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Composting on a Hog Farm


April 25, 2019

Me and my brother are raising hogs in the East Mountains. We were doing pasture based production but our herd size has gotten to the point where that is pretty destructive so we have shifted to deep bedding fixed pens with wood mulch. We feed about 20000lbs of commercial feed waste a week. We have large wind rows, big piles, small piles, a few johnson su bio reactors, and I had some vermicompost buckets going but they didnt survive the winter .We need help. I dont really have any idea what I am doing and think that if we could get more dialed in with our compost management we could be producing pretty copious amounts of good stuff but right now I am afraid that we are cooking off a lot of our microbiology and fungi and loosing a lot of potential fertility to bad management. For instance the last pile I made several weeks ago has been turned several times but is cooking at upwards of 140f. Another issue we are running into is how to deal with ridiculous amounts of citrus fruit the pigs wont eat. Sometimes thousands of pounds in a single day. Some of it we sort out and keep separate but a lot of it ends up in the pens and gets incorporated. Worried about ph. No frame of reference and its pretty tough to find any resources that deal with doing things on this scale and with this type of inputs. Would very much appreciate and reading material, advice, etc. Would be happy to host any sort of workshops or volunteer in some way in exchange for guidance on how to tune in our composting operation.


Answer by JZ:  Other colleagues may also respond to your questions.   Here are some of my thoughts.

The fact that you are composting is excellent.  Seems to me that you are doing a fine job, already.  So, keep up.

  • Your worms may have needed a more protected space in the winter.  Increasing your worm operation would be beneficial. Their manure is superfine and a marketable product.

  • Hot composting is most certainly what you should be and are doing.  A pile should be at 130F for 3 days to destroy pathogens.

After each turn the pile should be allowed / encouraged to be at 130 - 150F again for 3 days, etc..

If a pile is hotter than it needs to be,( above 150F) then turn it and blend in 1/3 more carbon material: leaves, shredded paper / cardboard…..

In the desert an open pile would best be covered with a tarp to keep moisture in and flying insects out. The pile(s) should be bulked as they are built - this improves

air circulation because moderates compaction of wet organic material and thus avoids anaerobic decomposition, the gases from which are odiferous.

  • Citrus - it is the juice which is acidic.   The rind is oily, a bit slow to decompose, chop them before adding. The rinds & parts are “greens” so add some browns, eg. leaves to the blend.

If you dilute them by blending small amounts at at time, then no pH problems.  The decomposition (composting) process will bring the end product - humus to a neutral pH.

Additionally you could chop the orange parts, then dry them (quickly in NM sun). You could then store them dry, then add some as you wish at any time. Or you could bury them in a continuous trench, fresh or dry.

You and your brother are welcome to register, then attend any of our classes as often as you like. See Classes under Activities in our website menu.

Let us know if you need further assistance.    Keep up.    Best.

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