|Straw is used to soak up urine and feces |
(North Carolina Health News photo by Gave Rivin)
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.