The buildings can be small or large, rustic or modern in designPretty much any building design to house your pigs can be used for natural pig farming. Buildings can be designed to house few or many pigs, be small or large, use basic or high tech materials, be rudimentary or sophisticated in design and operation. The pig buildings I use by choice in my pig operation, photographs of which you will see throughout this website, are basic and rustic in design. They are low cost to build, require basic building skills (so I, my family and friends are able to build ourselves) and use low cost natural materials (wood) and basic manufactured materials (corrugated steel roofs). If you prefer something more modern that's fine.
The natural pig farming pig houses are designed to maximize the health and well-being of the pigs. Key elements include:
- Roofing that provides shelter from rain and direct sun
- Open sides for exposure to outside air (and cooling breezes where climate is hot and during hot seasons). Dependent in climate the building can be designed with no sides, or with retractable sides that can be raised or lowered as necessary.
- Open ventilation in roof to promote air flow - where large scale pig production is taking place.
Public health authorities may blanche at the idea of open sided buildings. The environment in today’s factory farms is so laden with deadly bacteria, virus’s and sickness that the farms are more like biological warfare germ agent development facilities. As such, many factory farm buildings are like sealed vacumns with elaborate bio-security measures for people entering and leaving the factory. But the natural pig farming deep bed litter system and stocking densities promotes a naturally healthy environment and the open sided building actually prevent the build up of dangerous pathagons. The fact that something as innocuous as raising pigs is considered such a public health threat says much about just how wrong our food production models have become. Wrong for the pigs inside who must live in the environment where bacteria and virus’s are actively attacking the pigs immune system whilst gaining anti-biotic resistance and wrong for the population at large who must live with the risk of a swine flu pandemic these factory farms will eventually succeed on unleashing on the people of the world.
Factory farming buildings are complex and expensive compared to natural pig farming buildings. With no opens sides you have the additional cost of building materials for the walls, and the need for ventilation and fan systems. And with need for systems to deal with the pig excreta you will need to put in expensive waste handling systems.
Natural pig farming
Design enhances health of pigs
Open to clean, fresh air
Open to sunlight
Open to cooling breezes
Natural ventilation and air circulation
Deep bed litter flooring
The key component of natural pig farming system is the use of a deep bed litter flooring system that allows for fecal waste to be absorbed and rapidly broken down whilst at the same time provides a stimulating, manipulable environment for the pigs raised on it.
The material in the deep bed flooring provides the means of breaking down fecal matter rapidly, in a way that keeps the bedding clean, smell free and fly free. There is no external waste or pollution. All matter is broken down within the pen bedding. This bedding can be removed after 3 - 6 months and used as a highly nutritious compost* that introduces both nitrates and organic matter into the soil (unlike manufactured fertilizer that only introduces chemicals rather than organic material back into the soil), or the bedding can be left forever in the pen (where it will continue to break down and decompose) and topped up with new material as and when required. At the same time the deep bed flooring provides a stimulating, manipulable environment for the pigs.
This deep bed system provides:
- Exceptionally low cost flooring material
- Smell free sties (due to the rapid decomposition and processing of fecal /excrement by the IMO'S
- Fly free sties (no smell or pollutants to attract them)
- Healthy hygienic flooring that promote pig health - the IMO activity ensures this
- Great natural compost material that is rich in nitrates, organic matter and soil beneficial micro-organisms. This can be used to develop your own soil or to sell to other smallholders and farmers at significant profit on the input cost.
- Zero emissions - all fecal matter and excreta are consumed and transformed into organically rich material by the IMO's
It also provides a manipulable floor that enables the pigs to:
Root Explore Dig Eat Lie down / sleep comfortably
* Note: The pig flooring material once removed from the sty can be mixed with other compostable materials, soil and fermented solutions, and then left to decompose further to make an extremely organically rich compost.
The floor bedding is built using a mix of materials that can ultimately produce extremely micro-organism rich compost. Even if you’re ultimate aim is not to use it or sell the flooring as compost you need to use such materials as they help develop the rich micro-organism environment that will rapidly break down any fecal matter, keeping your pens hygenic and odor free.
The best (and cheapest) materials for the pen flooring is agri-by- produce such as rice hulls and peanut hulls. The rice husk / hull is the dry protective skin of the rice seed – it gets removed when threshed and is readily available in countries that produce rice. Peanut hulls are the outer shell of a peanut that is moved when the peanut is threshed. Both are extremely cheap to acquire. In countries where rice and peanuts are not grown other suitable materials may be used, possibly short chopped straw / hay, sawdust, peat, mushroom compost or any other material that can absorb moisture whilst remaining dry and is naturally degradable. A mix of materials is used to create the ideal flooring.
The general mix we use comprises of:
- Rice hulls / husks (dry protective casings of rice seed) : approximately 100 sacks
- Used mushroom compost: approx. 5 - 10 sacks
- Cow manure: approx.10 - 30 sacks
- Red soil: approx: 5-10 sacks
- Charcoal : approx. 1-5 sacks
- Egg shells: optional
- Hay / straw (chopped short): approx. 5-10 sacks
- Salt : 2 kg
- Imo concentrate / compost: 1 sack
- FFJ/FPJ solution with water (click here for details)
- Rice bran powder: 2 sacks
This creates a living micro-organism rich environment that facilitates the breaking down of excrement and the creation of high quality compost material. Whilst you can be very hands off in maintaining the bed, we tend to add fresh rice husks on a regular basis to top up the bedding and cover the dung in the small area the pigs will have decided to be the toilet area.
To create a very good compost raking the fecal matter across the bed surface can be done, but given the natural instinct of pigs is to lie as far away as possible from the toilet area, this does seem compromise the welfare standard of respecting pigs behavior. If we wish to disperse the manure in this way we add a fresh layer of rice husk on top so the pigs still have a clean toilet-free living area surface, or we bury beneath the top surface of the pen flooring and add a layer of rice husk.
We don’t use straw or hay as a top surface as this attracts dangerous centipedes. If we use straw as a nesting material we ensure it is short cut straw for this reason.
Natural home-made solutions are used to foster indigenous micro-organism (IMO) activity which creates a healthy 'living' bed
The key addition to your deep litter flooring is a weekly application of a easy to make, home made fermented fruit / vegetable solution that promotes the presence and activity of IMO's. This keeps the deep bed litter flooring hygienic and healthy.
How Do I Build A Natural Farming Deep Bed Pig Sty?
Below I outline the basic principles of building a deep bed pig sty. This concept can be used for building a small sty to keep just a couple of pigs in your back yard to raising hundreds of pigs.
Dimensions will vary dependent on how many pens you want under one roof and the number of pigs you want to keep. Below are the dimensions of my single pen pig sties.
My dimensions for single pig sty building suitable for raising 10-12 pigs, or keeping 2-3 breeding sows:
- Width: 6 - 8 meters
- Length: 8 meters
- Height (highest point): 3.5 meters
Dig 0.9 - 1 meter down (and build trough). You need to go this deep to ensure that the deep floor bedding is deep enough to absorb and break down the fecal matter whilst keeping the pen floor healthy and hygienic. 10 pigs over 6 months can expel a lot of excrement and feces.
Build an 'enclosing wall' 2 block bricks deep from the surface level down. This will stop your pigs rooting underneath the fence you will be building to enclose your pen.
Dimensions of pen:
- Width: 4 meter
- Length: 6 meter
- Depth: 1 meter
Remember part of the reason why the natural pig farming system is so successful in raising healthy, non problematic pigs is the provision of space. Give the pigs as much space as you can.Treat the above measurements as minimums.
Fencing height: 1.10 meter
Build a trough (block bricks set up in a U shape and smooth concrete surface) all along one side of the pen (see picture above).
Fill with rice hull, peanut hulls or any other dry (chopped) agri by-product materials.
If you are planning to use the pen to raise pigs for slaughter a large open pen should be designed. This will allow you to keep your pigs together in a stable family group throughout the raising process in an environment that gives them the space and facilities to enjoy a way of life in accordance to their natural instincts.
If you are planning to raise pigs to breed, then the area should be sub-divided into two sections. We choose to keep two sows together throughout their pregnancy and only partition them just prior to farrowing. After weaning the partition is opened and they have full access to the subdivided pen and live together again.
What we never do is keep any pig in isolation. Pigs are social animals, form strong bonds with other pigs, and enjoy doing things together, be it eating, sleeping, rooting or even suckling their piglets at the same time. Even when they are partitioned for giving birth and raising there piglets, they have visible contact with their sow mate.
To ensure clean water is available we use a pig nipple tap feeder system. This ensures the pigs get to drink fresh clean water. Feeding water via a trough is not so ideal as the water is likely to get soiled and dirty.
We use a very basic system of feeding water through to the pig nipple. We have a plastic bin with a rubber hose or plastic pipe connecting to plastic piping. The water is topped up mornings and evenings.
Mud bath wallows
Pigs need mud psychologically and physiologically. My natural pig farming system provides a mud 'bath' in one corner or side of the pen. Kept wet with water this provides a splendid cooling wet water bath. Left dry, the natural coolness of the soil provides the cool that a pig seeks. A pig doesn’t want to lie in wet mud all day and night, so our natural pig farming practice is to add water during at certain times of the day when the weather is hottest, and then let it dry naturally. We apply the water with a watering can (we're very low tech) which enables the pigs to get a cool shower as we pour.
The larger the mud bath area the better as pigs will spend most of the time in the mud bath. In hindsight I would increase the size of the ones we built in our pens so bear this in mind when you see the mud bath visuals scattered around this site. To make a good self contained mud wallow you do need to dig down about 50 cm and build a block brick enclosure 2 block bricks in depth. You can then re-add the soil you have dug out. This soil needs to be topped up on a regular basis to keep fresh. Adding red soil is a good idea as this will help keep the pigs healthy and also add the IMO fermented solution in 10 liters of water regularly to ensure plenty of healthy indigenous micro-organism activity to keep the mud in healthy condition.
Natural pig farming trough
Natural pig farming aims to respect the natural feeding behavior and motivations of pigs. Feed time aggression is certainly not a problem that requires high tech solutions or elaborate feeding regimes. Pigs are fed twice daily and in groups. Concentrated feeds are usually fed in troughs, whilst pig pellets and fresh greens are often scattered on the pen flooring for pigs to seek and eat. These are generally fed in addition to the main feed in trough and provides for prolonged and interesting feeding activity for the pigs. This has the benefit of allowing pigs to conduct their natural rooting and foraging behavior, and also prolongs their feeding activity, which again is more in-line with their natural feeding behavior.
The model trough design for natural pig farming is to have one long trough along the length side of a pen that provides sufficient access to feed for all the pigs eating at one time. The trough can be partitioned in a very basic way to ensure each pig can feed without being pushed aside by any of the other pigs wishing to butt in. Such petitions are prudent if you are raising many pigs within a pen. Where we keep just 2 sows together or raise smaller number of pigs together (4-6) we have found them to be less necessary. It’s natural for pig to be inquisitive and interested in what their fellow pigs are eating. Consequently where there is no barrier protection you will get pigs shuffling position from time to time. As long as feed has been spread adequately along the trough such maneuvering should not be a concern as all pigs will have access to sufficient feed.
The short attached clip shows two of three pigs in a pen taking the opportunity to eat some small banana stalk scraps that have been thrown into trough. It gives you some idea of the trough, trough partition and overall pen design. Note:
1) The pigs are totally unstressed even when feeding.
2) The pigs are quiet - there is no squealing or aggression even at the trough
3) One of the pigs is happily sitting it out in the pens mud bath.
This is a happy, contented group of pigs benefiting from the enlightened approach of natural pig farming.
Natural Deep Bed Pig Farming uses indigenous micro-organisms (IMO's) to create and maintain a healthy deep bed litter flooring. It is these micro-organisms that will help break down fecal matter rapidly leaving you with a fertilizer rich material whilst ensure no smells or flies (an important factor in the tropics in particular where pigs and millions of flies can be synonymous). We apply a home made enzyme/microbe mixture fosters rapid anaerobic digestion of waste.
Micro-organisms are all around us. They are vital to humans and the environment, as they participate in the Earth's element cycles such as the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle, as well as fulfilling other vital roles in virtually all ecosystems, such as recycling other organisms' dead remains and waste products through decomposition. They are a key component of natural pig farming deep bed system.
Micro-organisms do most of the material circulation in nature. They decompose and convert complex organic materials such a dead plants and animals, secretion, excretion and organic fertilizers into simple compounds so that material circulation is possible.
They also create complex or organic compounds by synthesis. They produce various materials such as anti-biotic substances, enzymes and lactic acids which suppress various diseases and promote chemical reaction in the soil. Without the enzymes the chemical reactions cannot take place so rapidly.
The natural pig farming deep bed system harnesses these beneficial properties to successfully raise animals and grow crops in the most low cost environmentally friendly way. They are a key element of all inputs into the Natural deep bed pig farming system, promoting health and preventing disease. They are also a key input to ensuring a healthy pig pen floor.
The natural pig farming deep bed system focuses on the use of indigenous micro-organisms (I.M.O). These are the natural organisms that can be found in the local area. Natural pig farming wishes to foster I.M.O’s because they are best adapted to the local environment making them stronger and more effective than micro-organisms found elsewhere or commercially artificially created micro-organisms.
Natural pig farming harnesses these beneficial properties to successfully raise animals and grow crops in the most low cost environmentally friendly way. They are a key element of all inputs into the natural pig farming deep bed system, promoting health and preventing disease. They are also a key input to ensuring a healthy pig pen floor.
We tend to use two different enzyme/microbe rich mixtures (either of which can be used) that have foster high indigenous micro organism activity when used in the deep bed flooring. They are cheap, easy to make solutions and are produced by fermenting natural plant and fruit materials with sugar. These are diluted in water and poured via watering can onto the pen bedding once a week.
This is one of the two very effective solutions we make to encourage high IMO activity in the deep pen flooring. Below is the process you need to follow to create your FPJ solution.
- Pick plant material you wish to use early in morning before plant loses nutrient values to photosynthesis.
- Any green plant / vegetation will be fine to use: We tend to use Chinese water vegetable which grows wild and is readily available but plants like banana sprout, young bamboo etc. can also be used.
- Chop plant up into very small pieces
- Add half plant material to a container and line with half the sugar
- Add remaining half and add remaining sugar
- Compress with weight on top (a bag filled with water is very effective)
- Quantity: 7kg plant material to 3 kg sugar
- Leave for 8-10 days
- Drain and collect the juice – this is now your fermented plant juice solution (FPJ)
- When ready to apply to bedding add approximately 2 spoons of FPJ to 10 liter of water
- Pour via watering can onto the pig pen bedding (and then continue to add to the flooring on weekly basis)
Just this small addition of FPJ will stimulate high indigenous micro-organism development and activity sufficient to rapidly break down any excrement and keep the bed healthy and smell free.
This is the other solution you can use to foster high IMO activity. You can use any kind of fruit but those fruit types that are likely to generate lots of juice are best.
- Pick the fruit
- Chop into small pieces
- Add 1kg fruit : 1kg sugar
- Put half the fruit in a container and add half the sugar.
- Add the remaining fruit and add the remaining sugar.
- Seal container with paper lid (this allows for air to enter and leave container).
- Leave for 8-10 days.
- Squeeze fruit to extract all juice.
- Pour juice into jar.
- Use 2 spoons of juice to 10 liter of water. Mix.
- With watering can pour water on the bedding surface of the pig’s pen.
Whilst you can use either the fermented plant juice or fermented fruit juice to stimulate rapid anaerobic digestion of waste, we tend to use a mix of both in the same water. Adding the solution to the bedding once a week ensures a high level of micro-organism activity which will keep your bedding healthy and free from smell.