Friday, February 03, 2017

N.C. farm experimenting with ways to raise antibiotic-free hogs and decrease farm runoff

Straw is used to soak up urine and feces
(North Carolina Health News photo by Gave Rivin)
Researchers at an experimental farm in Goldsboro, N.C., hope to "show how hogs can be raised without antibiotics in a way that grants them enough space to roam—and that keeps their waste out of open-air lagoons," Gabe Rivin reports for North Carolina Health News. The 142-animal operation is part-research facility, part-demonstration for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and a research center run by North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

North Carolina, second only to Iowa in pork production, has 8.8 million pigs, mostly in the eastern part of the state, Rivin writes. "To raise such a large number of pigs, many farms rely on concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. These facilities raise animals efficiently and economically. Yet with such large numbers of animals, they can also produce an abundant amount of feces and urine. Many large-scale farms store this waste in open-air lagoons or in pits and then spray the treated waste on nearby fields. But this practice has raised researchers’ and residents’ concerns."

One way researchers have cut down on waste is through straw beds, Rivin writes. "The straw is used to soak up the pigs’ urine and feces. It’s how the farmers manage the animals’ waste, and it serves as an alternative to a lagoon system. Eventually, it can also be used as a fertilizer for crops." One drawback to the farm is that raising antibiotic, cage-free animals requires paying closer attention to the animals, which means increased time and labor for workers.

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