of Results

This project demonstrates to a wide range of interested observers the possibility of sustainable small-scale integrated livestock and orchard/market garden production. In order to be sustainable the livestock waste must not lead to environmental degradation, especially in terms of water and air quality, and the total farming operation must provide a reasonably acceptable economic return to the farmer. A strong consumer demand for fresh pork makes conventional pig farming reasonably profitable. However, equally strong regulatory and social demands to prevent environmental problems are eliminating the possibility to continue conventional pig production practices.

In light of this problem, we considered pig production methods used in more urbanized areas of the world. The deep litter pig production system developed and practiced in the Netherlands and Japan seemed to have some potential for U.S. production. This project adapts the deep litter system to tropical conditions. 

In order to utilize the animal waste, shredded green waste from orchard, market garden, and landscape operations is combined with manure to produce compost fertilizer. In the process water and air pollution related to pig-rearing has been eliminated. While labor requirements for materials handling have increased to a limited degree, human labor required for making compost is minimized by having the pigs naturally work the manure into the shredded green waste litter. It is hoped that the costs associated with increased materials handling labor will be off set by reduced purchases of off-farm fertilizer inputs.

Whether or not the deep litter system ultimately proves to be more profitable, the system will at least allow pig production to continue in a social and regulatory environment which is no longer able to tolerate conventional pig production.

Economic Analysis

Implementation and ownership costs associated with the deep litter system are being collected and financial returns to resources employed will be calculated. When Deep Litter compost was applied to the market garden crop of bananas, a savings of $201.00 per acre could be realized. If the farmer decided to sell the compost, instead of using it on his farm, he could have obtained a price of $30.00 per cubic yard. 

Potential Contributions and Practical Applications:

The primary benefit is increased sustainability of the hog and market garden system. The deep litter system provides pig producers a cost-effective means of becoming environmentally responsible. Therefore, more innovative producers can continue to be reasonably profitable on a small but commercial scale. Deep litter pig production may prove to be more profitable than conventional approaches when the extra value of the composted crops is factored into the whole farm profitability. The net financial impact is still being analyzed as some crops are on annual cycles. 

Farmer Adoption

Project cooperator George Kahumoku feels that the Deep Litter system was worth adopting, and that the system should be promoted statewide. He has received funding ($120,000 for a two-year period) from the Environmental Protection Agency to continue the project, which will utilize his farm as a model farm for the rest of the state pork producers. Both the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Hawaii Department of Health will participate in the project. 

Operational Recommendations

The Deep Litter system is dependent on funding to undertake construction; proper construction is imperative (see slides-hog containment area must slope slightly to allow gravity-flow of composted material); adequate size (an operation of at least 50 farrows is necessary to offset costs of construction); adequate, consistent availability of carbon sources (material used on this site included macadamia nut husks and shells and wood chips from local trees; other sources could include green waste from recycling sites/landfills, and wood chips and shavings from sawmills); and farmer willingness to utilize the final compost product to reap the full benefits of the system.

Areas Needing Additional Study

One area that warrants additional study is the expansion of the Deep Litter system to other farms in the state. As this was only tested on our cooperator’s farm, which is considered a small farm, it would be beneficial to determine if a larger operation would experience the same success as was obtained here. It would also be worth exploring the potential for the marketing of organic pork from this system, in addition to the organic vegetables and fruit produced on this farm. 
Reported in 1995