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:
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:
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.
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.