Animals in Agriculture

Alternative Farming Systems: A bibliography. 2nd part


Poultry farming

Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-range poultry production & marketing: A guide to raising, processing, and marketing premium quality chicken, turkey & eggs. Back Forty Books, Creola, Ohio, 1997.
This manual gives all the details on how to raise, process and market free-range poultry and egg products. The information given is based on several production models put forth by other farmers and by the author himself, who is a full-time farmer in southeastern Ohio, living in an income-sharing community dedicated to living a simple life in harmony with nature. Herman Beck-Chenoweth produces hay, beef and dairy cows, vegetables, poultry, eggs and furniture. His birds are started in barns and are moved to pasture at 4-6 weeks. They are kept in skid houses, range around the skids, and are moved to fresh pasture in general every three to four weeks. "Our goal, is to give our birds the best life they could have, honor that life by consistently producing the best tasting, cleanest, healthiest meat or eggs we can, all the while improving our soil. If we can do all that AND make a reasonable return for our efforts, we are satisfied."
Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-range, pastured poultry, chicken tractor--What's the difference? In: Free-Range Poultry. Web Site. Free-Range Poultry Production and Marketing, Creola, Ohio, 2001.
Today there are three leading systems for producing poultry outdoors on pasture with significant differences between the systems. "Free-Range is a non-confinement system that uses a perimeter fence to deter predators. A variation of this system, known as DayRange, uses an Electronet portable fence to keep the birds safe from dogs and coyotes during daylight hours. The large-scale access to pasture combined with the low stocking rate (400 chickens or 100 turkeys per acre) allows the birds plenty of area to exercise and deposit manure.
Pastured Poultry, as researched and taught by Virginia farmer, Joel Salatin, is a confinement system with a grass floor, using portable pens approximately 8 x 10 feet in size. The pens, each containing about 80 chickens, are moved by hand and must be moved twice daily.
A third system, the Chicken Tractor was developed by Andy Lee and is a useful system for raising 50 or so birds for home use. By placing these pens in the garden, soil is tilled and manure can be placed exactly where desired. This is not a commercial sized system, and is also a confinement system. A recent refinement of the Chicken Tractor is the addition of a pop-hole door to allow the birds to range at least part of the day."

Beck-Chenoweth, H. Free-Range Poultry. Web Site. Free-Range Poultry Production and Marketing, Creola, Ohio, 2001.
Free-range essentials and a production budget are given. The three systems of producing poultry outdoors on pasture are compared.

Berton, V. and Mudd, D. Profitable Poultry: Raising Birds on Pasture. USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 2001.
This bulletin features farmer experiences plus the latest research in a new "how-to" guide to raising chickens and turkeys using pens, movable fencing and pastures. With examples from farms from all over the country it touches on the system's many opportunities to improve profits, environment and rural family life. Poultry system options, many of them outdoors, that raise chickens for greater profit with less environmental impact and better conditions for the birds, are examined and alternative poultry systems such as pastured poultry pens, day range, yarding, chicken tractor and free-range are described. The bulletin also covers potential for profit, production basics, environmental benefits, quality of life and marketing options. This document provides an excellent comprehensive overview of alternative poultry farming with many color photos.
Bowman, G. 'This is real chicken' : Iowa farm women forge links with thankful consumers. The New Farm; 15(6), Sept/Oct 1993.
The members of Homestead Pride Poultry Cooperative raise chickens on non-medicated feed in existing outbuildings that give the birds plenty of room to run. Farm-raised broilers are a viable alternative, when costs are kept low by selling directly to consumers. Co-op members do everything except hatching chicks and processing.
Buckels, C.G. Midwest poultry producers share success stories. Small Farm Today;30-32, May 2003.
Tim and Julie Walker raise pastured poultry (turkeys and chickens) at Greystone Farm in Fayette, Missouri. The birds all roam outside, protected by fenced pastures and portable shelters. Pastured poultry pens did not work on uneven ground, so the Walkers adapted another system which combines open range and pasture with portable shelters. The Walkers move the shelter three times per week so the chickens have access to fresh grass. The chickens range inside the electrified netting fence where they are protected from predators. Their turkeys are free-range birds, but they are penned up at night in a roosting shelter. The Walkers have built a new hen house with a waste-lime floor with mulch on top and nest boxes down the center. For this hen house, instead of using a portable shelter system, the Walkers are creating eight paddocks which the chickens can enter through hinged doors called pop holes on sides of the hen house. This permanent building with runs is much more effective on their hilly uneven ground.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Large-Scale Pastured Poultry Farming in the U.S. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2001.
Results of a survey involving 9 producers raising at least 4,000 pastured chickens per year across the U.S. First all nine raised their chickens in 10' by 12' pens, moving them at least once a day. Five of the producers switched to a day range system to reduce labor. The chickens are allowed free range inside a fenced paddock during the day and are enclosed in a weather-tight and predator-proof shelter at night. The greenhouse-type buildings that house the chickens are moved about once a week and electrified netting is moved daily around the greenhouse to rotate pastures. Questions relating to labor, marketing and income are addressed.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Pastured poultry study addresses broad range of issues. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2000.
This research brief is a summary of the pastured poultry study. 'Five diversified farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota are providing the data for the study. Diane Kaufmann, a pastured poultry farmer from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and one of the producers participating in the study, says: "I see the pastured poultry model as a farming method that requires low investment, with labor that can be provided by almost anyone, and provides a healthy life for the bird and the person who consumes it."
Cicero, K. Homes on the range: Portable poultry pens are proliferating. The New Farm; 17(4):13, May/June 1995.
Tips for building portable pens for pasturing poultry.
Cramer, C. Pastured poultry resources . In: Cramer, C., Sustainable Farming Connection: Where farmers find and share information. Web site. Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, © 1997.
This page lists various resources: a pasture poultry discussion group to share tips with other pasture poultry producers; a quarterly newsletter published by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, sharing information on production practices, processing equipment, marketing, legal issues, and more; books, guides and information packages, press releases, new equipment, and additional sites.

Plamondon, R. Range Poultry Housing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Apr. 1999.
Pastured poultry field pens: In this system, birds are housed in a field pen that is moved daily to fresh pasture. Seventy-five to one hundred chicks (two to four weeks old) are placed in 10'x12'x2'pens. Since the pen is floorless, the birds are able to forage on plants, seeds, insects, and worms in addition to their concentrate feed. Water must be provided. Some producers use a field pen, yet open it during the day to give the chickens free range. Others provide access to a portable corral. It may not be necessary to move the field pen daily if this method is used.
Free-range colony housing: In this production system, birds are housed at night for protection and released during the day. Housing can be more substantial than a field pen since it is not moved daily by hand–the housing is towed (by tractor, pick-up, or horse) every week or so to prevent wear on the pasture. Beck-Chenoweth uses a shelter on skids enclosed with chicken wire with litter-covered floors, tarp-covered gable roofs, and doors on both ends. The only fencing required is perimeter fencing to deter daytime predators such as dogs.
Semi-fixed or fixed housing: The traditional "yard and coop" system is one that most people are familiar with. If stocking density is low and birds are allowed to roam freely during the day, this can be a simple system.

Fanatico, A. Sustainable Poultry: Production Overview. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., March 2002.
"This publication provides information on raising poultry on pasture, including descriptions of production systems and facilities, as well as detailed nuts-and-bolts information."
The following operations are described:
  •   semi-intensive (chickens in semi-intensive operations are raised in non-moveable buildings with access to outdoor grazing in pens that are used in rotation.)
  • "yard and coop" (Some producers let chickens, mainly layers, roam the farm at will, shutting them up at night to protect against predators.)
  • field pen: pastured poultry (Broilers are pastured in floorless pens, which are moved daily to fresh pasture.)
  • net range or day range (Net-range uses portable net fencing around a house to make multiple yards.)
  • free-range ("Free-range" refers to operations using non-contained access to pasture and moveable housing such as the eggmobile or skids.)
  • colony production system (uses multiple small roosting houses scattered on pasture)
Most of these models feature access to pasture but with modifications.
Fanatico, A., compiler. Pastured Poultry: A Heifer Project International Case Study Booklet. National Center for Appropriate Technology, Little Rock, AR, 2000.
This booklet summarizes the experiences of 35 Southern farm families who from 1996-1999 participated in a project titled "Integrating Pastured Poultry into the Farming Systems of Limited Resource Farmers." Introduction to pastured poultry, farmers' experiences and guidelines on how to raise poultry on pasture are available on the site. Highlighted are brooding, pen construction, weather, pasture management, feeding, mortality, processing, marketing, labor and earnings, and quality of life.
Geissal, D. Free-range poultry. Small Farm Today; 13(3):20-21, June 1996.
The organic or natural market is an ideal niche for small farmers. Consumers are becoming concerned about the lack of a normal llife for factory birds, or the way chickens are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. Birds, and eggs from birds raised on pasture, free of antibiotics and hormones can be sold at a premium price. The author gives advice on how to start chickens on pasture. She has solved the predator problem by having Great Pyrenees dogs on the farm.
Klober, K. Sustainable poultry for pasture. Small Farm Today; 15(2):21-22, Apr/May 1998.
The author suggests developping one's own strain of broilers for pasture, using crosses of two different pure breeds, rather than using the Cornish-X broiler that is a high performance bird, whose needs are not being met on pastureland. A purebred breeding flock to produce home-raised broilers can be begun on nearly any small farm. Suggestions and advice are given.

Kuit, A.R., Ehlhardt, D.A., and Blokhuis, H.J., eds. Alternative improved housing systems for poultry: Proceedings of a seminar in the Community programme for the coordination of agricultural research, held at the Spelderholt Centre for Poultry Research and Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Netherlands, Directorate of Agricultural Research, Beekbergen, 17 and 18 May 1988. Commission of the European Communities. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1989.
The seminar primarily makes an inventory and a comparison of the housing systems that have been developed in European countries, as a result of consumer concern about the well-being of poultry. The seminar focuses on animal welfare research, inventory of systems developed, welfare and utilization of space in new housing systems, zootechnical and economical aspects of alternative housing systems for poultry.
Lee, A. and Foreman, P. Day Range Poultry: Every Chicken Owner's Guide to Grazing Gardens and Improving Pastures. Good Earth Publications, Buena Vista, VA, 2001.
Information about raising poultry on pasture from egg to processing. "In the day range system, the poultry are sheltered at night in mini-barns or portable units that have floors with deep bedding. The floor and bedding that keep the birds warm and dry during wet and cold weather. The birds are protected from predators and weather, and allowed to graze in the daytime inside temporary paddocks that are fenced with portable, electric poultry netting. The netting keeps the poultry in, and the predators out... The area for poultry to graze is moved regularly by repositioning the poultry netting. This eliminates over-grazing, and gives the poultry continual access to fresh, growing pasture."
Nick, J. Getting started with pastured chickens. Part I; Part II; Part III. The New Farm, 2005.
PART I: Or... how 6 chickens became 300 in just a year, and launched an organic egg business for two novices. Chock full of resources, links, hard-earned lessons and practical advice for novice poultry people.
PART II: Down to the details. From housing options to choosing a breed to organic certification to picking out a proud papa, Jean covers the first series of decisions you'll need to make as you launch head-first into raising our feathered friends.
PART III: In her third and final installment, Jean Nick outlines the basics of watering and feeding. She also tells you how to set up nest boxes, manage the chickens in winter and even how to insure your chickens get their essential dust bath.
Riddle, J. Alpine chicken tour. The New Farm (Web Site). Rodale Institute, 2003.
"A photo tour of a Swiss organic poultry farm, with a detailed look at innovative production techniques": 'None of Mr. Dieters laying hens are de-beaked. Pecking is prevented through a variety of strategies. The house and outdoor areas are subdivided into units of 500 birds. There are equal numbers of brown and white breeds, breaking up the pecking order. There are a few roosters in each flock. Birds are given plenty of space, both indoors and out. They are provided with a variety of roosts and activities to satisfy their natural behavior. They are provided a balanced ration, ensuring that they have plenty of protein. The building is well ventilated, with excellent air quality.'
Salatin, J. Pastured poultry profits. Polyface, Swoope, Va., © 1993.
"In this book a proven production model is described, which is capable of producing an income from a small acreage equal or superior to that of most off-farm jobs. Salatin keeps his broilers in 2 foot tall pens that are moved over fresh grass every morning and his layers free-range around a portable hen house called an eggmobile. The book gives details about getting started, choosing a breed, starting the chicks, ration, the pasture, processing, problems, marketing, possibilities. "Pasturing allows chickens to be grown without damaging substances. Out on pasture, with fresh air, sunshine, green material and wholesome feed, broilers will outperform their factory counterparts in every way. ... They will possess a superior taste. That makes them easy to sell and easy to eat. It allows competitive production costs, all the while producing a more nutritious, clean product." Not only are his chickens healthier but they are also happier. "The long term benefits for society are greater because we are treating our animals better. But we don't do it for business reasons. We do it because it's right." says Salatin.
Thear, K. Free-Range Poultry. Farming Press, 1997, 2nd ed.
Practical and comprehensive guide to the free-range management of chickens. Every aspect of poultry husbandry is covered, including non-intensive systems, both small scale and larger scale; chapters on equipment, land management, breeds, nutrition, egg quality, table poultry, breeding, rearing, health, and marketing.
Traupman, M. Profitable poultry on pasture. The New Farm; 12(4):20, 23, May/June 1990.
Broiler and layers follow beef cattle in this rotation. On Salatin's Polyface Farm, 50 head of beef graze pasture first. Controlled by portable electric fences, the cattle leave a trail of manure and 4 to 5 inches of grass stubble in their wake. Four days after the cattle chow down on the grass, the chickens are put on that pasture to clean up after them. Both the layers and broilers love to pick through fresh manure for insects, and undigested food particles. Salatin keeps his broilers in movable pens and his layers free-range around a portable hen house called an eggmobile. Pasturing has cut Salatin's feed expenses up to an estimated 60 percent on layers and 30 percent on broilers. Also, the boilers reach market weight two weeks earlier than normal.


Fanatico, A. and Born, H. Label Rouge: Pasture-Based Poultry Production in France. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Nov. 2002.
"Pasture-raised poultry is increasingly popular in the U.S. American farmers and small companies can benefit from studying the French Label Rouge program. Started as a grassroots movement and now commanding 30% of the French poultry market, it has helped boost incomes for small farmers... This program provides premium products to consumers, increases farmer income, and strengthens rural development. It consists of many regional producer-oriented alliances, called filieres, which produce and market their own branded products under a common label. A third-party certification program ensures that strict standards are being followed." All birds have access to range and their feed is non-medicated. See one example at
Good Natured Family Farms
A Cooperative in central and southeast Kansas and west central Missouri, selling all natural beef, now also sell eggs. To qualify for membership, a producer must be a small family farm, raise hens free ranged without hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics.
NC SARE Office. Pastured poultry, co-op style. Field Notes. NC SARE Quarterly Fact Sheet; May 1999.
Nebraska farmer David Bosle got inspired by Joel Salatin's book on how to raise chickens naturally on pasture, but he expanded on Salatin's example by buying and processing birds cooperatively with other Nebraska producers. This fact sheet profiles Bosle's model. His system "mirrors Salatin's in supporting local economies, clean environments, profitable farms and satisfied poultry consumers. But Bosle's collective enterprise adds a cost-share twist while meeting a high demand for pastured poultry." "There is a huge, untapped market for pastured poultry in Nebraska", says Cris Carusi, executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society." Lots of people remember what farm-raised chicken tastes like, and they jump at the chance to serve that kind of quality to their families."
Organic Valley Family of Farms. Web Site. 1999-2002
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative members number over 190 small to mid sized family farms in 10 states. The purpose of CROPP Cooperative is to give market support for sustainable agricultural practices that are beneficial to the environment thus providing consumers with quality products. All animals must receive adequate access to fresh air and sunlight. Cattle are pastured in certified organic fields, chickens are free roaming with outdoor access, and hogs are not confined and are allowed to pasture. Livestock is considered an essential component of a healthy sustainable agricultural system. Careful handling of waste material recycles nutrients back to the earth to grow the grasses and feed while protecting natural waterways. Hormones, like rBGH, or antibiotics are never used in production. The products are certified organic by Oregon Tilth.


 Dairy farming, Beef farming

Farmers' experience and Farms' profiles

Acres USA staff. Reinventing dairy: Organics and innovation give consumers real milk. Acres USA; 34(5):8-9, May 2004.
The focal farm for this report, Organic Pastures Dairy Company, is California's first certified pasture-grazed raw-milk dairy. Mark McAfee created a dairy unlike any other in North America. One of its features is a mobile milking barn. It is mobile enough to reach docking spots that exempt cows from long walks to a milking barn from whichever pasture they happen to be grazing that day. The unit weighs a little more than a Cadillac car, has its own chiller, milk pump, generator, everything required to keep the milk pure and fresh. "We do not ever have pathogens in our milk." This is quite unusual for raw milk producers. 'What's happening here?" "when you stop giving your cows antibiotics, you stop killing off the beneficial bacteria that reside in the rumen and intestine. As a result you stop causing the physiological stresses that produce pathogens," was McAfee's response. "Our customers refuse to drink pasteurized milk because of the fact that none of the enzymes are alive," McAfee said.
Bowman, G. Pasture proving ground: this grazier puts tools and techniques to the test. The New Farm; 16(4):19-20, 22, 24-25, May/June 1994.
Ed Rits from Honey Grove, Pennsylvania rotated pastures when he was a dairyman, but he didn't see the potential of intensively managed grass until he switched to raising beef cattle. He learnt to manage his land resource and started farmer-to-farmer consulting work to help farmers get started with grazing. In this article he gives advice to beginning farmers. He thinks it is important for farmers to help each other. ”Unless you meet with others who are going in the same direction, you lose enthusiasm, because you think you are the only one doing it.“
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. An organic dairying overview from the Krusenbaum farm studies. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 1999.
The Krusenbaums have been working to make low-input organic dairy farming a viable, profitable alternative to conventional dairying. They have fully adopted intensive rotational grazing from May through October. In the winter, the animals are fed round bale silage on pasture. The Krusenbaums have also made another big switch in herd management by moving to seasonal dairying.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Why make the transition to grazing. Wisconsin farmers share their perspectives. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 1999.
In 1994 and 1995, CIAS conducted case studies with six Wisconsin dairy farming families who've adopted management intensive rotational grazing practices. This is a summary of their reasons for grazing, their sources of management information, their advice to beginning graziers, and how they got started.
Cramer, C. 'Grass farming' beats corn and keeps 800 milkers productive and profitable. The New Farm; 12(6):10-16, Sept/Oct 1990.
Charles Opitz's herd perennially ranks among the largest two of three in the state of Wisconsin. Seven to eight months of the year, intensively grazed pastures supply the bulk of the feed for his 600 to 800 milkers and 1,200 dry stock and heifers. "Grass farming solves 99 percent of the problems LISA (low-input sustainable agriculture) is trying to deal with. It not only stops erosion and silting, but it also eliminates 99 percent of the herbicides and insecticides." he says. Early spring management is critical.
Cramer, C. Pastures beat BGH! Farmers, consumers and rural communities all win with rotational grazing, says this new study. The New Farm; 13(5):18-20, 22, July/Aug. 1991.
"With rotational grazing, cows harvest their own high-quality feed from intensively managed pastures near milking facilities. Fencing is used to parcel out forage in small sections (called paddocks). Cows are moved to fresh forage at its nutritional peak as often as twice a day. Surplus forage is harvested for winter feed, deferred for grazing later in the season, or stockpiled in the field for early spring grazing. Less grain and fewer supplements need to be grown or bought, fed and then hauled away as manure. Fresh air and exercise help keep cows healthy. The benefits of pasture are low-cost fee; healthy cows; less pollution; low costs for equipment, energy and facilities; less labor; profitable for small and large herds; inspires consumer confidence as opposed to BGH with high-cost rations; stressed cows; pollution potential from cropping, manure storage; high costs for equipment, energy and facilities; labor to inject cows, manage herd health; risky for small farms; consumers are skeptical."
Cramer, C. Put water where you want it: a mobile tank increases your pasture-management options. The New Farm; 16(4):55, May/June 1994.
Mike Reicherst from New Hampton, Iowa built a mobile waterer and mineral feeder for his 72 stockers for less that $900. "I wanted a simple, portable system that can handle a lot of animals without having to refill it very often."
Emmick, D.L. ABCs of rotational grazing. The New Farm; 13(5):16-28, July/Aug 1991.
A grazing specialist answers beginning grass farmers' most-asked questions.
Forgey, D. and Forgey, H. How-to advice from Indiana's pioneering seasonal dairy grazier. In: Cramer, C., Sustainable Farming Connection: Where farmers find and share information. Web site. Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, © 1997.
"David and Helen Forgey run a 150-cow dairy in Logansport, Ind. David was one of the first in his area to adopt rotational grazing, and soon converted his herd to seasonal breeding, freshening in spring to take advantage of peak pasture production. He's shared his experiences with graziers at meetings and conferences around the country." The following full-text articles can be found on this site: The Why's and How's of Seasonal Dairying; Grazing Basics; How Plants Grow; Managing Drought; Coping With Heat And Humidity; Water for the Grazing System; Winter Feeding Under a Breakwire; Keep It Simple; and more. Cove Mt. Farm. American Farmland Trust, 1998.
"Cove Mt. Farm, the American Farmland Trust's grass-based dairy in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is now in its second year of operation; 90-100 cows are rotationally grazed on 200 acres of pasture and milked in New Zealand-style herringbone "swing" parlor. AFT uses the facility as a demonstration site to help other farmers and landowners learn about the economic and environmental benefits of grass-based livestock management systems. Ti-Lin Holsteins- Titus and Linda Martin's grass-based dairy operation located in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. A virtual farm tour. American Farmland Trust, 1998.
"Titus and Linda Martin operate Ti-Lin Holsteins in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. They have been farming there since 1988 on 123 rented acres. The Martins began grazing in 1993 and today the farm has 60 acres of pasture, 30 acres of alfalfa and 33 acres of corn."
Hawkins, S. and Huntrods, R. Getting Water From Here to There - True Stories . Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, 2001.
"Delivering clean water in the needed volume per day to Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) systems can be a challenge. Each situation should be analyzed to determine which methods of pumping and delivery could be used to insure that water is not a limiting factor during grazing." Tips and examples of farms are given.
Kleinschmit, M. and Kilde, R.S. Can Smaller Be Better? A Comparison of Grass-Based and Conventional Dairy Farming . Center for Rural Affairs//North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, Lincoln, NE, 2002.
"Making a change from a conventional dairy to a management intensive grass-based one lets this Nebraska farmer run a profitable operation milking 90 cows. This manageably-sized farm provides a viable alternative to the large-scale confinement model."
Liebhardt, W.C. Farmer experience with rotational grazing: A case study approach. In: Liebhardt, W.C., ed. The dairy debate: Consequences of bovine growth hormone and rotational grazing technologies. University of California. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, CA, pp. 131-188, © 1993.
Case studies are presented that document the use of rotational grazing on actual working farms, primarily in the upper midwestern and northeastern United States. The documentation and analysis of these farms show that this method reduces the cost/price squeeze felt by many dairy farmers, and in some cases increases production and reduces farmer labor while protecting the environment, and it helps make dairy operations "a lot more fun." For some farmers, the system of rotational grazing has done the following: increased production up to 66%; decreased feed cost per hundredweight (cwt) by as much as 36%; saved up to $18 per cow per month in grazing season, $270 per year per cow in some cases; cut costs and allowed bigger profits in difficult years by trimming feed and machinery operating expenses; increased days in milk production by as much as 15 %; reduced labor costs; increased herd health; improved lifestyle, to name only a few.
McCartney, D. and McCartney, L. McCartney's Grass-Based Dairy Operation. Planning and Managing a Seasonal Dairy., 1999.
FULL-TEXT [scroll down]
"Despite the challenges of becoming and staying a seasonal dairy operation, we feel the effort has been very much worth the benefits gained. Every thing on our farm has a season, a beginning and an end. The busy spring workload of all the cows fresh and all the calves on milk only lasts for 6 to 8 weeks and it's over, no more calves for the rest of the year. The focus of the breeding season only lasts for a few weeks, and it's overno more cows to breed. Our schedule becomes more predictable; the cows work for us, not us working for them. While there are periods of very long days and hard work, there are also extended periods of time when the workload is very light. A thirty-hour workweek is not impossible in the late summer months and the two months off during the winter is a welcome and needed break." Tips are given on: 1) Group Calf Rearing ; 2) Breeding Management ; 3) Field Crop Planning; 4) Financial Management.
McNamara, K. Their cows do the harvesting. That keeps costs low and production high. The New Farm; 12(6):22-23, Sept/Oct 1990.
Located in the hills of southwestern Wisconsin, Dan and Jeanne Patenaude's farm has 73 acres 27 tillable, 20 in permanent pasture and the rest wooded. At the heart of its operation is an intensive rotational grazing system which has developed over a period of years. Dan is now using movable fencing to create paddocks as needed. The size of the paddock is determined by the number of animals and the condition of the forage. His milk cows are given fresh pastures after one or two milkings; after they leave, dry cows and heifers are put into the same paddock to clean up. The moving of the fence is light work and usually a pleasant chore.

Meudt, J., Bobbe, J., and Dietmann, P., compilers. The grass in greener: Dairy graziers tell their stories. Wisconsin Rural Development Center, Mt. Horeb, Wis., 1995.
These are the stories of Wisconsin and Minnesota farmers who turned to intensive rotational grazing. The farmers share what they have learned and can pass on to others. As one farmer puts it: "Grazing made farming fun again." They give advice on grasses and feeding, breeds, pasture management and efficient use of forage, transition to seasonal milking, building parlors to cut milking time, turning organic. They share the many benefits they have experienced in their own words. "The efficient use of forage is the primary benefit of grazing. The cow is perfectly willing to do the harvesting and spread manure for less cost than it takes with machinery. There is tremendous amount of joy in driving out of the yard at 7:30 in the evening and seeing our herd of Jerseys in the pasture. That's what life is. You' re not going to get rich doing this, so you sure better enjoy it," says Mike Cannell from Cazenovia, Wis. Excerpt online: Farmers and researchers find common ground with faith and patience.
Miller, L. Grass-based dairies hold promise for southern Iowa producers. Leopold Letter; 15(2) Summer 2003.
"A Leopold Center-funded project that followed 15 young or beginning dairy operators over the past two years shows promise for grass-based dairies in southern Iowa as well as economic benefits for rural communities."
Miller, L. Rotational grazing: Options keep farm running when water doesn't. Leopold Letter; 12(2) Summer 2000.
'Bradford grazes 500 cows on about 1,300 acres, and raises corn on 150 acres for feed. Nearly 160 acres has been divided into smaller paddocks for a rotational grazing system in which livestock are moved every four to five days, depending on forage growth. "It's amazing that in the dry years you are ahead with rotational grazing because this system is easier on forage," Bradford explained. "By moving livestock every few days, the plants get the rest and recovery they need, which really helps plant viability."'
Moonstone Farm. Natural Beef. Web Site. Land Stewardship Project.
"Since 1992 cattle at Moonstone have been selected from a hardy, crossbred lineage and raised on our "salad bar" pastures. During the grazing season they are moved onto fresh forages every few days to insure optimum nutrition and animal health. Our animals are raised without growth promotants, hormone implants, antibiotics or medicated feeds. "
Shafer, D. Natural grazing Super-natural benefits: 'Modern prairie' boosts pasture production. The New Farm; 14(4):14-16, 18-20, May/June 1992.
David Schafer and Alice Dobbs from Trenton, Mo. converted their cropland to pasture in the mid-eighties, and started managing their livestock and forages more like the prairie ecosystem that once grew there. "The difference has been a leap in biodiversity (especially legumes and other desirable species), a longer grazing season and thicker forage stands. Healthier forages have improved soil structure and water retention, reducing erosion and making our farm less susceptible to drought. Our livestock are healthier and happier too. We have 70 purebred Gelbvieh cows and run up to 40 stockers and 300 sheep on about 350 acres of pasture. That's about 50 percent more stock than we carried before we subdivided pastures and intensified our management."
Shirley, C. Less milk, more profit: Organic feed and rotational grazing keep this dairy green. The New Farm; 13(6):13-17, Sept/Oct. 1991.
By relying on rotational grazing, seasonal milking and feeds grown without purchased herbicides or fertilizers, Carl Pulvermacher figures cost reductions will offset lower production. He milks 55 cows in south-west Wisconsin on his 220-acre dairy, which became certified-organic in '88. For six months of the year, the milking herd is out foraging. In mid-April, they start rotating through alfalfa/bluegrass/orchardgrass pasture divided into 16 paddocks. Portable polywire lets Pulvermacher move the herd to the next paddock in 5 to 10 minutes.
Trantham, T. Twelve Aprils Dairying. Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), 2000.
"Tom Trantham listens to cows. He's been listening and watching them ever since the day they broke out of their pasture and changed his life. It was April, 1989, and the Trantham dairy was going broke fast. Then one day the milkers pushed through the confinement feeding area into a seven-acre field full of natural lush April growth--lamb's quarters, rye grass, a little clover and fescue. At the next milk pickup there was a two-pound average increase per cow. At 92 cows, that was 184 extra pounds from grazing a field that had been scheduled for chemical burndown and planting in sorghum for silage. Thinking maybe the cows were trying to tell him something, Tom opened all the gates on his farm and began experimenting with grazing." This on-line manual gives an outline of his grazing program and addresses the most often asked questions about his system.
Welsh, R. Rotational grazing: A farm profile. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture; 8(1):35-45, 1996.
Kevin and Lisa Engelbert from New York State have implemented rotational grazing on their dairy farm to improve sustainability. Kevin and Lisa depend on 52 acres of intensively grazed pasture as the primary feed source for the cows. They also plant 95 acres of alfalfa to supplement the pasture and provide feed for the winter months. The profile provides an overview of the farm. Details are given on pasture management, fencing, water management, economics of the switch to rotational grazing, economic comparison before and after transition to rotational grazing.
Winsten, J.R. and Petrucci, B.T. Seasonal dairy grazing: A viable alternative for the 21st century. A case study of six successful dairy farms using seasonal calving and management-intensive grazing. Grassfarmer.Com . American Farmland Trust, Washington, DC, pp. October 2000.
"Over the last decade a promising alternative to large-scale confinement dairies has emerged that is being adopted by farmers in many parts of the United States. Seasonal dairy grazing is a production system that utilizes management-intensive grazing (MIG) in conjunction with a spring calving schedule. The fundamental idea is to match the nutrient requirements of the dairy herd with the growth cycle of pasture forages. With seasonal dairy grazing, operating and overhead costs can be kept quite low, and well within the means of most farmers. Dairy grazing, when combined with a seasonal calving schedule, has the potential to become a very powerful tool for farmland protection and the revitalization of rural communities in many regions of the United States. In an attempt to increase recognition for seasonal dairy grazing as a viable expansion alternative for farmers in the northeast and Midwest states, this report contains actual detailed information describing six farms that successfully use the system."

Guides and Research Papers

AWI staff. AWI's standards for cattle and sheep put other criteria out to pasture. AWI Quarterly; 54(1):6, 2005 .
AWI's standards for cattle ensure cattle can graze, exercise, access shade and rest at will and prohibit them from being restrained in close quarters on bare ground without shade or wind breaks, hot-iron branded, implanted with hormones, treated routinely with antibiotics or fed a high-grain diet or questionable feed ingredients.
Beaver, J.M. and Olson, B.E. Winter range use by cattle of different ages in southwestern Montana. Applied Animal Behaviour Science; 51(1-2):1-13, 1997.
"During two winters, we compared the use of winter range by young (3-year-old) cattle that had no experience on winter range with mature (7- to 8-year-old) cattle that had experience on winter range. The 3-year-old cattle used unprotected areas more frequently than the 7- to 8-year-old cattle, and were in areas where the standard operative temperature was below their lower critical temperature more often than the older cattle. When grazing in unprotected areas, 7- to 8-year-old cattle used areas with higher standing crops than what was available, on average, in those areas. The 3-year-old cattle lost more backfat and weight than the older cattle. Apparently, 3-year-old cattle were less efficient at using the pasture's forage and thermal resources than 7- to 8-year-old cattle, and were presumably cold-stressed more often."
Beetz, A. Grass-based and seasonal dairying. ATTRA, Fayetteville, Ark., Dec. 1998.
Grass-based dairies differ from confinement dairies because cows harvest their own feed, reducing the need for costly supplemental feed and other purchased supplies. Such dairies use skilled management and controlled rotational grazing. It is a challenge to offer dairy quality forages for the entire grazing season and supplement this forage diet for optimal milk production and profitability. Some graziers are taking the next step to seasonal dairying. They choose to dry off the whole herd at once, thus earning a vacation from all milking. However, management is even more difficult in such a system. Many graziers report improved health when cows are on pasture most of the year. Special equipment for fencing and water systems has been developed and is increasingly available. Additional resources are listed.
Beetz, A.E. Rotational grazing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), April 1999.
"A profitable livestock operation can be built around animals harvesting their own feed. The livestock are moved to the forage during its peak production periods. Producers learn to manage the pasture as an important crop in itself; the animals provide a way to market it. Reduced feed and equipment costs and improved animal health will result from choosing a species well-suited to existing pasture and environmental conditions." This publication discusses various aspects of MIRG (Management Intensive Rotational Grazing) including choosing a grazing system; making the change; fencing and water systems; managing forage growth; seasonal adjustments; additional information sources; and a list of online discussion groups.
Beetz, A. Sustainable Pasture Management. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Oct. 2001.
This publication offers information on renovating pastures vs. establishing new ones; planning and goal-setting; choosing a grazing system; managing fertility; changes in the plant community; conserved forages vs. grazing; trees in pasture systems; managing weeds; maintaining the pasture.
Booth, G. It's far deeper than machinery: Intensive rotational grazing on the Molitor Farm. Greenbook 1999. Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program. Minnesota Department of Agriculture, St. Paul, Minn., pp. 1999.
"On conventional dairy farms, farmers produce forage for their cows. Commercial fertilizers and herbicides help produce the feed. But with intensive rotational grazing (IRG), inputs are reduced. Cattle are rotated between relatively small paddocks, naturally controlling weeds and fertilizing with manure. Molitor lets the cows make hay for half the year, leaving him time to put up quality feed for the remaining half year, as well as concentrate on other projects. It's a matter of matching feed and practices to the animals, Molitor says. 'Have confidence in the grass. If you're going to do it, believe in it.'"
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Dairy grazing can provide good financial return. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2000.
Financial success is possible for operations set up as management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG) dairy farms and for confinement dairy farms that transition to grazing. But managing farm resources efficiently is the key to top financial performance on MIRG dairy farms, just like on confinement dairies.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Livestock production and marketing. Web site. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 2000.
The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) is a small sustainable agriculture research center at UW-Madison. Overview of livestock programs: The grazing dairy systems program emphasizes economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable, grass-based farming systems. Furthermore, CIAS is conducting a three year investigation of the potential contribution of pastured poultry systems to small and mid-size farms in the upper Midwest.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems . Milk production and quality of pastured cows rival confinement feeding. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 1998.
"Pastured Holstein cows are as productive as their haylage-fed counterparts in an Arlington Agricultural Research Station study. The study is comparing milk production and fat and protein composition in intensive, rotational grazing systems and a conventional stored-feeding system. Researchers are also evaluating yield, quality and persistence of forages on pure alfalfa and mixed grass/legume pastures." Overview of the project is presented.
Campbell, D. The economic and social viability of rural communities: BGH vs. rotational grazing. In: Liebhardt, W.C., ed. The dairy debate: Consequences of bovine growth hormone and rotational grazing technologies. University of California. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, CA, pp. 277-316, ©1993.
This paper considers the implications of rBH and rotational grazing for the economic and social viability of rural communities. It examines the impact of these technologies on animal health, food safety, the environment and consumers. "There are good reasons for farmers and society to consider other alternatives to bGH. The evidence reviewed here strongly suggests that policies supporting bGH threaten the economic and social fortunes of family farms and rural communities, particularly in certain dairy-dependent areas of the Midwest. By contrast, there is growing evidence that rotational grazing may be economically competitive for dairy farmers and more beneficial for rural communities....Advocates of community-based economic development strategies are often dismissed as naive or utopian. But which is more utopian: a strategy that enriches a few corporations but leaves the public footing the bill and communities in decline, or a strategy that builds on the strengths of existing communities to provide greater rural self-reliance and less dependence on purchases inputs and government subsidies?... In the final analysis, the issue posed by bGH is not merely what it will do to rural communities, but what kind of community we wish to be."

Dorsey, J., Dansingburg, J., and Ness, R. Managed grazing as an alternative manure management strategy. Managing manure in harmony with the environment and society. Proceedings of a conference held Feb. 10-12, 1998 at Ames, Iowa; 1998.
"Managed grazing, also called rotational grazing or management intensive grazing, is a method of milk and meat production that utilizes the natural ability of cattle and other livestock to harvest their own feed directly from pastures, spreading their own manure on the same fields as they graze. Managed grazing systems utilize from a few to several dozen fenced-in paddocks to confine livestock to a restricted area for a limited length of time, usually a few hours to several days. Farmers attempt to design their system of paddocks to balance several key factors including the amount and quality of forage available, the number and type of animals, and nutritional needs. In 1993 several farm families making the transition to managed grazing asked the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project (LSP) and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) to help them develop methods for monitoring the impacts of managed grazing systems."

Fanatico, A., Morrow, R., and Wells, A. Sustainable beef production. ATTRA, Fayetteville, Ark., Aug. 1999.
Sustainable beef production uses a whole-system approach of resource management to meet the goals of the ranch. Optimizing the use of pasture while reducing feed grain and harvested forage lowers inputs and is ecologically sound. A rotational grazing system results in more efficient use of pasture. Since pastured livestock harvest the feed themselves, inputs of machinery and energy are reduced because there is less need to harvest mechanically. Less capital is needed, since pasture, animals, fences, water, and management are the main inputs. Sustainable beef production emphasizes alternative health practices to keep animals healthy and costs low.
Great Lakes Grazing Network. Web Site.
"The network is a coalition of farmers, researchers, extensionists, resource agency staff, environmentalists and others organized locally in their Great Lakes region states or province to support and promote managed grazing systems for livestock production. The focus is on systems that are practical and profitable for farmers and that also protect and improve the environment. Organized by the Wisconsin Rural Development Center (WRDC) in 1993, the network is a collaborative effort of working groups from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Representatives from each group coordinate grazing-based activities; share research, education, training, policy, and outreach efforts; and develop policies supportive of grazing-based farming systems within the Great Lakes region."

Great Lakes International Grazing Conference Proceedings. Shipshewana, Indiana, 2000.
A variety of topics on grazing based farming are available in this proceedings publication, including dairy, beef, sheep, horse grass-based farming, alternative marketing and getting starting in grazing.
Hamilton, T. and Potter, B. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas And The Cattle Were Grazing'. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Guelph, Ontario, 2001.
Some recent projects have shown that we may be able to significantly extend the grazing season in an area with a humid, temperate climate. Using the technique of "stockpiling", with common perennial forages, the grazing season has been extended into mid December. Stockpiling refers to the practice whereby a forage stand is harvested (by animal or machine) in mid summer, and then allowed to regrow into the fall season. After grazing on conventionally managed pastures is finished, cattle are turned into the stockpiled standing forage. The main objective of this management practice is to maximize the number of days that cattle are able to continue grazing. Our experience has shown that stockpile grazing with dry beef cows looks very promising, at least during fall seasons with favourable weather conditions.
Johnson, T. Economics of Grass-Based Dairying. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., March 2002.
"The management of grass-based dairy operations is different from that of conventional dairies. Grazing should not be considered as an option to make up for poor management of a conventional dairy. Relative to time spent managing conventional row crops, graziers spend more of their time monitoring and managing grass. While many successful graziers do grow corn silage and other crops for harvest or feed when pasture may be unavailable or limited, their focus is still on maximizing forage production for harvest by cows. Grazing managers spend more time observing and planning the next step to take than do many conventional dairy managers, whose time is spent primarily on operating machinery, making repairs, and feeding cows. Most graziers, as their experience and knowledge of the productivity of available resources expands, will increase the grazing season to maximize the number of days the cows are meeting their intake needs on pasture."
Liebhardt, W.C., ed. The dairy debate: Consequences of bovine growth hormone and rotational grazing technologies. University of California. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, CA, ©1993.
Dairy farmers are faced with the choice of whether or not to use synthetic bovine growth hormone (bGH) in milk production. Yet, they are told that they must use this genetically engineered growth hormone to remain competitive. Many think they have little or no choice. This publication throws light on factors that farmers and consumers should consider in making decisions about bGH; offers an alternative, rotational grazing; and presents case studies that document the use of this pasture management system on actual working farms. Rotational grazing increases profitability by reducing feed costs and other dairy inputs. It improves herd health, soil, air and water quality, poses no risks to human health, improves the quality of life for farmers and helps maintain the profitability of small to mid-sized family dairies, while bGH does the opposite.
Loeffler, B. et al. Knee Deep in Grass: A survey of twenty-nine grazing operations in Minnesota. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture//Communication and Educational Technology Services, University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN, 1996.
"This report was written to introduce dairy farmers considering management intensive grazing (MIG) to the types of production and business management strategies presently used on 29 Minnesota dairy grazing farms. This report also provides information about the effects of MIG on farm family quality of life and the types of equipment in operation on these farms. Dairy farmers who have adopted MIG will be able to compare their operations to those of study respondents. It can be helpful for graziers who wish to modify day-to-day activities and develop long-range strategies for their operations."
Murphy, W.M. and Kunkel, J.R. Sustainable agriculture: Controlled grazing vs. confinement feeding of dairy cows. In: Liebhardt, W.C., ed. The dairy debate: Consequences of bovine growth hormone and rotational grazing technologies. University of California. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, CA, pp. 113-130, ©1993.
"When measured against the goals of sustainable agriculture profitability, better quality of life and improved landscape feeding dairy cows on pasture wins in all three areas as an alternative to year-round confinement feeding... The advantages to agricultural communities are clear: More farms are likely to stay in business due to higher profitability, more farm children may go into farming because it is perceived as a desirable occupation again, the rural landscape will be better maintained and rural communities will be rejuvenated." Pasture dairying does not only improve the quality of life for the farmer but also for the animals.
Salatin, J. Salad Bar Beef. Polyface Farms, Swoope, Va., 1995.
Method of raising livestock on pasture. Grass-fed (salad bar) beef can be excellent, if done correctly, and commands a high market price. How-to book explains the why, how, and who of small-scale, organic livestock management. "Despite today's low cattle prices you can make a good profit with a small beef cattle operation. This book will show you how. Joel's Salad Bar Beef prototype as described is a financially better suited prototype for 95 percent of the cow-calf producers in the United States than the sale of commodity calves or yearlings. However, this is not just a 'how-to' book. It is also a book of philosophy, feelings and beliefs."
Wilder, J.R. An upbeat look at government policies and proposals involving cattle and sustainable agriculture. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture; 4(2):81-98, 1993.
"Cattle producers find themselves under pressure from society's demands for leaner beef and lower-fat dairy products, less soil erosion, cleaner water, and farm animal well-being. Given increased public concern about livestock production practices, Congress should elevate livestock issues to the same level of importance as plant crops in federal sustainable agriculture programs. By creating incentives and removing barriers and penalties in the ASCS feed grain price support program, the milk price support program, and the grazing permit program, respectively, Congress could encourage many farmers to adopt sustainable livestock management practices."


Good Natured Family Farms
The All-Natural Beef Producers Cooperative comprises 15 active members in central and southeast Kansas and west central Missouri. To qualify for membership, a producer must be a small family farm, raise cattle free ranged on open grassland without growth hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics.
Earles, R. and Fanatico, A. Alternative Beef Marketing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., May 2000.
"This publication explores marketing alternatives for small-scale cattle ranchers who would like to add value to the beef they produce. It discusses methods for adding value, alternative marketing strategies, including niche markets for "natural," lean, and organic beef. Production considerations for pasture-finished beef are given special attention. A section on direct marketing focuses on connecting with consumers and developing a product. Processing and legal issues are also covered." See also Alternative Meat Marketing.
Ervin's Natural Beef Is Predator-Friendly. Web Site. Safford, AZ.
"At Ervin's Natural Beef we're trying an experiment. We're betting that consumers are willing to pay a little more for their beef if it's produced without killing predators. Even though a lot of our ranchers are in the wolf reintroduction area, they have agreed not to kill any predators. Every day our ranchers face coyotes, bobcats, bears, jaguars, mountain lions, and now wolves. But we prefer to utilize proactive and non-lethal means to control predators. Moving the herd frequently, and increased contact both by humans and our cattle dogs has profound effect."
Gegner, L. Value-Added Dairy Options. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Aug. 2001.
"Dairy farmers can add value to their milk by processing and marketing their own products, such as cheeses, yogurt, butter, ice cream, and farm-bottled milk. Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for locally produced, high-quality, farmstead dairy products; organic certification may further enhance the market potential."
Heavrin, M. and Kilde, R.S. Bruegman Grass-Based Dairy: Simply a Better Product . Center for Rural Affairs//North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, Lincoln, NE, 2002.
"A family-based initiative to market milk and dairy products directly to health-conscious consumers shares equipment and costs to move toward their goal."
Heavrin, M. and Kilde, R.S. Small Farm Cooperative: Quality and Innovation . Center for Rural Affairs//North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, Lincoln, NE, 2002.
"Small Farms Cooperative is a marketing organization made up of thirty small- and medium-sized farms and ranches. The group came together for the first time in June 1999, and has since formed into a marketing cooperative that markets their products with their Nebraska Natural Products label. It offers "natural" meat products raised to humane standards with environmentally sound production practices. These products include beef, pork, bison, sheep and poultry products sold under their NNP label".
Kleinschmit, M. and Kilde, R.S. Buttering Up Your Customers: Direct-Market Dairy Products Keep Profits on the Farm. Center for Rural Affairs//North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, Lincoln, NE, 2002.
"A group of grass-based dairy farmers in southeastern Minnesota decide to set their price by marketing and distributing premium quality, specialty dairy products themselves. "
Miller, L. FROM THE FIELD: David, Diane and Dresden Petty. Family combines cattle with conservation. Leopold Letter; 15(2) Summer 2003.
"David Petty has taken what might be considered a negative situation farming along river bottom ground and turned it into an environmental plus, as well as a profitable and productive agricultural operation."
Miller, L. She tries to connect farmers, researchers, retailers and regulators: Kansas beef producer uses proactive approach. Leopold Letter; 12(2) Summer 2000.
Diana Endicott runs a 400-acre certified organic farm in eastern Kansas with her husband, Gary. They market their all-natural beef in supermarkets through a producers' cooperative, the All-Natural Beef Producers Cooperative, that Diana helped organize three years ago, comprising 15 active members in central and southeast Kansas and west central Missouri. To qualify for membership, a producer must be a small family farm, raise cattle free-ranged on open grassland without growth hormones or subtherapeutic antibiotics.
NC SARE Office. Cooperatively producing and marketing all natural beef. Field Notes. NC SARE Quarterly Fact Sheet; Aug. 1999.
This fact sheet profiles Kansas ranchers Diana and Gary Endicott' farm and Diana's efforts at organizing a farmer cooperative. Diana and Gary grow greenhouse vegetables, grain and hay and run a small cow/calf operation in southeast Kansas on their 400-acre certified organic Rainbow Farms. In 1997, Diana and area farmers formed a closed cooperative to ensure quality and consistency in their beef. Ten producers joined the "All Natural Beef Cooperative" to sell through the grocery chain under the "Nature's Premium All Natural Beef" label. The co-op added 10 members since then. To qualify for membership, ranchers must raise cattle without growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics, on a "small family farm" where family income is primarily generated from the operation and the family members are actively involved in labor. Animals are free-ranged. Their most important vision remains keeping the small farm viable.
Nader, G. Natural Beef: Consumer acceptability, market development, and economics. UC SAREP 1996-97 research and education report. University of California Cooperative Extension, UC-Davis, 1998.
This project provided insight into the viability of grass-fed beef marketing in California. Consumer surveys and focus groups indicated an interest in products that were not implanted with hormones or given antibiotics. Case studies of California ranches selling grass-fed beef raised without hormones or antibiotics are presented.
Phillips, S. Red meat can be green. High Country News; 30(2) 1998.
Ranchers Jim Winder and Will Holder of New Mexico, have teamed up with the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife and are developing a seal-of-approval so that beef coming from ranchers who avoid killing predators will stand out in stores. Rather than killing predators such as wolves and coyotes, these producers train their cattle to stick together. Their methods include training cows to group around hay and conditioning them to bunch up at the sound of a whistle. Winder and Holder hope that the Wolf Country Beef program will demonstrate that ranchers can live with wolves and still make money.
Sechrist, P. and Sechrist, R. The ups and downs of direct-marketing beef. In: McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 33, 2000.
The following summary of direct marketing guidelines was presented :" I. Make sure marketing is consistent with your goals, personally and professionally. II. Select and define your market. III. Get your product ready for market. IV. Develop a marketing plan. IV. Flexibility & Adaptation: Be prepared to change your marketing strategies or things like your product packaging to better fit the market need."
Sechrist, R. and Sechrist, P. Organic, grass-fed beef and chicken: Management and markets. Future Farms 2002: A Supermarket of Ideas. Conference Proceedings . The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 46-47, 2002.
"We decided to build a business based upon our values. For us that meant a meat product that was healthy for consumers and a production method that enhanced our ecological system. The decision to do this was derived from our practice of holistic management.... It was this process that lead to our decision to go organic and then to build a marketing business around that... Organic livestock production became the easiest part of this experience. The real challenge one we underestimated is marketing." Some hints about direct marketing are given and issues to be addressed.
Hayhurst, C. Got organic milk? The natural dairy business is going mainstream. E-Magazine; 3 p., May-June 2000.
"The boom in the popularity of organic dairy is not due entirely to rBGH (or the lack thereof). A significant motivator is consumers' concern for the environment and, in many cases, animal welfare... Many dairy farmers, some of whom were raised on conventional agriculture, are finding that going organic is one way to ensure their products stay in demand and receive a fair price. 'The organic niche is proving a viable solution to help keep rural communities and small farmers economically and socially healthy."

See also Organic Valley

See also Niman Ranch



From Sweden to Iowa: Seeking Humaneness, Sustainability and Democracy in Agriculture

Northfield, MN -- The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, famous for bringing world-renowned musicians and romance to the rural Midwest, will be the site of an unprecedented gathering on Friday, April 5, 2002. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of Waterkeeper Alliance, will be the keynote speaker during an all-day program on the urgent need to revitalize a culture of humane, environmentally-sound, independent family farming in Iowa, Minnesota and throughout the U.S.

The "Summit for Sustainable Hog Farming", sponsored by the non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance, with support from the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations, brings together family farmers, scientists, attorneys, animal welfare advocates, fishermen, environmentalists, religious and labor leaders and public health activists, as well as citizens who suffer from living near animal factories.

At the special invitation of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Professor Bo Algers, Head of the Department of Animal Health and Environment at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, will focus on Sweden's experience in his presentation "Animals in Food Production: Sustainability and Democracy". Sweden captured the world's attention in 1986 when, at the request of Swedish farmers, it prohibited the routine use of antibiotics in raising animals for food, and again, in 1988, when Sweden required that all animals, including those used for food, be allowed to behave naturally. These statutes hastened Sweden's phase out of systems that impose extreme confinement and deprivation on animals used for food, and Sweden's progress toward a safe, ethical and sustainable food production system.

To help combat the extreme and unnecessary cruelty inherent in pig factories, the Animal Welfare Institute has established humane husbandry standards for raising pigs. Niman Ranch, a California-based marketing company famous for supplying high quality meat to fine restaurants, requires that the farmers from whom it buys pigs adhere to the Animal Welfare Institute standards. Bill Niman, co-founder of Niman Ranch, will discuss his company's mission and successful marketing to hundreds of restaurants and stores nationwide. Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill, uses Niman Ranch pork exclusively in his restaurants. Mr. Ells will discuss Chipotle's philosophy and experience with marketing the products of healthy husbandry in his presentation "How a Simple Burrito Can Make A Difference."

Iowa pig farmers Paul Willis and Colin Wilson will describe their family farms, managed according to principles of humaneness and sustainability. Mr. Willis, who also serves as manager of the Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa, and Mr. Wilson, along with 180 other independent family farmers, adhere to AWI's husbandry standards and market pigs for a premium to Niman Ranch. Minnesota farmer Paul Sobocinski, program organizer with Land Stewardship Project, will discuss grassroots efforts to fight concentration in agriculture and promote humane, sustainable pig farming.

Registration for the Summit commences at 8:00 a.m. and the formal program begins at 9:00 a.m. The registration fee of $25.00 includes all programs and meals. Mr. Kennedy's address, at 7:00 p.m., will be free and open to the public. For more information, call Waterkeeper Alliance attorneys Nicolette Hahn or Jeff Odefey at 914-422-4410 or Animal Welfare Institute Farm Animal Advisor Diane Halverson at 507-645-8434, or visit the Waterkeeper Alliance website at The Animal Welfare Institute website can be found at The full agenda for the Summit is attached.

The following is a complete list of the Hog Summit speakers, listed in the order they will appear:

Ms. Nicolette G. Hahn, Senior Attorney, Waterkeeper Alliance

Brother David Andrews, Executive Director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference (Iowa)

Mayor Kirk Kraft, Mayor, Clear Lake (Iowa)

Ms. Janice Weber, Producer/Director, JWCreative Solutions, Ltd.(New York)

Dr. Mike Duffy, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. Kendall Thu, Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University (Illinois)

Dr. Melva Fager Okun, Coordinator, North Carolina Keep Antibiotics Working campaign (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert Cook, Citizen activist and former hog confinement worker (Iowa)

Dr. David Wallinga, Director, Antibiotics Resistance Project, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (Minnesota)

Dr. Michael Appleby, Vice President for Farm Animals and Sustainable Agriculture, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (Washington, D.C.)

Dr. Michael R. Burkhart, Associate Professor Department of Geologic and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Dr. John Downing, Professor of Limnology, Department of Animal Ecology, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Ms. Martha Noble, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (Washington, D.C.)

Mr. Ken Midkiff, Director, Sierra Club, Clean Water / CAFO Campaign (Missouri)

Mr. Paul Sobocinski, Farmer and Program Organizer for Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota)

Mr. Tom Frantzen, Hog Farmer for Organic Valley (Iowa)

Mr. Charlie Speer, Partner, Payne & Jones (Kansas)

Mr. Daniel E. Estrin, Counsel, Kennedy & Madonna (New York)

Ms. Anne Wiowode, Director, Mackinac Sierra Club (Michigan)

Mr. Harlan Hansen, Former hog farmer and County Supervisor, Humboldt County (Iowa)

Mr. Hugh Espey, Rural Project Director, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa)

Dr. Stephanie Seemuth, Family Physician (Iowa)

Dr. Jan Flora, Professor, Iowa State University (Iowa)

Mr. David Osterberg, Associate Clinical Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa (Iowa)

Ms. Diane Halverson, Farm Animal Advisor, Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Dr. Bo Algers, Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Science (Sweden)

Ms. Theresa Marquez, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Organic Valley (Wisconsin)

Mr. Steve Ells, Founder & CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill (Colorado)

Mr. Bill Niman, Founder, Niman Ranch (California)

Mr. Terry Spence, President, Family Farms for the Future and cattle farmer (Missouri)

Mr. Gary Hoskey, Hog farmer and President, Iowa Farmers Union (Iowa)

Ms. Marlene Halverson, Farm Animal Economic Advisor to Animal Welfare Institute (Minnesota)

Mr. Colin Wilson, Hog farmer and Immediate Past President, Practical Farmers of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Paul Willis, Hog farmer and Manager, Niman Ranch Pork Company of Iowa (Iowa)

Mr. Jim Braun, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Bryan Burgess, Citizen activist cattle rancher (Alabama)

Mr. Don Webb, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (North Carolina)

Mr. Chris Petersen, Citizen activist and former hog farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Lisa Bechtold, Citizen activist and farmer (Alberta, Canada)

Mr. Kurtis Kelsey, Citizen activist and farmer (Iowa)

Ms. Karen Hudson, Citizen activist and farmer (Illinois)

Mr. Gary Bierschenk, Citizen activist and crop and hog farmer (Iowa)

Mr. Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance Southeast Representative (North Carolina)

Mr. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance

Alternative Farming Systems: A bibliography

Alternatives to Intensive Confinement Systems for Farm Animals:

An Annotated Bibliography
New update, 01/30/08

This bibliography provides practical published information for farmers, consumers, students, and educators who are concerned about factory farming and are seeking for alternatives. This collection of references will be updated regularly. A searchable more comprehensive database on farming alternatives can be accessed here.
Last update: 03/04/06.


AWI staff. Animal Welfare Institute's Standards for Pigs, Cattle and Sheep. Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC, 2002-2005.
AWI's criteria require that husbandry, housing and diet allow the animals to behave naturally. AWI requires that farms accommodate the animals' needs. Animals must be able to perform behaviors essential to their physiological and psychological health and well-being. AWI will only endorse independent family farms that own their animals, depend upon the farm for a livelihood and participate in the daily physical labor of caring for the animals and operating the farm.
Bartussek, H. How to measure animal welfare? In: Hovi, M. and Garcia Trujillo, R., eds. Diversity of Livestock Systems and Definition of Animal Welfare. Proceedings of the Second NAHWOA (Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture) Workshop. Cordoba, Spain, 8-11 January 2000. Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture, Reading, UK, pp. 135-142, 2000.
An "Animal Needs Index," has been devised in Austria for assessing whether animal housing conditions meet the animals' well being and behavioural needs. Species-specific criteria are graded by points. Conditions considered to give animals more appropriate chances of satisfying their behavioural needs, or to improve their welfare, are awarded more points. But certain minimal conditions have to be fulfilled. Examples and results for Austria are given.
Halverson, M. Farm animal welfare: Crisis or opportunity for agriculture? Paper 91-1. Dept. of Agric. and Applied Economics, Univ. of Minnesota, St. Paul, 1991.
There is now public concern for the welfare of farm animals, i.e. the quality of life the animal leads in production. The animal needs to be able to perform natural and inherited behaviors with respect to the environment. A welfare-compatible production system will allow the animal to fulfill basic behaviors that are essential to its mental or psychological health, and whose prevention or frustration leads to distress. In this paper some misconceptions regarding welfare are addressed and examples for swine of welfare-compatible facilities from Sweden are given. In such systems, modern technologies are combined with knowledge of animal health and behavior to make the most efficient use of labor management and space, within the constraints imposed by meeting the welfare objectives. If designed well, with people, the animals, and the environment in mind, welfare-compatible production can be protective of the environment, while being profitable for the producer and providing a plentiful supply of meat. How U.S. agriculture chooses to respond to growing public concerns, not only about the welfare of animals, but about the environment, food quality and safety, and the sustainability of agricultural productivity is what constitutes the crisis and the opportunity facing agriculture and its supporters.
Halverson, M. Animal Health and Welfare. Technical Work Paper. Prepared for the Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Animal Agriculture (GEIS) and the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, St. Paul, MN, 2001.
"This technical working paper was written by Marlene Halverson in consultation with seven animal welfare scientists for the State of Minnesota's Generic Environmental Impact Statement on animal agriculture. The paper is a virtual textbook on the impacts of current farming practices on the health and welfare of poultry, cattle and pigs and on the relationship between animal welfare, human health, environmental quality and the sustainability of agriculture."
van Putten, G. An ethological definition of animal welfare with special emphasis on pig behavior. In: Hovi, M. and Garcia Trujillo, R., eds. Diversity of Livestock Systems and Definition of Animal Welfare. Proceedings of the Second NAHWOA (Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture) Workshop. Cordoba, Spain, 8-11 January 2000. Network for Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture, Reading, UK, pp. 120-134, 2000.
The author describes the natural behaviors of pigs and discusses some of the various natural instincts that pigs have, and how hog producers can accommodate and work with them. "The dramatic changes in the outer appearance of farm animals in general and of swine in particular make me look upon modern pigs as "swine in disguise". This prompts me firstly to present to you the "pig itself", as we should recognise it. Secondly, I intend to react to some of the points laid down in the "Council Regulations of the European Union on organic farming" (EC, 1999), emphasising animal welfare, where these regulations apply to breeding, housing and husbandry of pigs. Thirdly, some important points on the welfare of pigs, missing in the EC Regulations, are dealt with."
Vaarst, M., Roderick, S., Lund, V., and Lockeretz, W., eds. Animal Health and Welfare in Organic Agriculture. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, MA, 2004.
The purpose of this book is to advance the understanding of organic animal husbandry, drawing mainly on research and practical experience with organic farming in Europe. The notion that animals have experiences and are sentient beings gives humans a moral obligation to treat animals well. Whilst the avoidance of suffering is important in both organic and conventional animal husbandry, the organic farming principles go much further than that in pursuit of animal welfare. One of the basic principles of organic farming refers to access to natural behaviour for organically managed animals. The heightened understanding of the lives of animals needs to be put into practice.


 Pig farming, pig housing

Farmers' experience and farms' profiles

Ault, D. A Gentler Way - Sows on Pasture: Reports From Sustainable Farmers From Minnesota and Iowa.
"This is a collection of farm profiles from Minnesota and Iowa. Compiled by Dwight Ault, who farms near Austin, Minn., this booklet presents information and perspectives from a variety of pasture hog operations. Mark Honeyman, director of outlying experiment farms at Iowa State University, explains in this book that pasture farrowing can be a competitive alternative to confinement facilities." Copies of the book are available for $4 from Dwight Ault, RR1, Box 230, Austin, MN 55912.
AWI Staff. A successful system for housing pregnant sows in groups . AWI Quarterly; 53(1):6, Winter 2004.
Preferred by farmers, the Swedish deep-bedded group housing system for swine is based on the sow's biology and natural social behaviors and has been used in Sweden for nearly three decades. It consists of individual feeding stalls for each sow in the group. Behind the feeding stalls is a deep-straw bedded lying and activity area with nearly 30 square feet of space for each sow. Sows are kept in stable groups. This system is now operating at the University of Minnesota's West Central Research and Outreach Center at Morris. The results at WCRC demonstrate that group housing of pregnant sows is successful when the natural behavior and biology of sows are both understood and accommodated in the design.
AWI staff. Helping small-scale North Carolina farmers improve pigs' lives. AWI Quarterly; 52(3):6, Summer 2003.
Small-scale North Carolina pigs farmers are provided with a humane, sustainable alternative to contracting with factory hog operations to raise their hogs thereby demonstrating their vital roles in enhancing rural communities, avoiding the environmental damage commonly associated with factory hog operations, and giving pigs freer lives. All pigs in the program are raised outdoors with plenty of space and varied environments in which to perform their natural behaviors, including wooded areas with welcome shade during the hot North Carolina summer days. AWI staff conduct site visits to the farms and prescribe changes, where necessary, for the farmers to meet AWI's standards. The meat from the pigs raised by the farmers that meet AWI's standards is sold to Niman Ranch and distributed in the East Coast market for pork from humanely raised hogs.
AWI Staff. Willow Creek Farm. AWI Quarterly; 52(3):7, Summer 2003.
Tony and Sue Renger and their three children live in the Baraboo Hills of southwestern Wisconsin. The Rengers have become the first family complying with AWI husbandry standards to market directly to their customers. Says Tony Renger "We believe that those involved with raising animals for meat production have a moral obligation to see that their animals have a natural and comfortable existence. Once of our greatest pleasures in farming is to watch our pigs frolic on the pasture and to see that they truly enjoy their surroundings."
Bowman, G. Fitting the farm to the hog. The New Farm; 15(6):35-39, Sept/Oct 1993.
"Swedish farmers are reducing their hogs' physical and psychological stress to make them more productive. New farrowing and piglet-handing techniques incorporating group nursing and deep-straw bedding have been especially successful in weaning high numbers of piglets per sow. These producers see humane treatment as an opportunity for profitable innovation. Creating and managing these environments demands a depth of knowledge of hog tendencies and behaviors. In these Swedish barns, farmers have to get in and walk among their pigs at least once a day. The farmers are happier about the day-to-day interaction with their animals. Their figures show lower long-term investment in structures, veterinary expenses and overall labor costs, with better sow reproductive health and productivity."
Cramer, C. "Hogs just might be the ideal grazers." Pastures and pens beat crates and confinement. The New Farm; 14(6):18-23, Sept/Oct 1992.
Tom Frantzen has developed an innovative system that makes the most of his hogs' natural abilities, keeping them happy, healthy and productive. He runs gestating gilts and sows on intensively managed pasture to cut feed costs by half or more, and double per-acre net compared with growing corn; parcels out strips of annual crops such as corn milo and field peas with portable fencing so lactating sows and their litters can hog them down, eliminating harvest costs; farrows sows and gilts in A-frame pasture huts to reduce capital costs and labor from early May until October. "Low capital costs aren't the only reason to pasture farrow. Like the hogs, I'd rather be outside in the fresh air and sunshine" says Frantzen. He tore out his farrowing crates and switched back to pen farrowing in winter while maintaining litter size and boosting weaning weights. "Crates didn't meet my needs or the animals'. But these pens do."'
Cramer, C. Profitable pigs On pasture: Enjoy healthier hogs, bigger litters and lower feed costs. The New Farm; 9(1):26-29, Jan. 1987.
The Wilsons pasture farrow nearly two-thirds of their 250 hog litters each year without sacrificing production or profits. The Wilsons minimize feed and health-care costs with a three-year rotation in three 18-acre fields adjacent to each other. They use $100 farrowing sheds. "Watching the sows' elaborate nesting behavior, you see why confinement can cause stress especially when a sow is kept in the same crate for several weeks. Besides, chores are more enjoyable in the fresh air with contented sows grazing and groups of pigs playing and hiding their heads in clumps of orchardgrass."
Cramer, C. Profitable pork on pasture. The New Farm; 12(4):15-18, May/June 1990.
"The flexibility of pasture-based hog systems makes them very attractive". Compared to confinement operations they offer lower initial capital investment; lower annual maintenance costs; healthier hogs; lower (or no) heating, cooling and ventilation costs; fewer odor problems; similar sow reproductive health; similar gain and feed efficiency; similar feed costs. Bob Sloan farrows on pasture in galvanized steel Port-A-Huts. He stocks about 45 sows in 3-acre lots. Sloan estimates pasturing saves about 30 percent on feed.
Deep-straw hoop structure system. On-farm experience: Mark Moulton; Roger Hubmer; Dave Struthers. In: Bergh, P., (ed). Hogs Your Way: Choosing a Hog Production System in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN, pp. 23-34, 2001.
This section first gives an overview of the deep-straw hoop structure system including background, housing, feed, farrowing, animal health, performance, scale, labor, environmental and social considerations, financial risk, followed by the profiles of three hog farmers successfully using this system. Mark Moulton decided to experiment with hoop structures in 1995 as a low-cost way to work toward his goals of running a low-stress and debt-free operation and of creating more free time to spend with his family . He has since built two other hoop structures in which he finishes a total of 540 hogs. In addition to increased crop revenue, the hoop structure system has given Mark more financial flexibility in hog production moving him closer to his economic and personal goals. For Roger Hubmer, hogs raised in the hoop structures have out-performed those finished in his Lester barns in terms of feed efficiency and growth. Dave Struthers lists good pig growth, fresh air from natural ventilation and less dust as positive hoop barn attributes that contribute to the health and performance of his hogs.
Frantzen, T. A Better way: Hog farming that meets the animal's social instincts . AWI Quarterly; 47(3) Summer 1998FULL-TEXT
When deep-bedded hoophouse facilities appeared in the Midwest in the mid 1990s, Tom Frantzen decided to build three hoophouses on his farm. Hoophouses promise to be an economical and ecologically sound building. In the structure, straw-bedded pens replace metal crates and slatted floors. The straw bedding mixes with the hog waste which is self composting, creates very little odor and no ecological hazards. In Tom's new facility the pigs have a lot of fun, lots of room to run, straw to chew and heaps of bedding to nest in.
Frantzen, T. E-hut farrowing. Practical Farmers of Iowa, Ames, Iowa, 2000.
Photos and plans of farrowing huts designed by Tom Frantzen and Dan & Colin Wilson as part of an online discussion forum: `Over the back fence,' "an informal group of like minded hog farmers who want to pursue traditional farrowing practices."
Gralla, S. Fit for a pig: Low-cost / sustainable strategies of resourceful hog farmers. Beginning Farmer Support Network, Center for Rural Affairs, Hartington, NE, 1991.
The Center for Rural Affairs is exploring alternative low-investment approaches to livestock production including the following goals:
Enhance economic opportunity for small and mid-size farmers and entry opportunities for a new generation of beginning farmers.
Encourage the dispersal of livestock production on many small and mid-size family farms.
Enhance the economic and biological relationships between crop and livestock enterprises, thus supporting sustainable farm practices and decreasing dependence on off-farm inputs.
The Center visited hog farmers in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. This publication reports on the practices by those farmers, the real hands-on experts on low-cost, sustainable livestock production, and gives profiles of ten farm operations.
Gunthorp, G. and Gunthorp, L. Pigs on pasture: The Gunthorp Farm. Feb. 1999.
Greg and Lei Gunthorp from LaGrange, Indiana share their insights and experience how to raise pigs on pasture. "I farm about 100 acres, 65 of my own and 35 of my parents. Our farm is profitable because we are utilizing pasture ground that wouldn't be used otherwise. Four hundred acres of cornfields are available for gleaning by our sow herd in the fall. Fifty plus acres of interseeded clover following wheat is available in late July." The web site includes several full-text articles on pastured pigs on the Gunthorp Farm, pasture farrowing and pastured hog hints.
Gunthorp, G. High value pork and poultry production and marketing. Future Farms 2002: A Supermarket of Ideas. Conference Proceedings . The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 40-41, 2002.
The paper gives suggestions for direct marketing livestock products; pasture farrowing hints and pasture hog hints.
Halverson, M. US hog farmers explore humane Swedish techniques . AWI Quarterly; 43(4):13, Fall 1994.
In September 1994, a group of farmers from Minnesota and Iowa traveled to Sweden to visit their counterparts in that county. Swedish farms use models of hog rearing that are based on the natural behavior of pigs. Pregnant sows are housed in groups on deep straw beds. The composting action of the straw kills pathogens, enriches soil, keeps pigs warm in winter, and produces little or no offensive odor. This model enables pigs to perform most of their natural behaviors, and eliminates the need for feed additives. It is both pig- and human-friendly, costs-efficient, and environmentally benign. The visiting American farmers were highly impressed with the cleanliness, animal-friendliness, and efficiency of the Swedish farms.
Halverson, D.; AWI. National gathering calls for humane, sustainable hog farming. AWI Quarterly; 50(1): 5, 7, Winter 2001.
The "Summit for Sustainable Hog Farming," held in New Bern, NC, featured presentations by Paul Willis and Sue and Kelly Ryan, family farmers who allow the pigs they raise to behave naturally, in accordance with the Animal Welfare Institute's Humane on-Farm Pig Husbandry Standards.
Halverson, D.; AWI. Animal Welfare Institute Humane On-Farm Husbandry Criteria for Pigs. Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC, 1989, 2000.
AWI's humane husbandry criteria require that all animals be allowed to behave naturally, fulfilling essential instinctive behaviors. Pigs must be provided continuous access to pasture, dirt yards or pens furnished with straw or similar bedding. Sows must be able to build nests, and pigs to root, explore and play. Factory farm practices and the routine use of antibiotics are prohibited. AWI's criteria require that the participants in the program be independent family farmers, the farmer must own the animals, depend on the farm for a livelihood and be involved in the day to day physical labor of managing the pigs.
Halverson, D.; AWI. Examples of farms fulfilling AWI's Humane On-Farm Husbandry Criteria for Pigs. Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC, 2000.

The Animal Welfare Institute's Humane Husbandry Standards for Pigs are followed on nearly 100 farms in the American Midwest. The farmers who adhere to these Standards are helping AWI to demonstrate that animals raised for food are sentient creatures capable of enjoying their lives. Pigs are very social animals with learning capabilities similar to dogs. AWI's Husbandry Standards take the natural behavior of pigs into account. Farmers find that by allowing pigs to behave naturally they raise healthier animals. Color photos illustrate the practices: Piglets at play close to their mother; sows building a nest; mothers nurturing their young in a natural environment; piglets nursing; piglets grazing at their mother's side; sows isolating themselves for farrowing; sows with piglets provided with straw when indoors.
Halverson. D. The Petersons talk about Pastureland pigs. AWI Quarterly; 38(3&4):10-12, Fall/Winter 1989/90.
Sows and their piglets on the Peterson farm have been shifted from an intensive system to the comfortable, straw-bedded pens required to qualify for AWI approval. The pigs are released outdoors in good weather, and farrowing crates have been removed. This pilot project has been undertaken under AWI auspices in an effort to enlist market sources in favor of a comfortable life for animals raised for meat. In consultation with experienced farmers and veterinarians, AWI prepared guidelines for family farms who wish to market meat under the Pastureland Farms label.

Kleinschmit, M. and Kilde, R.S. Letting Pigs Be Pigs: Building a Better Hog Operation. Center for Rural Affairs//North Central Initiative for Small Farm Profitability, Lincoln, NE, 2002.
"Dwight Ault moves from a conventional confinement hog operation to using hoop structures for finishing hogs. The change significantly reduces animal stress, improves working conditions and increases profit for this southeastern Minnesota farm."
Maulsby, D.D. Humane hogs: Iowa pork producers focus on animal welfare. The New Farm (Web Site). Rodale Institute, 2003.
"The Wilson brothers and their families believe in the benefits of pasture farrowing and using deep-bedded Swedish systems for raising hogs. The Wilsons pigs have plenty of room to run, root in their straw bedding and explore their surroundings... All of the Wilsons swine buildings, including a large greenhouse structure used for winter farrowing, give pigs room to move freely, build nests and root in bedding... The Wilsons facilities meet the Animal Welfare Institutes (AWI) Humane On-Farm Husbandry Criteria for Pigs."
Pasture production systems. On-farm experience: Jim Van Der Pol–Combining pasture and hoop structure production . Tom Frantzen–Pasture farrowing . In: Bergh, P., (ed). Hogs Your Way: Choosing a Hog Production System in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN, pp. 35-49, 2001.
This section first gives an overview of the pasture production system including background, housing, fencing, feed, farrowing, animal health, performance, scale, labor, environmental and social considerations, financial risk, followed by the profiles of two hog farmers successfully using this system: Combining the hoop structure and pasture management, Jim Van Der Pol farrows sows three times annually. "My production numbers are now as good, or better, than when I was operating in confinement," Jim says. Looking back after five years of raising hogs on pasture and in the hoop houses, Jim has fulfilled personal as well as business goals by spending more time outside with his animals, building an operation that can be managed by and support two families, and making good use of wet soil that was difficult to farm with crops.
Tom Franzen farrows his entire sow herd of 80 to 100 sows on pasture strips in the warm season and in huts in heated buildings during the winter. The hoops also are used for finishing. Gestating sows are grazed in permanent pastures during late spring and summer. After harvest, the sows are regularly allowed to glean corn stubble and soybean stubble. In addition to reducing production costs, Tom has improved his profit margin by gaining access to niche markets. "The key to producing in an alternative fashion is learning to market in an alternative fashion as well."
The pig page. The New Farm (Web Site). Rodale Institute, 2003.
A wealth of up-to-date information, news and articles are available on marketing, sustainable production, humane standards, web sites and organizations.
Shirley, C. Pig-powered composting: Livestock can help manage manure on your farm. The New Farm; 16(6):53-55, 60, Sept/Oct 1994.
"Joel Salatin has added yet another enterprise to his family's Polyface Farm: hogs that turn his compost. Eight pigs help keep nutrients cycling efficiently on the 550-acre farm by rooting in compost piles of cattle manure, wood chips and hay in early spring. Salatin spreads the piggery-compost about 70 tons worth in '94 on pasture that has been grazed once and just hayed. The finely textured, pig-turned compost has a fresh, earthy smell you wouldn't associate with conventional hog production."
Stoyannis, V. The kingdom of the pigs. AWI Quarterly; 50(1):6-7, Winter 2001.
In the Southern Alps of Greece, pigs are still bred free ranging in the forest. The animals feed on roots, acorns, chestnuts, and mushrooms. Their productivity and output are extremely close to the output of improved hogs bred at the industrial farms of the plain. Their health level is remarkable.
Swedish deep-straw farrowing system. On-farm experience: Nolan Jungclaus, Swedish deep-straw farrowing . Dwight Ault, Swedish deep-straw and pasture farrowing. In: Bergh, P., (ed). Hogs Your Way: Choosing a Hog Production System in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture; University of Minnesota Extension Service, St. Paul, MN, pp. 11-21, 2001.
This section first gives an overview of the Swedish deep-straw farrowing system including background, housing, feed, farrowing, animal health, performance, scale, labor, environmental and social considerations, financial risk, followed by the profiles of two hog farmers successfully using this system. Nolan and Susan Jungclaus have successfully diversified their farm income at relatively low financial risk while getting started in animal husbandry. Nolan's pigs are healthy and have performed well in the Swedish deep-straw farrowing system. He credits this to their low-stress environment, a combination of open pens (allowing for more communication among sows and piglets) and plenty of straw.
As an alternative to replacing his equipment, Dwight Ault decided to experiment with his own version of a Swedish deep-straw system to winter-farrow 60 sows. Dwight's decision to convert to the Swedish deep-straw system for winter farrowing doesn't affect his summer (June and August) pasture farrowing program. As he's done for nearly 40 years, before farrowing Dwight shifts a group of 30 breeding females to temporary paddocks that range in size from four acres to eight acres. Based on two years' experience with the indoor Swedish deep-straw system, Dwight says it is profitable and "fully cost-effective" when compared with his crate confinement history. "The deep-straw system is just as efficient as crates in terms of feed efficiency and rates of gain. My son and I are very optimistic financially." Healthy animals combined with lower fixed costs outweigh the added labor time necessary to check animals and spread straw each day. Likewise, Dwight's 37 years of pasture farrowing experience have taught him that reduced feed costs associated with pasture farrowing can lead to a higher net profit.
Wilson, D. and Wilson, C. Experiences with a Swedish deep-bedded swine system. Managing manure in harmony with the environment and society. Proceedings of a conference held Feb. 10-12, 1998 at Ames, Iowa; 1998.
"Colin and I are second generation pasture farrowers. Pasture farrowing is one of the best-kept secrets in the pork industry today. But, as you know, all pasture farrowing has one major problem and that is it is a seasonal system. We had been looking for a low cost system to use in the winter to supplement the pasture system. In the summer of 1996, we built a new deep-bedded, farrowing and nursery building that was designed after one I had seen in Sweden. The first advantage is the atmosphere in the building. There is NO OFFENSIVE SMELL in either the farrowing building or the hoop. Because of the deep bedding management, all of the manure is mixed in with the straw where it starts to compost. The sows and piglets are in a much more natural environment so they are very content and very easy to work with."

Guides and Research Papers

Algers, B. Managing alternative production systems: A European perspective. Swine system options for Iowa: Proceedings of a conference held February 21, 1996 in Ames, Iowa. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa, pp. 28-35, 1996.
There was great concern in Sweden among consumers, producers, and others, that animals didn't thrive in intensive systems; and there was also concern among consumers about the use of antibiotics, growth promoters and hormones. So, farmers had to choose methods that work despite banning of growth promoters in the feed, using as little antibiotics as possible, and not using hormones, and methods that also avoid problems such as aggression: i.e. back- and tail biting. To accomplish this, animal scientists and farmers "asked" the pig, how it is functioning, by observing it in semi-natural environments of different kinds, and trying to identify the crucial points. Dr. Bo Algers gives an overview of pig behavior and social dynamics that can be utilized when designing new systems, such as the behavior of sows before farrowing and nest building behavior. He also gives an example of such a system: The deep-bedded system. "The ideas behind it is that sows should always be kept in a social group, yet be able to go away from the group when their nest-building behavior is triggered. Therefore, cubicles are put up on the sides. Because the sow ought to be able to build a nest, straw is provided...."
In conclusion "It is only through knowing how nature works, how it functions, that we can understand and design housing systems that will be good for the animals. And by that I mean so that we don't have to remove parts of the animals, we don't have to use chemicals in any way, and we have animals that are healthy and thriving."
Ault, D. et al. Swine Sourcebook: Alternatives for Pork Producers. Alternative Swine Production Systems Program//Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, 1999.
"This publication is a collection of research, demonstration, and popular press articles that focus on alternative systems of pork production. Topics covered include sustainable production, hoop structures, Swedish deep bedding, pasture systems, low antibiotics, and some information on marketing."

AWI staff. AWI's pig husbandry program sets a national standard. AWI Quarterly; 51(3):16, Summer 2002.
"A modest collaboration that began in 1997 between the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and one family farmer has, in 2002, become a national program with nearly 200 farmers adhering to AWI's Humane On-Farm Pig Husbandry Standards (Please click here). Although the standards were developed to preserve the welfare of pigs, they appeal to an array of organizations with diverse interests. These groups see additional merit in the standards: protecting water quality, revitalizing a culture of traditional sustainable family farms and protecting the effectiveness of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine."
Bergh, P. et al. Hogs Your Way: A self guiding decision support system for producers evaluating hog production systems. Managing manure in harmony with the environment and society. Proceedings of a conference held Feb. 10-12, 1998 at Ames, Iowa; 1998.
"A large, diverse team (including farmers, bankers, ag-economists, an ag engineer, a rural sociologist, and state dept. of ag), representing many facets of the hog industry developed a multi-disciplinary set of criteria to evaluate three alternative hog production systems and conventional confinement (liquid manure system). Evaluatory criteria categories included economic, labor, productivity, environment, and marketability, social and animal health. The three alternative systems included in the evaluation included the Swedish Deep Straw Farrowing System (Vastgotmodellen), Pasture Systems for farrowing and finishing, and Hoop Houses utilizing deep straw for finishing and farrowing. The alternative systems were found to be competitive financially for beginning, small and medium sized producers and mitigate many of the environmental concerns caused by conventional confinement buildings utilizing liquid manure. Products will include a video showing the systems and a decision-oriented workbook. The workbook includes descriptions of the systems and an integrated decision support guide to assist new and expanding producers to clarify their vision and goals for their farm and family, and evaluate the systems in light of their values."

Gegner, L. Considerations in Organic Hog Production. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., July 2001.
This publication focuses on issues of sustainability and animal welfare in organic hog production, based on the principles that: "- The production of organic livestock should involve raising animals on the same farms where most of their feed is grown, and where manure is recycled efficiently and ecologically. - Organic livestock management should be based primarily on reducing and avoiding stress as opposed to treating or compensating for the symptoms of stress.... It is useful to consider the animals' natural behaviors so that the appropriateness of different housing options, herd management schemes, and so forth, can be assessed." The following natural behaviors are described: nesting and farrowing behaviors, rooting, wallowing, foraging. Pastured production systems such as pasture farrowing and pasture finishing are reviewed. "With good management practices, pasture-raised pigs come close to being the easiest system for meeting organic requirements. A pasture grazing system is a seasonal system that can work well in most weather, providing that the producer continually monitors and manages the hogs' comfort and stress levels." Housing considerations including access to outdoors, Swedish deep-straw farrowing systems, and deep-straw hooped shelters are examined. "Group housing systems for pigs need to allow for social behavior and for avoiding unnecessary social stress. Pigs are very social animals and live in family groups in their natural environment." Husbandry practices to reduce stress are outlined. "The USDA organic rule states: 'Animals in an organic livestock operation must be maintained under conditions, which provide for exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress appropriate to the species.' Understanding the behavior of pigs is an excellent means of reducing their stress during handling, moving, weaning, sorting, and when mixing strange pigs together. All of these various stressors have been shown to suppress the functions of the immune system and affect the pig's resistance to infectious diseases."
Gegner, L. Hooped shelters for hogs. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., 2001. 
Hooped shelters have evolved as an alternative hog-finishing and/or gestating sow housing option that family producers should consider. In a typical hooped shelter a concrete pad holds the feeders and usually two heated or energy-free, freezeless waterers. The rest of the shelter is dirt floor with the pigs lying in a deep bedding area of a slowly composting litter of deep organic matter, such as straw, corn stalks, hay, etc. Some of the advantages, disadvantages and expenses of using hooped shelters for finishing hogs or housing gestating sows are discussed. A listing of sources of further information, as well as a list of hoop shelter manufacturers is provided.
Gegner, L. Sustainable hog production overview. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., May 1999.
The pork industry is being concentrated in a few large-scale factory farms. However, sustainable practices on family farms that are dispersed throughout the nation, can compete economically with this situation, if the family farmer has the support of the consumer. In this package ATTRA provides information about sustainable hog production techniques in order to promote the adoption and practice of environmentally sound, sustainable agriculture. Sources of additional information are also provided.

Halverson, M. Management in Swedish deep-bedded swine housing systems: Background and behavioral considerations. Managing manure in harmony with the environment and society. Proceedings of a conference held Feb. 10-12, 1998 at, Iowa; 1998.
This paper describes evolution of and experiences with the Swedish systems. In Sweden, farmer preference caused widespread conversion to deep-bedded group housing for the breeding herd. Swedish farmers still cite its efficiency, aesthetics, friendliness to neighbors and the environment, and its contribution to sow well-being, fitness and health.
Halverson, M. Whole-hog housing: Swedish system lowers stress, disease. The New Farm; 16(2):51-54, 62, Feb. 1994.
Swedish farms use models of hog rearing that are based on the natural behavior of pigs. Sows move through the stages of the conception-through-weaning cycle in stable groups. Newly weaned and pregnant sows are kept on deep straw beds in large pens. In the Swedish group nursing systems, sows give birth either in a separate farrowing room containing conventional Swedish farrowing pens, which are large enough for the sow to turn around and interact freely with her piglets, or in wooden cubicles set up temporarily in the group nursing room itself. After the piglets are 10 to 14 days old, or after they start to climb out of the cubicle, the temporary cubicles are removed and all sows and piglets in the group mingle. To work well, group housing and group nursing take a special interest on the part of the farmer in the well-being of pigs, a solid knowledge of their natural behavior, and very good organizational and animal husbandry skills. The Swedish model is a way for large numbers of family hog farmers to raise hogs humanely, ecologically, and profitably.
Hoop Structures. Web Site. Iowa State University //Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA, 2000.
This web site provides a wealth of information on hoop structures for hogs including a number of research papers on comparison research, animal performance, economics, manure management, behavior, animal environment and other systems.
Honeyman, M. Overview of system options: Economics and production. Swine system options for Iowa: Proceedings of a conference held February 21, 1996 in Ames, Iowa. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa, pp. 42-54, 1996.
Options or alternatives are opportunities for pig farming. Alternative systems allow the pig more freedom. They "rely on husbandry and the ability to see what's going on. They rely less on equipment and buildings and more on bedding for the pigs to create their own micro-environment. And they're less capital- and energy-intensive." Mark Honeyman reviews outdoor production, the deep-beeded Swedish systems and hoop structures, remodeling existing structures and open-front systems and gives tips and concludes "You have to be happy at what you're doing."
Honeyman, M.S. Sustainable swine production in the U.S. corn belt. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture; 6(2):63-70, 1991.
Since 1950 there is a trend toward fewer but larger hog farms in the corn belt. We need innovative, thoughtful alternatives to prevalent practices in swine production, including alternatives to the corn-soybean meal diet, to intensive confinement systems, and handling of manure as a waste rather than a resource. Use of fibrous feeds and forages, using swine to harvest crops or crop residue, multi-species feeding systems, and use of low trypsin-inhibitor soybeans in swine diets are some examples of sustainable alternatives to the corn-soybean meal diet. With proper management, manure partially completes the nutrient cycle. There are reasonable alternatives to confinement swine production. Some Corn Belt producers successfully farrow and rear swine on pasture during warmer months. Sow farrow on pasture in individual huts. When coupled with intensive management, pasture rearing of swine is a profitable alternative to confinement. An emerging issue in livestock production, including swine, involves the principles of animal behavior and welfare. The challenge of sustainable swine production is to identify and build innovative systems that incorporate the animal's innate behavior. Concerning health, priority should be given to prevention and disease eradication, rather than on disease treatment.

Honeyman, M.S. Västgötmodellen: Sweden's sustainable alternative for swine production. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture; 10(3):129-132, 1995.
"Swedish pig farmers have developed a management-intensive system of pig production that relies on straw, the animals' natural behavior, group housing dynamics, and keen husbandry skills. The system is very efficient, with excellent pig reproduction and growth performance. The housing is simple and versatile. The "Västgötmodellen" prescribes communal housing on deep straw beds. This model enables pigs to perform most of their natural behaviors. It is both pig- and human-friendly, cost-efficient, and environmentally benign. The system was developed in response to public concerns and laws related to subtherapeutic antibiotic use and livestock welfare. The system may have application in the U.S., with some modifications for a more severe continental climate in the Midwest."

Honeyman, M.S. Whole-hog management benefits the whole farm! The New Farm; 12(6):24-26, Sept/Oct. 1990.
Hogs can be raised using practices that are profitable as well as humane and ecologically sound. The key is rethinking management to meet the needs of the whole hog, to the benefit of the whole farm taking five areas into consideration. 1) Feeding: by changing the Corn Belt pig's diet, we can change the face of Corn Belt agriculture and include forage, fibrous feedstuffs and protein-by-products. 2) Housing: Confinement brings many problems. There are healthy alternatives that are just as profitable if not more so, such as open-front housing or pasture farrowing. 3) Manure: With proper management, manure partially completes the nutrient cycle. 4) Health and genetics: More is to be gained from an emphasis on management practices that prevent disease and maintain herd health. 5) Animal behavior and management: Swine production could benefit from studying how to use pigs' natural behavior to advantage. Whole-farm systems with swine will be more sustainable when pigs' behavior, biology an ecology are central to the plan and are not overridden by equipment, drugs or other constraints.
Honeyman, M. and Kent, D. Performance of a Swedish deep-bedded feeder pig production system in Iowa. Swine Research Report ASL-1683. Iowa State University Extension, Ames, IA, 1999.
"Operation (2.5 years) of a Swedish deep-bedded feeder pig production system, including nine farrowings is summarized. The system is designed to minimize pig stress and use no subtherapeutic antibiotics in the feed. Breeding and gestation occurred in a hoop building with cornstalk bedding. Conception rates and litter size were excellent. Farrowing occurred in a deep-bedded remodeled building. Sows selected bedded farrowing cubicles. Pre-wean pig mortality, mostly crushing, was high (28%), occurring primarily in the first 3 days. At 2 weeks of age, the cubicles were removed and group lactation occurred. Group lactation worked well with an average pig weaning weight of 23 lb at 36 days of age. At weaning (36 days) sows were removed, and the pigs remained in the farrowing/lactation room for 24 days. Nursery phase pig growth in the deep-bedded nursery was excellent resulting in 55 lb pigs at 60 days of age and 1.22 lb/day average daily weight gain. Overall pig health was excellent with no major clinical diseases confirmed."

Honeyman, M. and Weber, L. Swine System Options for Iowa: Outdoor Pig Production: An Approach That Works. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 1996.
"The public's growing concern about animal welfare calls for innovative approaches and ethical judgment in the ways producers raise pigs. Some Midwest farmers successfully farrow and raise swine on pasture during warmer months in individual, floorless huts.... Modern outdoor rearing offers advantages that make it a competitive alternative to confinement. Pasture farrowing operations not only have lower fixed costs; they also have potentially lower labor costs, suggesting that well-managed pasture farrowing is competitive with confinement operations. Various organizations are encouraging more humane approaches to pork production, including systems in which swine can move about and receive no growth-enhancing or disease-preventing medication. Farrowing in pens or on pasture addresses these concerns." Chapters cover Feeding: (grazing, watering), Manure, Health, Genetics, Housing, Bedding, Fencing, Marketing, Labor, Economics, Social implications.
Kennedy, D.W. What Is Pasture Based Swine Management? Arkansas Land & Farm Development Corporation (ALFDC), Brinkley, Arkansas, 1998.
"Pasture-Based Swine Management (PBSM) is an alternative approach for raising swine outdoors using pasture as a major source of nutrients, particularly for gestating sows. Compared with confinement or indoor systems for raising hogs, the PBSM approach can offer the producer lower initial costs, lower production costs, and a sustainable method for producing pork. Typical designs of pasture-based systems use low-cost portable housing and electric fencing. Because these systems require no expensive buildings and waste handling equipment, farmers can feasibly down-size or expand their operation depending on prevailing market conditions. In addition, the portability of pasture systems should allow farmers to utilize rented land. These systems should be especially appealing to limited-resource and/or beginning farmers." Demonstration farm at:
Kent, D. Breeding herd management and performance in a Swedish deep-bedded gestation and group lactation demonstration, Armstrong Farm, Iowa State University. Managing manure in harmony with the environment and society. Proceedings of a conference held Feb. 10-12, 1998 at Ames, Iowa; 1998.
"More producers are starting to look at loose-housing and solid bedding systems for their gestating sows. I think the Swedish layouts and features for deep-bedded loose-housing systems hold a lot of promise for Midwestern producers although they demand a different kind of management from intensive confinement, and even from pasture or non-confinement systems. This management style must be tuned to the sows' natural behaviors and how these behaviors play out in a loose but still confined type of housing system."
Lay, D., Haussmann, M.F., and Daniels, M.J. Hoop housing for feeder pigs offers a welfare-friendly environment compared to a nonbedded confinement system. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science; 3(1):33-48, 2000.
This project compared the behavior and physiology of pigs in a nonbedded confinement system with those in hoop structures: open-ended quonsets shaped like a half cyclinder, using bedding to keep the pigs dry and allow this bedding to compost beneath the pigs to keep them warm in winter. Two experiments, one in the winter and one in the summer, assessed the welfare of pigs. Pigs raised in confinement performed more aberrant behaviors and less play behavior, had greater plasma cortisol in response to handling, and a greater incidence of injuries that did the pigs raised in hoops. Based on these data, pigs in hoops were considered to have enhanced welfare as compared to pigs raised in confinement.
Martin, W. The Alternative Swine Production Systems Program. Web Site. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA), St. Paul, MN, 1997, 2002.
"The mission of the Alternative Swine Production Systems Program is to promote the research and development of low-emission and low-energy swine housing such as hoop structures, deep-bedded systems, and outdoor/pasture based systems. The Alternative Swine Production Systems Program seeks to develop relationships among farmers, researchers, and educators to research and promote alternative swine systems that are profitable, environmentally friendly, and help support rural communities in Minnesota."
NC SARE Office. Swine Production. Field Notes. NC SARE Quarterly Fact Sheet; Nov. 1998.
Alternative hog production systems, such as hoop houses, deep-bedded systems or pastured hogs offer a variety of benefits: Lower investment; lower energy costs; flexibility and versatility; healthy hogs; pleasant working conditions; less odor; solid, composted manure; possible market premiums. Iowa State University animal scientist Mark Honeyman has been investigating low-cost, management-intensive hog production systems, such as hoop structures, Swedish-style deep-bedded systems, outdoor hogs, and combinations of the three. Some examples of farmers who have adopted those systems are given:
  •  Iowa producer Steve Weis has built three hoop shelters for less than the price of one confinement facility. Deep bedding provides an attractive and warm environment for his hogs.
  •  Nolan Jungclaus established a Swedish-style deep-bedded system on his Minnesota farm in 1995. The Jungclaus hogs can exhibit natural desires to nest and live in family units. This environment produces a happy, healthy pig, free of antibiotics, and provides the Jungclauses with a clean, healthy working environment. Nolan said the system allows him to farm with his children, who are often found romping with piglets.
  •  Tom Frantzen, a northeastern Iowa farmer, farrows groups of sows on strip crops. Pasture farrowing requires simple, portable housing (huts), a watering system, portable electric fencing and feeders. "One of the things I want to dispel is that pasture farrowing is labor intensive," Frantzen said. "There's no manure to haul. As we rotate sows, nature cleans up with less labor." Frantzen has estimated that it costs him only $15 to produce a 40 pound pig. Frantzen has been happy with pig health.
    "Alternative systems are pig friendly, people friendly, community friendly and environmentally friendly," says Honeyman. He suggests that mid-sized family farmers and risk-averse, part-time or beginning farmers would fare well in alternative swine production.
SARE staff. Profitable Pork: Alternative Strategies for Hog Producers. USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 2001.
Farmers who want to successfully produce pork on a small scale can preserve their independence in the face of the consolidating hog industry. This bulletin "showcases examples of alternate ways to raise pork profitably. In designing hog systems that work on their farms -- in deep-straw bedding, in hoop structures and on pasture -- producers have been able to save on fixed costs, find greater flexibility, identify unique marketing channels and enjoy a better quality of life. This bulletin features profiles about successful hog producers as well as the latest research on everything from achieving greater profits to raising better-tasting pork in alternative hog systems." This is an excellent, comprehensive overview of alternative hog farming with many color photos.
Swine system options for Iowa 1999: Proceedings of a conference held February 17, 1999, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa, 1999.
Most of the options covered "have pigs in fresh air, sunshine, and bedding," such as hoops, outdoor farrowing and deep-bedded Swedish production systems. Marketing networks for natural pork and organic pork are starting. The sessions not only discuss production and environmental management in low-cost swine systems such as hoop structures, but also examine alternative marketing options. The conference started with general sessions giving an overview of swine system options and swine marketing alternatives, followed by discussion sessions, in which small groups of producers discussed practical aspects of alternative systems and marketing, such as getting started with hoop structures; composting hoop structure bedding/manure; marketing and value-added opportunities with alternative swine systems; adapting existing structures to deep-bedded systems; outdoor productions systems, etc.
Swine system options for Iowa: Proceedings of a conference held February 21, 1996 in Ames, Iowa. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, Iowa, 1996.
The group meeting in Ames examined ways to remain competitive in the rapidly changing industry in Iowa. They drew on the experience of Swedish scientists and farmers attending the conference who produce pork under some of the most stringent environmental and animal welfare rules in the world. They looked at changing markets, animal welfare and husbandry, and systems that use outdoor production, deep bedding, and low-cost hooped and remodeled structures. A few talks gave a general overview of the options, and were followed by discussion sessions, in which small groups of producers were assembled into panels, and gave practical tips about the various options.
Wechsler, B. Rearing pigs in species-specific family groups. Animal Welfare; 5:255-35, 1996.
"In the Family Pen system piglets and fatteners grow up in species-specific family groups that correspond to the normal social organization of domestic pigs. The feasibility of a technologically improved version of this alternative housing system, originally designed by Alex Stolba, was tested on a commercial farm for two and a half years. Eighty-one litters were born in three family groups within this period. Average cycle length was 170 ± 24 (SD) days, resulting in 2.15 litters per sow per year. All piglets were suckled for at least seven weeks. In 53.8 per cent of the cycles lactational oestrus occurred before the piglets were seven-weeks-old. The litters of sows which did not show lactational oestrus were artificially weaned and returned to the family group as soon as the sow had been served. At the beginning there were problems with piglet health and crushing, but in the last 21 months of the study there was a stable reproductive performance of 19.5 piglets (28-days-old) reared per sow per year (n = 53 litters). Sows that had been raised themselves in the Family Pen System reared 21.4 piglets per year (n = 25 litters). In conclusion, the technologically improved version of the Family Pen System was found to be practicable on a commercial farm."


Bowman, G. Pennsylvania Farmers Consider New System for Happy Hogs. Rodale Institute, 2003.
"After meeting with Niman Ranch representatives, and seeing the differences between hog production in the Midwest and Pennsylvania, area farmers have decided to try and develop marketing and production systems suited to the East." A description of the origins of the PIG Alliance, with its unique blend of farmers, restaurant owners, environmentalists, and energy and animal welfare groups can be read in Pig Alliance, Part I at
Exner, R. Niman Ranch sends Iowa pork West. The Practical Farmer; Quarterly Newsletter of Practical Farmers of Iowa; 13/14(4/1):9, Spring 1998.
"For several years Paul and Phyllis Willis, in Cerro Gordo County, have sold pasture-raised pigs at a premium to some of the finest West Coast restaurants. Their pigs are marketed through California rancher Bill Niman, who has spent two decades developing a customer base for sustainably produced beef, pork, and lamb. Meat animals sold through Niman Ranch have received no growth hormones, subtherapeutic antibiotics, or other growth promotants, and they are raised in systems that allow them to move about and interact socially. "
Gegner, L. Alternative Marketing of Pork. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) , Fayetteville, Ark., June 1999.
"This publication explains why sustainable hog producers need to consider alternative marketing of their pork. Sustainable hog producers are creating a product that many consumers can't find in their grocery store, but want to buy. Consumers perceive sustainably raised pork to be healthier to eat and are willing to pay hog producers more for raising pigs in a manner that is humane, helps sustain family farms, and is more environmentally friendly than conventional production methods. Direct marketing and niche markets are some alternative marketing strategies discussed. Legal considerations, trademarks, and processing regulations are explained. Sources of additional information are also provided."
Halverson, D. Niman Ranch: AWI Approved: good for the pigs, the family farmer and the community. AWI Quarterly; 38(3):15, Summer 1999.
To encourage more humane conditions for farm animals, the Animal Welfare Institute is supporting the Niman Ranch Company and its network of family hog farmers who follow humane husbandry criteria developed by the Animal Welfare Institute. AWI's criteria require that all animals be allowed to behave naturally. Niman Ranch pigs are raised on pasture or in barns with bedding where they can live in accord with their natures, rooting for food, playing and socializing. AWI's criteria require that the participants in the program be independent family farmers, the farmer must own the animals, depend on the farm for a livelihood and be involved in the day to day physical labor of managing the pigs. This requirement helps to ensure that pigs are raised in mode st numbers, making it easier to know and manage the animals as individuals. Paul Willis, the farmer who inspired AWI's involvement in the program, keeps 200 sows and their offspring on pasture or in barns bedded with straw on his Midwest farm. Niman Ranch, which buys the pigs and markets the meat, also forbids feeding or otherwise administering hormones or antibiotics and prohibits the feeding of animal by-products. Niman Ranch pays a premium price to such farmers, and develops consumer markets, such as restaurants, Trader Joe's stores, Whole Foods, etc. The program gives a growing number of consumers an opportunity to reject meat derived from pigs raised in animal factories and assists in the preservation of humane family farms.
Frantzen, T. Footprints of a grass farmer: We begin to develop real community. Practical Farmers of Iowa Newsletter; 14(4):36-37, Winter 2000.
"In February of 1998 I was asked to provide some market hogs to the Niman Ranch Pork Company. Later that spring I took Paul Willis, who manages this company, on a tour of local hog farmers who live near Alta Vista. Soon the demand for non-confinement hogs grew to the level where six local farmers were sending hogs to Niman Ranch. We could see the advantages of cooperation among us when it was time to ship. We put our group together as a cooperative, developed bylaws and formally organized in January of 1999. We selected the name F.R.E.S.H. AIR PORK CIRCLE. The FRESH is an acronym for Family Raised Environmentally Sound Hogs. We are making progress in developing true economic community. The most significant impact is in the transportation logistics. I cannot get my hogs to market unless you stay in business and need to get your hogs to the same place. The dependence goes well beyond just shipping. We meet to share production ideas and to solve problems.What we are experiencing here is a totally different trend than the existing movement within the pork industry. The drive to industrialize and concentrate swine production has eliminated thousands of independent producers and fragmented rural communities. Our alternative marketing has opened new doors for business growth, stabilized the economy and opened our eyes to how much we really do need each other. I like this path much better!"

Niman, B. Niman Ranch. Web site, 1999.
Niman Ranch has "developed a network of sustainable family farms owned by ranchers known personally to Bill Niman, who raise their animals, by agreement, free-range on grass and natural feeds, without steroids, subtherapeutic antibiotics, or other artificial growth promotants, and who treat their animals with dignity and respect." Niman Ranch has been providing premium quality meats to the finest San Francisco Bay Area restaurants for 20 years. The web site gives a list of retail outlets, grocery stores, some farmers' markets and Whole Foods, etc. where the meat can be bought, and restaurants all over the US where the meat is served.
SARE staff. North Carolina Hog Producers Gain Hoof-Hold by Raising Pigs on Pasture . USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 2002.
"At a time when most of North Carolina's hog industry is corporate-run, a group of independent-minded producers is experimenting with raising small herds of hogs outside. The farmers are gambling that pasture-based pork systems, gaining in credibility and acceptance, will bring them a slice of the marketplace and, perhaps more important, a satisfying livelihood.... Talbott is researching pasture-based systems rotations of pigs and organic vegetables in dry lots and in forest settings as part of a SARE grant, and has reached out to small producers... Hog farmers in the NC A & T project can choose their markets, but all of the participating farmers have the opportunity to sign contracts with Niman Ranch, a high-end retailer, or pursue other direct-marketing channels locally. The Iowa-based Niman Ranch buys pork from small-scale producers who adhere to a strict code of animal husbandry, including raising hogs on pastures or in deep bedding."
Unterman, P. This Little Piggy... San Francisco Examiner; June 27, 1999.
In a pasture on his farm, Paul Willis from Iowa raises pigs according to a strict protocol devised by the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C. Willis raises his animals free-range or in barns with deep straw bedding so that they can live in accord with their natures, rooting for food, playing and socializing. Five other pig farms also follow the same husbandry protocol. In January 1999 Niman Ranch, a California marketing company, set up an Iowa company, partially funded by an Iowa Department of Economic Development loan, that will be a 50-50 partnership between Niman and the Iowa producers. Pork raised by these farmers and distributed under the Niman Ranch label can be bought at all San Francisco Bay Area Whole Foods Markets, various other groceries and retail outlets around the Bay area, Trader Joe's, farmers' markets, and restaurants.





Animal Advocates Urge Ireland to End Cruel Animal Transport

Photo from the January 8, 2004 demonstration.

WASHINGTON, DC (January 7, 2004)  On Thursday, January 8th, at 12:00 p.m., demonstrators organized by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) staged a one-hour protest outside the Embassy of Ireland at 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, and delivered a letter to Ambassador Fahey urging Ireland, as new holder of the European Union (EU) Presidency, to lead the way in ensuring new, humane rules on animal transport including an 8 hour total journey limit for cows and other livestock traveling to slaughter or for further fattening.  

Each year roughly three million live animals cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses are transported insufferably long distances across Europe.  The sheer length of the journeys results in stress.  AWI's Wendy Swann notes, "Transporting live animals long distances undoubtedly causes immense suffering.  The animal welfare problems associated with the trade can only be alleviated with drastic changes in the length of time and conditions under which these sentient creatures are shipped."

From Ireland, thousands of young calves are taken by sea and road to the Netherlands for veal production; thousands of older calves are transported also by sea and road to Spain and Italy mostly for slaughter, and in 2003, over 138,000 cattle and calves were transported to Europe and over 35,000 cattle were shipped to Lebanon.  Ireland, who took over the Presidency of the EU on January 1 st , has opposed all proposals to restrict journey length intended to reduce animal suffering, although nine EU countries have supported such a move. 

"Ireland should not contradict the wishes of most EU countries for modest improvements in the transport conditions for livestock from the EU" Swann asserts. "In the summer, animals transported in livestock trucks often suffer from the effects of extreme heat and dehydration and some die.  During long journeys it is also inevitable that animals will become injured.  Ireland must stand up and support these long-needed changes to EU transport regulations."

Joyce D'Silva, Compassion in World Farming's (CIWF) Chief Executive adds; "As an Irish woman myself, I feel such shame that the Irish government opposes radical reform of this appalling trade in animal suffering.  At the moment, lambs can be taken from Aberdeen to Athens just to be slaughtered on arrival.  A trade in chilled meat is such an obvious and kinder alternative.  CIWF's call for change is receiving global support.  It's time for the Irish government and all governments to listen to public concern on this issue."

CIWF and AWI call for adoption of an 8 hour journey limit, a position that has received widespread support from the European Parliament, the Agriculture Council, and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare.



  • A media briefing covering the live transport of animals is available from AWI
  • Problems are exacerbated by lack of law enforcement.  For example, the European Commission carried out a series of investigations in EU countries and found that drivers, including those carrying animals from Ireland, frequently did not stop to rest the animals as required by law.
  • With regard to shipments to the Middle East, once animals are unloaded into a non-EU country, there is no longer any control over their welfare.  Investigations by CIWF and the German animal welfare group, Animals' Angels, have shown that EU cattle (including animals from Ireland) are brutally handled and inhumanely slaughtered in Lebanon.
  • In November 2001 the European Parliament adopted the Maat report which calls for a maximum overall limit of 8 hours or 500 km. on journeys to slaughter or for further fattening. In September 2002 at an Agriculture Council discussion, 9 of the EU Member States said they want an 8-hour limit.
  • In March 2002, a major report by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) concluded that welfare tends to get worse as journey length increases and so "journeys should be as short as possible".
  • For betacam or VHS copies of video, further information or photographs contact CIWF's press office on +44 (0)1730 233 904 or +44 (0) 7771 926 005 (mobile). Out of office hours call +44 (0) 7771 926 005.

Issues and Alternatives in Hog Farming

AWI Quarterly: Summer 1998

The Cruel Corporate Assault on Family Farmers and Their Pigs

"Above gold and silver... more precious than rubies;a race of virtuous and independent farmers; loyal supporters of their country"
—Senator Thomas Hart Benton, 1823

by Tom Garrett

Today, America's system of family farms is in extremis. A successionof economic shocks, beginning in the Eisenhower administration, has sothinned the ranks of family farmers and ranchers that only a beleagueredremnant, aggregating less than 2% of the population, remain on the land.Thomas Hart Benton's "race of virtuous and independent farmers"is being replaced by a new feudalism, governed from corporate boardrooms,in which "contract growers" fulfill the role of serfs, and migrantworkers the role of slaves.

The corporate takeover of agriculture relies on control and manipulationof markets, and a degree of vertical integration unthought of in manufacturingindustries. Its way is being greased by one of the most powerful and unscrupulouslobbies in the nation with corruptive tentacles enmeshing the Congressand federal agencies and penetrating into state governments and legislaturesacross the country.

Gross abuseof farm animals, on a scale and to a degree unimaginable a generation ago,is the distinguishing feature of industrial agriculture. Its dernier criis found in the hog factories mestastizising across the farm belt and intothe intermountain west where pigs live their brief lives in huge, denselypacked buildings suffused with the overpowering stench of liquefied hogmanure. Gestating sows stand on naked concrete slats in a space so tinythat they are unable to turn around. During farrowing, the space allottedthem is so narrow that they must lie on one side, segregated from theirpiglets by bars spaced widely enough apart that the latter can suckle.The piglets themselves, under "segregated early weaning" aretaken from their mothers at only 10- 14 days of age so that the sows canbe re-inseminated without loss of time.

Death losses under such conditions and in an atmosphere laden with hydrogensulfide and ammonia, are understandably high. Twenty million pounds ofantibiotics are fed to farm animals each year. Even with daily, subtherapeuticdoses of antibiotics, without which raising animals in factories wouldbe impossible, vast numbers of piglets fail to survive weaning or fallbehind and are "culled." The annual death rate among sows isreported to average 20%. Those who survive are "used up" andculled after three or four farrowings. Some of these young sows are unableto even walk to their own deaths. The natural life expectancy of a pigis ten years; sows in factory farms rarely exceed the age of two and onehalf.

At Seaboard's huge, vertically integrated hog complex near Guyman, Oklahoma,the death loss—by the company's own admission—has reached 35,000 animalsin a single month. Company officials seem unconcerned. This is not really"wastage" they argue; the animals are taken to the company'srendering plant, ground up and fed to the surviving hogs. This is what"closed cycle" evidently means.

Why can't traditional farms, where there is little death loss and sowsremain productive for years, compete withthis grotesque system? Given a "level playing field" they can.But the field is anything but level. The profit or loss of independentfarmers depends on the producer price; the price of animals "on thehoof." But for corporations like Seaboard who maintain their own packingplants, and—increasingly—sell at retail under their own label, producerprices are irrelevant; the determinants are wholesale and retail prices.The producer price of hogs plummeted 40%, from 59.3 cents a pound in July1996 to 36.3 cents a pound in July 1998. But the wholesale price droppedonly 23% during the same period, from $1.22 to 95 cents and the crash affectedretail prices not at all: pork averaged $2.26 per pound in July 1996; $2.31per pound in July 1998.

Another way vertical integration allows corporations to muscle asidefamily farms is to deny them markets altogether. In recent years, mostof the sale barns and central markets to which farmers traditionally shippedtheir hogs have closed down and most independent packing plants—those operatingwithout a "captive supply"— have been forced out of business.Tens of thousands of small farmers have quit raising hogs simply becausethey cannot sell them.

In the meantime,despite the collapse of Asian markets and consequent glut of hogs, hogfactory expansion continues apace. Huge new complexes are planned for pointsas diverse as southeastern Idaho, northern Texas, the San Luis valley ofColorado, the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Fulton County,Illinois and Platte County, Wyoming, as the corporations with the deepestpockets take advantage of the price crash to seize additional market share.

But for all their money and political influence, factory farmers arevulnerable. Factory farming does not work economically unless many of itsreal costs are imposed on others; to sustain such a system requires a highdegree of political control. At the federal level, where honest enforcementof the Packers and Stock-yards Act and various environmental laws wouldunravel the entire system, corporate dominance is hardly challenged. Buta citizen's revolt against hog factories is gaining strength in communitiesacross the country as normally diverse— even antagonistic—constituenciesunite against the common enemy.

  • In Colorado, where absence of regulation has attracted over twentylarge hog factories, a coalition of farmers, environmentalists and humaneactivists are bringing the issue before the voters in the November election.Initiative 14 would force hog factories to combat stench by enclosing sewagelagoons, require persistent environmental monitoring by both state andcounty authorities, make the owners fully liable for "remediating"damages and give affected citizens standing to go to court, when necessary,to bring about enforcement. Agribusiness corporations have raised millionsof dollars—reportedly including one million dollars from the pharmaceuticalgiant, Pfizer, to stop the initiative. Industry groups such as the FarmBureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council, are in fullhue and cry.
  • South Dakota farmers, led by Dakota Rural Action, have placed an initiativeon the ballot aimed at forcing agribusiness corporations altogether outof the state. Amendment E, modeled on Nebraska's anti-corporate law, wouldban corporate owned farming operations in South Dakota, including feedingcontracts involving corporate-owned animals. This would not prevent privatelyowned hog factories from operating in South Dakota, but Nebraska's experiencesuggests that without pressure from outside investors very few will. TheSouth Dakotans are, once again, facing a flood of corporate money and theRepublican Governor Janklow is inveighing against the initiative.
  • Western Kansas has become a veritable battleground between corporateinvestors and citizens. Fortunately, it is possible, under the Kansas constitution,for counties to decide for themselves whether such development is to beallowed. Public initiatives have been held on the question of hog factoriesin 20 Kansas counties. Only one county, Edwards, voted by 590 to 585 toadmit hog factories. 71.6.% of all the voters participating in the electionsvoted "No." In three of the fourteen counties where commissionersgranted permission for hog factories to come in, outraged citizens forcedthem to rescind the decision.
  • Iowa has traditionally been a bastion of family farming as well asthe largest hog producing state in the United States. It is still firstin hogs, but the number of independent hog farmers has plunged from 41,000to 18,000 in a decade and most of Iowa's hog production is now in the handsof corporations. The corporate takeover has degraded Iowa's environment,created social turmoil, battered the already depressed rural economy. However,the 1995 passage of File 519, eliminating the right of counties to regulatehog factories, and the right of citizens to file suit against hog factories,created an intense backlash. Nine Republican legislators who voted forfile 519 were tossed out by the voters in 1996, and Democrats are countingon the issue to regain control of the Iowa legislature this year. In themeantime, the Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled the provision denying citizensthe right to file nuisance suits against hog factories to be "blatantlyunconstitutional."
  • In Oklahoma, where waste from chicken factories in the eastern partof the state contaminated the Tulsa water supply, citizens finally forceda moderately strong regulatory bill— applying to the state's hog factories—through the state legislature. Moratoriums on new construction remain ineffect in Mississippi and North Carolina. South Carolina, with North Carolina'sghastly example to guide it, passed a sufficiently severe law to deterdevelopment.

"Forget the pig as an animal. Treat him just like any other machinein a factory. Schedule treatments like you would lubrication. Breedingseason is the first step in an assembly line."

—Hog Farm Management Magazine

A Better Way—Hog Farming that Meets the Animal's SocialInstincts

by Tom Frantzen

Farrowing and finishing hogs have been core activities on the Frantzenfarm for over 55 years, spanning my and my father's farming careers.

In 1978, I changed the way hogs were housed and raised at our farm.A room in our barn was remodeled to hold 14 steel farrowing crates withslat floors. A small underground pit was dug to catch the pig's waste.I distinctly remember how those "modern improvements" changedthe very nature of our farm. Slat floors and the stagnant watery manurebeneath it created a repulsive odor. Any activity that stirred this fecalsoup greatly increased the smell. At that time, I thought that this wasjust a part of being modern. Noxious odors were not the only bad featuresof the slat floors and crates. For the next 13 years, I would strugglewith countless animal health problems associated with slat floors.

Above: This hoophouse sow carries
straw into her farrowing hutch,
building a nest for her piglets.
Above right: Sow and piglet
snuggle in deep straw. Right:
Hogs at the Frantzen farm in
their straw-bedded hoophouse.
The pigs root through the straw
bales, creating their own nests

Sows in the crates would slip on the (very expensive) slat flooring,causing various injuries. Little pigs suffered knee abrasions from sleepingon the hard floors. Pneumonia and injury-related health problems were common.The finishing pigs that were closely confined in a slat floored pen, asrecommended by modern textbooks on pork production, did gain weight quickly,but they exhibited cannibalistic behavior. Tail biting became a seriousproblem.

In 1994, my wife, Irene, and I spent two weeks touring Sweden with asmall group from Iowa and Minnesota. The trip was organized and hostedby Marlene Halverson of the Animal Welfare Institute and Mark Honeymanof Iowa State University. The farms we visited were employing deep beddedfacilities to provide low stress, humane conditions for their livestock.I was awed by the healthy and content disposition of the stock, and thefarm families too!

Every time I observed my old, crowded, slat floor hog barn and the stressedpigs living in it, I too became stressed. Their social brutality (tailbiting, bar chewing) was caused by failing to meet their basic social instincts.On a hoopbuilding tour, I was told that pigs have three desires: they wantto run around, build a nest, and chew on something. This behavior is impossiblein a metal pen on a slat floor. Early one September morning, I opened thedoor of my grower barn to check on the pigs. One of the pens was coveredwith fresh blood. Their level of stress was so high they became violentlyaggressive toward each other. I could take no more! I announced with abit of profanity that my slat floor days were going to end.

Deep-bedded hoophouse facilities appeared in the Midwest in the mid1990s. It was exciting to observe this development. Not since being onthe Swedish farms had I observed a humane shelter! More exciting yet, wasthe promise of an economical and ecologically sound building. In a hoophouseor structure, straw-bedded pens replace metal crates and slatted floors.The straw bedding mixes with the hog waste which is self composting, createsvery little odor and no ecological hazards.

Plans were set to build three hoophouses on the farm. By September of1997 one of the houses was ready for the pigs. I was very anxious to usethe new facilities. On moving day we bedded the new hoophouse with freshstraw, and lots of it.

One hundred and sixty pigs from the old grower were released into theirnew home. Boy, did those pigs have fun! In the new hoopbuilding they havelots of room to run, straw to chew and heaps of bedding to nest in. Theyran around all day—and even in to the night. The next morning when I wentinto check on them, I will never forget what I found. As I walked up tothe door, it was quiet, very quiet. I peeked into the hoophouse to see160 pigs in one massive straw nest, snoring with great content! I laugheduntil I cried. Their stress was gone and so was mine.

Above left: A family farm
sow and her piglets. Left:
Family games: piglets
climb over their mother's
head. Above: Pigs are
all-weather animals, and
enjoy snow as well as

Our deep bedded buildings are now a year old. We are selling the secondgroup of pigs this fall. We have not observed any social behavior problems.Even when the bedding pack is four foot deep, the odor level is very low.Nutrient losses from rain and snow runoff is nearly nonexistent. Hoopstructurehousing is the most significant development I have observed in moving agriculturetowards practices that really make sense. It took a long time but our pigsfinally have a happy home.

Tom Frantzen is a fourth generation farmer from Alta Vista, Iowa.

Rescue of 171 Pigs Raised in a Factory Farm

What was to be a one way journey to the slaughterhouse turned into atrip to porcine paradise for 167 pigs abandoned in a Washington, DC neighborhood.Tightly packed into a huge, three-tiered, eighteen-wheeled truck trailer,the pigs were being transported from a Rocky Mountain, North Carolina factoryfarm to Hatfield Quality Meats, a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse. The DC Metropolitanpolice who found the terrified pigs contacted the Washington Humane Society,who had the truck towed to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville,Maryland.

The hogs hadbeen on the truck for at least 14 hours before they were finally unloaded.Four of the pigs died of stress while on the truck or shortly after beingunloaded. Only 5 to 6 months old, the pigs already averaged a whopping200 to 250 pounds. Some had unsightly growths and hematomas, most had difficultywalking and all had their tails cut off and large sores on their bruisedand swollen legs. It was clear that their short lives on concrete slatshad taken a permanent toll.

When the operations manager of Hanor Corporation, Inc. (the companythat owned the pigs) arrived at the sanctuaryto retrieve the pigs, he was escorted by a Washington lawyer and a bevyof Montgomery County, Maryland police officers. Poplar Spring presentedthe manager from the Hanor factory farm with a bill of $11,630 for expensesincurred for the pigs' transport, care and feeding. The bill constituteda legal lien in the state of Maryland. After intense negotiation, the manageragreed to write a check to cover the amount. The pigs' lawyer, Laura Nelsonof the Animal Legal Defense Fund, called his bluff and demanded the sumbe either in cash or a certified check. Unwilling or unable to producea secured payment for the pigs, the manager ceded the pigs to Poplar Spring.An interesting footnote: According to police sources, the driver was pickedup the next day by Washington, DC police for driving under the influenceof alcohol. It was also discovered that this had not been the first timethe driver had deserted a trailer full of animals.

Terry Cummings and Dave Hoerauf,
co-founders of the Poplar Spring
Animal Sanctuary sit among the
weary, abandoned pigs who had
never before experienced the joys
of soft bedding to rest on, fresh air
to breathe, freedom to walk on the
ground, or theeel of sun on their

The hogs will now live out their natural lives as true pigs, in grassyfields with their friends. If you are interested in adopting or sponsoringone of the Poplar Spring pigs, please contact Terry Cummings at PoplarSpring Animal Sanctuary, PO Box 507, Poolesville, MD 20837, (301) 428-8128.

AWI Quarterly Summer 1998, Volume 47, Number 3

Comfortable Quarters for Chickens

Second Part

A dustbath is used for care and cleaning of plumage and enhances the well-being of chickens. They prefer to dustbathe in groups. If the dustbath is provided outside, it should be roofed and should give protection from drafts. Quartz sand with charcoal and flowers of sulphur added is recommended as a dustbathing substrate.

Nesting behavior of hens includes nest investigation, scratching and pecking at the nest material, choosing a particular nest and entering it, forming a hollow, laying an egg, rolling an egg under the body, and brooding.

Hens prefer to lay their eggs at sheltered places where manipulatable materials are available. During the pre-laying phase, the hen leaves the flock and looks for an adequate nesting place. She investigates different places or nest boxes before deciding where to lay her eggs. A hollow is formed at the chosen nesting place. After 10 to 30 minutes, the hen gets up and lays an egg which she rolls under her body. She stays in the nest for a short period of time before joining the group again.

Appropriate housing for chickens must take the animals’ species-specific behaviors into account. A room may be readily transformed to suitable housing for chickens by placing a wire-mesh covered dropping pit on one side of the room and installing perches along the wall at different heights over the pit. The horizontal distance between two perches should be at least 35 cm (13.8 in.). The total perch-length is determined by the number of chickens and should be no less than 18 cm (7.1 in.) per animal.

Chickens naturally live in a stable social group. This photo shows a hen with almost-adult chicks and a cock.

A scratching are is an imperative to allow chickens to exhibit species-typical foraging behavior. A thin layer of sand covered by approximately 10 cm (3.9in.) of chopped straw provides a suitable substratum for this purpose. The scratching area should take up at least half of the floor area of the hen house.

Hens need adequate nest boxes, preferably with manipulatable material, like oat husks or chopped straws. One nest box should be provided for each 5 hens. Its dimension should be approximately 40x40cm (16x16 in.). If larger family nests are used, a nesting area of 1 m² (10.8 sq. ft.) per 50 hens is recommended.

Group size should not exceeded 80 animals, as chickens are only able to distinguish between 40 to 80 members of their own species. Stocking density should not exceed 5 birds per square meter (10.8 sq.ft.) of available surface area to avoid stress from overcrowding.

A variety of food should be offered to the chickens. If only meals or pellets are fed, the animals consume their ration too fast and do not spend enough time foraging. Bad habits such as feather pecking can easily develop under such conditions. To prevent this, grain should be provided in racks or in baskets hanging from the ceiling, so that the animals can pull and peck at the contents and keep busy.

  • 1. Water
    2. Used air
    3. Fresh air
    4. Family nest
  • 5. Food trough
    6. Nipple drinker
    7. Litter
    8. Perches
    9. Dropping pit
  • 10. Drainage
    11. Drainpipe
    12. Covered run with basket for greenstuff and extra space gained through use of third dimension

Chickens should have access to a box filled with sand so that they can take dustbaths. Dustbathing is a social activity which is usually performed by several chickens at the same time. The sand box should therefore be relatively spacious, i.e., 80x80 cm (31x31 in.).

A bad-weather run should be provided so that the chickens have exposure to natural daylight and seasonal temperature variations throughout the year. The run should have a roof so that chickens can have access to it even in bad weather, and wire-mesh walls so that the animals are protected from predators. It should be about half the size of the hen house and have a concrete floor covered with a layer of straw and sand.

1. Hen house
2. Gravel or wooden slats
3 & 4. Rotational runs
5. Electric fence
6. Dustbathing places

Gravel or wooden slats in front of the hen house.
Whenever possible, chickens should be able to use an outside run covered with vegetation. To keep the turf intact, the outside run has to be divided and to be used alternately, otherwise the much-designed green is soon destroyed through pecking and scratching (3 & 4). The area can be divided with an electric fence (5). Ideally, the windward side is sheltered by hedges and structured with trees and bushes that give shade. Low bushes make it possible to put up netting to prevent birds of prey from catching chickens. If the pasture is not evenly used the old grass has to be cut down; it is therefore advisable when planting trees and bushes to make sure that the outside run can be maintained with machines (if big enough). In front of the hen house should be a layer of gravel or wooden slats, with drainage underneath, to assure that at the surface stays dry at this highly-frequented place. Dustbaths near bushes complete the outside run.

Scenes from a USDA Inspected Slaughterhouse

*Caution, video contains disturbing images.

Requires Real Media Player. To download visit
Footage provided by the Animal Welfare Institute, Animals' Angels
and Humane Farming Association.

Requires RealPlayer to view.  To download a copy visit

Having Problems? Click here to launch separate RealPlayer.

Alternative Farming Systems: A bibliography. 3rd part

AWI staff. AWI's standards for cattle and sheep put other criteria out to pasture. AWI Quarterly; 54(1):6, 2005 .
AWI's standards for sheep dictate life in stable social flocks with the freedom to graze on pasture. Typical industry practices such as confinement on slatted flooring and mutilations like mulesing are prohibited. AWI also requires a minimum weaning age of four months, in constrast to the industry standard of five weeks or less.
Bodega Pastures Sheep. Web Site. Bodega, CA.
'Bodega Pastures Sheep' are producers of organic wool and practitioners of sustainable ranching in California. "Our flock ranges free on the Northern California coastal prairie. Our sheep eat grasses, clover, and forbs. The sheep drink spring water which flows from high on our ridges. At our midwinter lambing we supplement our ewes' feed with hay which is grown on our ridge spines and bottom fields. Around the time of birth, we also feed our sheep organic grains and meal from California and Oregon, according to the ewes' and lambs' needs.... We make or have made a wide range of organic wool products from our sheep."
Bowns, J.E. Sheep behavior under unherded conditions on mountain summer ranges. Journal of Range Management; 24(2):105-109, 1971.
"Purebred Rambouillet, Targhee and Columbia sheep were observed on mountain summer ranges in southwestern Utah. Under unherded conditions Rambouillet sheep travelled greater distances and spent more time resting, while Columbias travelled the least distances, rested least and grazed longer than the other breeds. All breeds travelled farther in the morning than in the afternoon but grazed longer in the afternoon. There was a tendency for the sheep to water and take salt in the mornings rather than in the afternoons. Overgrazing on established bedgrounds was caused by animals grazing these areas in the evening prior to bedding down. Fencing along the crests of the ridges and more strategic salt placement appear to be the most useful means of improving distribution."

Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Making a Sheperd's Life Easier: How to Handle a 300-Ewe Flock Without a Lot of Help. Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), UW-Madison, Madison, WI, 1998.
A five-year study in Wisconsin found that a beef and sheep operation can provide a modest source of supplementary income if farmers keep debt low, manage carefully, and are willing to work for modest wages. "Researchers wanted the Hayward project to be a model for a family-sized farm--something a couple could handle without much additional help or expensive equipment." Some of the practices employed for handling the sheep flock are outlined such as strategies that save time and labor during lambing time and when feeding, watering, and handling the flock.

Compas, L. Producing rare, naturally colored wools. Small Farm Today; March 2003.
At the McMurry sheep farm in Franklin, Missouri, Andy and Desiree Mc Murry see their products through, from raising lambs, to shearing them, to weaving finished scarves, shawls, and throws from the wool. Though the wool products are colored in hues of cream, brown, black, and gray, they do not contain dyes of any kind: the McMurrys selectively breed their sheep for naturally colored wool. Andy imported naturally colored Romney and Merino sheep from New Zealand and now the flock perpetuates itself under McMurry's breeding program. Letting the sheep live outside year-round, and moving them often, makes for very clean wool.

Compas, L. Sheep, goats help reclaim strip-mined land . Small Farm Today;36, May 2003.
David Coplen is reclaiming strip-mined land using sheep and goats to clear brush, fertilize the soil, and seed new vegetation. Then he sells lambs to his friends and neighbors. The Coplens now have a flock of about 75 adult sheep, as well as three nanny goats. The animals are allowed to graze for two to three days in each of 12 paddocks. "When we started an experimental plot, it had sticker brushes so thick you couldn't walk through it," Coplen said. "There was no sunlight getting to the ground, no ground cover, no organic matter. Now they've cleared all those branches away, up to about chest height."

Compas, L. Sheep help on Christmas Tree Farm. Small Farm Today;27, March 2002.
Instead of spraying and mowing around Christmas trees all summer long, Bill White lets the sheep graze the tree plantations. The sheep keep the trees free of weeds and grass so the trees can develop more uniformly. While the sheep have saved effort in some ways, they are not labor-free. White has to watch them carefully and move them to fresh pasture every three or four days. "The sheep prefer broadleaf weeds, so they eat those first, then the grass -- and then if you don't rotate them out, they'll start in on the trees."
Doane, T.H. and Anderson, B. Supplemental Pastures for Sheep. Neb Guide. University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, Nebraska-Lincoln, 1996.
"This guide covers efficient and effective ways to pasture sheep. The following pasture alternatives and combinations allow the development of a pasture program where sheep can be on pasture for approximately 10 months of the year, if weather permits. Pasture alternatives based on perennial pasture usually have abundant forage available from cool-season grasses during May and June, and again in the fall. Supplemental pasture (annual forages) may be beneficial in early spring, midsummer and late fall, and early winter. When forage appears to be sparse at the end of the grazing period, offer small amounts of good quality hay to the sheep. Sheep efficiently convert forage into meat and wool. Part of the efficiency is due to their ability to be selective in plants and parts of a plant they graze. Selective grazing allows sheep to consume the most palatable parts of the plants, and these palatable plant parts usually are the most nutritious."
Johnston, J. et al. Stockpiled Pasture: 2. Lamb Performance on Two Stockpiling Systems. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Guelph, Ontario, Dec. 1998.
"Stockpiling is the practice of saving certain hay or pasture fields for grazing in the fall and winter after forage growth has stopped due to cold weather. Stockpiled pasture is also referred to as fall-saved pasture or deferred grazing. In this report, we look at the performance of weaned lambs grazing stockpiled forage. Based on the animal performance achieved in this trial, there seems to be no reason why most classes of livestock could not be kept on pasture until early November and maintain their performance. For animals with moderate or low performance targets, grazing into early December is a realistic goal."
Lawrence, A.B. and Wood-Gush, D.G.M. Home-range behaviour and social organization in Scottish blackface sheep. Applied Animal Behaviour Science;176 (abstract), 1985.
"It is suggested that ewes with lambs in summer show a decrease in grouping behaviour and tend to forage independently of other group members. This may represent a seasonal variation in social organization within the group."

Lawrence, A.B. and Wood-Gush, D.G.M. Social behaviour of hill sheep; more to it than meets the eye. Applied Animal Behaviour Science;382 (abstract), 1985.
"The present study found that during winter, hill sheep do indeed appear to be highly social, existing in large sub-groups and being influenced in their movements by other group members. The increase in sociability in winter correlated with a general decrease in the heterogeneity of quality of the hill swards, and the worsening of the weather.... In summer, however, there was a marked decrease in gregariousness, with a considerable reduction in sub-group size. This corresponded with the growth of dispersed patches of hill grass, the preferred food at this time, and resulted in a large increase in the variability of home-range behaviour."
Morrical, D. The Ins and Outs of Pasture Lambing. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 1995.
"Many farm flock operations are moving towards pasture lambing because of lower production costs and reduced labor. The major emphasis is on forage production, lactating ewes and nursing lambs. Grass and legume growth will only be optimized in some form of rotational grazing program. Most forage based sheep operations will rotate the flock every 2 to 7 days. Some rules of thumb on intensive grazing are that we want optimum rest to insure adequate plant health and maximum yield. Under periods of rapid growth one should practice rapid rotation and under periods of slow growth slow rotation. The absolute lowest input system is to lamb the ewes on pasture. This system requires that ewes be bred later to insure grass is ready for turnout." The system used at McNay Research farm is outlined.
Rose, L. From grass to goats to cheese: Farm based cheese-making at Capri Cheese. The Organic Broadcaster. MOSES. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Soldier's Grove, Wisconsin, pp. Nov-Dec 2002.
'On a small valley farm in western Richland County, Wisconsin, a gentle ringing sound fills the air as goats graze with Swiss bells around their necks. Felix Thalhammer and his son Leif lead the belled does down from the pasture for evening milking. This is the home of Capri Cheese, Felix's goat dairy and cheese business, certified organic by MOSA'. The operation is managed by the family -- from pasture and hay production to marketing cheese.... 'Felix rotationally grazes his goats. He has twenty acres of pasture fenced. Each paddock is one to 1 1/2 acres. Felix reports little nuisance weeds in pastures, as goats are thorough eaters. They even eat thistle. For pastures far from the barn, Felix has what he calls a mobile "goat house". The "goat house" stores 100 bales of hay for convenient winter feeding and offers shelter from heat or cold year round. He rotates pastures every twenty days in an attempt to avoid parasite problems and to maintain pastures.'
Spruce Haven Farm. Web Site. 2002.
Spruce Haven Farm is a low-input pasture based sheep farm near Meaford, Ontario, Canada. The farm history, farming practices, and family goals are outlined including photos. The flock is grazing pasture at least 200 days per year and wintering outside. Ewes lamb in the spring, sheep breeding cycles are co-ordinated with pasture growing cycles and the use of grain and other purchased feeds is minimized. Crop excess pasture is used as hay. Lamas guard the sheep.
Wells, A., Gegner, L., and Earles, R. Sustainable Sheep Production. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., May 2000.
"A sustainable approach to farming seeks to strengthen family farms, protect community values, provide good profits to the farmer, and enhance rather than simply exploit the environment, renewing our natural and economic resources for the generations to come. With these goals in mind, sustainable sheep production combines low-cost feeding and housing, controlled grazing, creation of high-quality pastures, and integrated management of diseases and parasites. Many small-scale producers will increase their economic sustainability by pursuing alternative marketing strategies, including the cultivation of local or regional direct markets. Topics covered include breed selection, pasture and range grazing, pasture lambing, alternative health management, and innovative marketing of meat and wool products."


Gerard, Robert. Tierra Wools, Part I. Linking old traditions with contemporary enterprise.
Tierra Wools, Part II. From fleece to finished product. The New Farm; Sept. 2005
Part I. In the high range country of northern New Mexico, a community of ranchers, shepherds and weavers has found new markets for the rare Navajo-Churro, a 400-year old sheep breed that was nearly lost for good. Tierra Wools has helped the local people return to their traditional roots of sheep production and fine weavings by offering an outlet for their products and a living wage.
Part II. Transforming Churro wool into rugs and tapestries requires more hard work--from shearing and washing to spinning, dyeing, weaving and managing the Tierra Wools' retail store.
Johanson, P. Selling wool at Farmers' Market. Small Farm Today;25-26, March 2002.
"These days, freshly-sheared fleece does not sell for a good price to the big wool mills. but after I located a small-scale wool mill near my farm, it became possible to turn leftover fleeces from our family farm into value-added wool products that I can sell directly to the consumer at retail rates at a farmers' market. There are even mini-mills available, which a few wool producers are buying to process their own wool and that of customers."
Predator Friendly. Ranchers and Environmentalists Agree "Predator-Friendly" Wool Is Good for Business. Predator Defense Institute, Eugene, OR, 1997.
"A surprising development is underway in Montana. Sheep ranchers are shaking hands with environmentalists over one of the most controversial subjects in the west: predator control. Reasoning that there is a market for people who want to buy wool from ranchers who don't kill coyotes and that they're willing to pay more for it, Belgrade sheep rancher Dude Tyler is purchasing wool at premium prices from certified ranchers who use only non-lethal methods of predator control. His non-profit organization, Predator Friendly, Inc. then sells the wool to manufacturers.... For rancher certification, no coyotes can be killed in the calendar year prior to the spring shearing season. Ranchers are encouraged to use non-lethal predator control methods such as electric fencing, guard dogs, llamas, mules and cows which have proven to be successful deterrents. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Predator Friendly wool will be used for seminars to teach non-lethal predator control methods and to help ranchers make the transition to these methods affordable." (See web site)
Robbins, J. Market growing for wool that comes from predator-friendly ranches : Llamas, not guns, protect sheep from coyotes. The New York Times; Dec. 14, 1997.
"On Becky Weed and David Tyler's farm here at the base of the snow-flecked Bridger Mountains, there are no rifles hanging in the rear window of a pickup truck to shoot coyotes that might attack their sheep... The first line of defense against coyotes is a llama named Cyrus... The llama is one of a handful of creatures in an animal arsenal that Ms. Weed and a small but growing number of other environmentally minded Western ranchers hope will replace lethal means of coyote control. To that end Ms. Weed and a handful of others have formed the Growers' Wool Cooperative, a consortium that sells what is billed as "predator friendly" wool that comes from operations where nonlethal means of predator control are used. In addition to llamas, ranchers use guard dogs and burros. "
Weed, B. and Tyler, D. Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company. Web Site.
"At Thirteen Mile Farm we raise sheep without using chemical fertilizers and herbicides on our fields, and the sheep grow on grass, clover and alfalfa, and a little organic barley with no antibiotics or hormone supplements. Our lamb and wool products are certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association International (OCIA). The livestock are fenced out of the creeks to protect both local wildlife habitat and the quality of the sheep's drinking water. Our principal protection against native predators are our guard llamas and our own vigilance; because we have chosen not to use lethal control methods against coyotes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, our ranch is certified as "predator friendly". It is a choice which, like many of our land management decisions, acknowledges risk in the interest of learning how to coexist with native species while caring for the land."


Dairy Goats. Web Site. Fias Co Farm, Mooresburg, TN.
"This site is intended to aid the reader in the care and husbandry of dairy goats. The information presented here reflects the way we do things here at Fias Co Farm. In our methods, we emphasize holistic health and treat our animals with the love, care and respect they deserve."
How goat kids are raised at Fias Co Farm: "The mothers and kids get to stay together in their personal stall for the first few days, in this way, they can bond and neither mom nor kids are bothered or bullied by other members of the herd. The babies have 24/7 "full access" to their mother's milk, and continue to have milk full time for the next 2 weeks... By two weeks of age, the kids are spending the entire day with the herd. Now is the time I start milking the mothers. The kids are "locked up" at night in the communal "goat baby stall". In the morning, I first milk the mothers. Then we let the babies out to be with their mother and herd for the rest of the day. The kids can nurse their mothers all day, and in this way, they "take care" of the evening milking for me. I do not milk the does at night- I milk only once a day- in the morning using this technique..." (See: Kids Care)

Coffey, L., Wells, A., and Earles, R. Sustainable Goat Production: Overview. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., May 2001.
"Goat production can be a valuable part of a sustainable farm. Goats may fit well into the biological and economic niches in a farm operation that otherwise go untapped. They can be incorporated into existing grazing operations with sheep and cattle. Goats can also be used for control of weeds and brush to help utilize a pasture's diversity, as long as they are not allowed to overgraze." Topics covered include raising goats on pasture, controlled grazing, supplemental feeding, health concerns, reproduction, management, marketing.
Coffey, L., Hale, M., and Williams, P. Dairy Goats: Sustainable Production. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Aug. 2004.
"Dairy Goats: Sustainable Production is intended for those interested in starting a commercial goat dairy. It discusses the five major considerations to be addressed in planning for dairy goat production: labor, sales and marketing, processing, regulations, and budgeting and economics. It includes production information specific to dairy goats, including choosing breeds and selecting stock. A resource list for further information about dairy goat production follows the end notes."
Ikerd, J. Profile of Mary Doerr, Dancing Winds Farm, Kenyon, Minnesota. The New American Farmer. Sustainable Agriculture Network (SARE-SAN), Beltsville, MD, 2001.
'Mary Doerr produces cheese from goats raised in a 21-paddock management intensive grazing system. In the pasture she practices rotational grazing, an ideal system for goats. She has 21 very small paddocks divided with electro-netting, and rotates the animals daily in a three-week rotation. “They want diversity of forage, though you can get great production on straight alfalfa,” she says. “They actually like thistles and cockleburs!”'

Lazzaro, J. Dairy Goat Information of the Serious Kind. Saanendoah Dairy Goats, Nov. 2001.
This site contains very useful information on the health and husbandry of dairy goats.
Mitchell, E.R. Brush Control With Goats. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, 1996.
This publication gives information on low-input management and care of goats used for brush control, gleaned from observations and day-to-day trial and error. "We initiated an investigation of goats as replacements for chemical and mechanical control of brush. The project began in spring 1988 and continued through fall 1993. Our goals were to: (1) determine the brush species goats eat; (2) monitor plant species that increase as brush cover is removed; (3) assess the initial stocking rate; (4) evaluate different types of fencing; (5) determine animal management requirements; and (6) initiate multispecies grazing with goats, cattle, and sheep."

Several species

Anderson, D.M. et al. Differences in ewe and wether behavior when bonded to cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science; 47(3-4):201-209, 1996.
Sheep can be made to consistently stay close to (bond) and follow cattle if the close association began at an early age. The cohesiveness of this inter-species association under free-ranging conditions varies due to many factors, including sheep gender. Bonded wethers stay nearer to cattle than do bonded ewes. Keeping a few bonded wethers with bonded ewes may enhance the establishment and maintenance of consistently coherent range flerds (flocks + herds).
Coffey, L. Multispecies Grazing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., June 2001.
"Mixed-species grazing has several advantages. Cattle prefer grass over other types of plants, and are less selective when grazing than sheep or goats. Sheep and goats, on the other hand, are much more likely to eat weeds. Sheep prefer forbs (broad-leaved plants) to grass, and goats have a preference for browsing on brush and shrubs, and then broad-leaved weeds. Therefore, grazing cattle, sheep, and goats together on a diverse pasture should result in all types of plants being eaten, thus controlling weeds and brush, while yielding more pounds of gain per acre compared to single-species grazing." This publication reviews benefits and potential problems of multispecies grazing.
Luginbuhl, J.-M. et al. Forage needs for meat goats and sheep. Production and Utilization of Pastures and Forages. - Technical Bulletin 305. North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, pp. 1998.
"Goats are very active foragers, able to cover a wide area in search of scarce plant materials. Their small mouths and split upper lips enable them to pick small leaves, flowers, fruits and other plant parts, thus choosing only the most nutritious available feed. In a pasture situation goats are "top down" grazers. This behavior results in uniform grazing and favors a first grazer-last grazer system using a goat flock as the first group and cattle as the last group. This management is most appropriate with lactating does or growing kids... Goats seem to be less tolerant of wet cold conditions than sheep and cattle because of a thinner fat layer. A wet goat can easily become sick. Therefore, it is usually necessary to provide artificial shelters, such as open sheds.
Harvesting of the forage crops by the sheep themselves, with as little supplemental feeding as possible, is the most practical and economical means to ensure the success of a sheep operation... It is essential to develop an economical year round forage supply... As a general rule, sheep eat more browse than cattle, but less than goats, because sheep are not nearly as selective as goats. Sheep also make better use of rough, steep hill pastures than cattle or goats....Most studies indicate greater production and better pasture utilization are achieved when sheep and cattle or sheep, cattle and goats are grazed together as opposed to grazing only sheep or goats or cattle alone. This is especially true where a diverse plant population exists." The article covers grazing behavior, nutrient requirements, grazing management, fencing, management of reproduction of goats and sheep.

Schoenian, S. Maryland Small Ruminants Page. Web Site., Maryland.
"The purpose of this web site is to provide information resources for sheep and goat producers and others interested in small ruminants. The site consists of original documents as well as a comprehensive list of links pertaining to small ruminants."
Compas, L. Alpacas produce fiber on Mid-Missouri farm. Small Farm Today;26-27, March 2003.
Diane Peckham has found a way to make retirement income off her 50acre farm while producing beautiful yarn and taking care of the environment at the same time. She raises alpacas in Columbia, Missouri. For Peckham, the decision to keep alpacas was and easy one. "I wanted to keep animals, but I didn't want to eat them," she said. Alpacas are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly than other livestock. Because they come from the camel family, they do not need or want as much water. Their padded feet are easy on pastureland and do not cause erosion. Their bodies are very efficient at converting food to energy, so they do not require as much grain as other livestock. "Alpacas are mellow, curious, family-oriented, and observant," she said. Peckham washes and blends the fiber herself. She sells the yarn, and she also knits sweaters, scarves and other items on a knitting machine.


Andelt, W.F. Livestock Guard Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys. Fact Sheet No. 1.218. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Fort Collins, Colorado, May 2001.
"Guard dogs are an effective method to reduce predation on livestock. Guard llamas and donkeys also appear to reduce losses but appear less effective than guard dogs. Guard dogs can be used in farm flock/pasture operations and on open range. Llamas and donkeys are most effective in fenced pastures less than 300 acres. Raise guard dogs with sheep and treat them as working dogs. Introduce llamas and donkeys to sheep in small pens."

Andelt, W.F. and Hopper, S.N. Livestock guard dogs reduce predation on domestic sheep in Colorado. Journal of Range Management; 53:259267, May 2000.
"We surveyed the effectiveness of livestock guard dogs for reducing predation on domestic sheep in Colorado during 1993. The number of producers using dogs increased from about 25 in 1986 to >159 in 1993. The proportion of sheep with dogs increased from about 7% in 1986 to about 68% in 1993. Producers with dogs, compared to producers without dogs, lost smaller proportions of their lambs to predators, especially coyotes, and smaller proportions of ewes and lambs to black bears and mountain lions.... Estimates provided by 125 producers indicate that their 392 dogs saved $891,440 of sheep from predation during 1993. A total of 154 of 161 (96%) producers recommend use of guard dogs to other producers." (Full abstract)

Franklin, W.L. and Powell, K.J. Guard Llamas., 2001.
Guard llamas are a viable, non-lethal alternative for reducing predation, requiring no training and little care. In a study, 145 sheep producers using guard llamas were interviewed to determine characteristics of the guard llamas and husbandry practices. Some of the results are presented, as well as a testimonial: "A true story, a llama guarding sheep or A Match Made in Heaven" by Bob Riley. The full study on guard llamas can be found at:

Franklin, W. and Drufke, N. The use of llamas to guard goats, cattle, and poultry from predators. Small Farm Today; 25, March 2003.
"In this study, we interviewed 136 ranchers who were using 237 llamas to protect goats, cattle, and poultry in order to determine if llamas were effective guards. Llamas decreased the amount of yearly predation from 13% to 1% of the herd on goat ranches, 13% to 0% on cattle ranches, and 40% to 6% on poultry ranches. In 78% of cases, predation on a ranch dropped to zero after introduction of the llama. Common behaviors of llamas protecting the livestock included standing at attention, running towards the predator, chasing the predator, and alarm calling. Ranchers rated their llamas as either effective or very effective as guards in 89% (goats), 92% (poultry), and 100% (cattle) of the cases. Overall, we found that llamas were an effective, low-cost, low-maintenance, non-lethal method to reduce predation on goat, cattle, and poultry ranches."

Geissel, D. Great Pyrenees as predator control dogs. Small Farm Today; 38-40, March 2004.
"Great Pyrenees (Pyr) are stock guarding dogs. They have been bred for centuries to perform this task. They are large (90-130 pounds), white-haired dogs who are absolutely fearless in protection of livestock against bears, mountain lions, coyotes, or wolves, and yet are wonderfully gentle with livestock and children."
Gasparotto, S.W. Livestock Guardian Dogs. Onion Creek Ranch.
Livestock, especially goats, sheep, poultry, needs protection from predators. Guardian dogs are the best protection. Practical hints from the rancher's own experience about their disposition and behavioral traits are given.
Hulet, C.V. et al. Bonding of goats to sheep and cattle for protection from predators. Applied Animal Behaviour Science; 22:261-267, 1989.
"Bonding can provide a predation shield for smaller coyote-vulnerable species, if they stay with the cattle. The natural instinct of sheep and goats to bunch together when threatened is probably essential for survival. Cattle move together in a loose herd allowing space for the sheep and goats to move among them. The threatening presence of the cattle is apparently adequate to intimidate coyotes."

NCAT Staff. Predator Control for Sustainable and Organic Livestock Production. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Oct. 2002.
"This publication examines how to identify livestock predators and how to control them. Many species of animals can be classified as predators, but coyotes and dogs account for more than three-quarters of all livestock lost to predators. This publication focuses primarily on the control of coyotes and dogs through management practices, such as fencing and secure areas, and the use of guard animals, such as dogs, donkeys, and llamas."
Swartz, H.A. Guard Dogs for Predator Control. Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, 1991.
"Guard dogs have become very effective in controlling predators and dogs on many Missouri sheep farms. Guard dogs must be properly trained to be successful. Patience, perseverance and discipline are required to teach a guard dog to bond and accept the responsibility of guarding a flock of sheep. Guard dogs protect sheep by patrolling, barking, scent-marking, and pursuing a predator when the sheep are threatened." Useful hints are given on selecting a gard dog; raising and integrating the puppy in a sheep operation; age at bonding pup to sheep; problems.

Tapscott, B. Guidelines for Using Donkeys As Guard Animals With Sheep. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Guelph, Ontario, Sept 1997.
"There has been significant interest in using livestock guard animals, sometimes also referred to as predator control animals or mobile flock protectors, as a non-lethal means of reducing predation. Livestock guard animals live with the flock, protecting the sheep from predation, without harming or interfering with the flock. Guard animals currently being used with sheep include specially trained dogs, llamas and donkeys. Donkeys are gaining in popularity due to their relatively low cost, minor maintenance requirements and longevity. Donkeys also offer the additional advantage in that they can be fed in much the same manner as sheep. This paper summarizes some of the management guidelines and other factors which may improve the likelihood of a donkey becoming a successful livestock guard animal."


Diversified Family Farms

Berton, V. 50 Ways to Sustainable Farming: Diversification in Nebraska: Raising food, not feed, raises profits. Featured farmer: Tom Larson. Field Notes. NC SARE Quarterly Fact Sheet; Winter/Spring 2001.
In the mid-70s, Tom Larson's 156-acre farm in Nebraska was too small in the prevailing "get big or get out" environment to make money. To survive Tom diversified crops, became certified organic and began a cattle stocker operation in a unique grazing system. He also raises poultry on pasture. His profitability goals go hand in hand with soil improvement. A major change came from raising pasture and forage for grazing rather than harvesting grain and feeding it to confined livestock.
Davis, W. A profitable, sustainable ranch. In: McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 10-12, 2000.
"Davis Ranch was a high-tech cattle and pecan production unit. The cattle market crash of 1974 served as a wake-up call to emphasize just how out-of-balance cost of production was, relative to realistic potential returns. A program was started to cut down costs. Changes to the program: 1. Get our production schedules in harmony with the natural cycles; to work with nature instead of against her. 2. Lengthen the quality grazing season by replacing monoculture pastures with mixtures of grasses and legumes both warm and cool season. 3. Replace nitrogen fertilizer with forage legumes and a functioning nutrient cycle. 4. Improve the production of our pastures and our cattle through good grazing management. 5. Use as little toxic material as possible and instead manage around the need for these materials. 6. Improve our stockmanship in order to reduce stress on our animals. What began as a cost-cutting program became a fascinating learning process that continues to this day. The major benefits came when life in all of its diverse forms returned as the effects of years of poisoning and tillage began to be healed. The program has been successful by all standards. Profitability has increased dramatically, labor requirements are reduced, and most important, the health of our soils, our animals, and ourselves continues to improve."

Barrett, J. Cultivating Community: Local Business People and Family Farmers Sharing Values and Mutual Support. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Unity, Maine, 2003.
Family farms are disappearing at an alarming rate. Small farms help economic development by circulating income locally and enhancing local businesses, schools, parks, churches, clubs, newspapers, services, employment, and civic participation. Local farmers base their animals'diets largely on grass and other forage. Grassfed meat, milk, and eggs are far healthier for human consumption. These benefits are realized partly because the animals are eating a more natural diet and partly because they are not held in tight confinement. Their bodies get to function naturally and they are not over-stressed by the social and disease factors of overcrowding. Grassfed beef is lower in fat . Grassfed livestock doesn't need antibiotics or growth hormones. They are living the way they were meant to live. Consumers, workers, and environmentalists should join forces with farmers to shape sustainable policy, as well as business leaders who have the visibility, the collective power, and vital interest needed to make sure family farms remain a part of their region. Farmers can't fight huge agribusiness alone. they need non-farmers to join them in getting farming policies passed that support community and the environment.

Edwards, S. Diversify your operation. Acres USA; 34(5):15-16, May 2004.
We have witnessed the passing of American agriculture from a family-owned, diversified operation to a corporate-controlled/commodity-based agricultural system. As a reaction to this, Urban and suburban consumers are 'hungry' for a connection to the land and are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced. There is an explosive growth of farmers' markets nationwide and tremendous opportunities for a wide variety of specialty, homegrown, fresh products that serve niche markets. "Enter the diversified farming operation. By serving the needs of local markets and by making use of sustainable methods, the diversified farm produces a variety of clean, fresh, nutritious products for local customers. This is what agriculture should be and should have been all along. The 'new' trend is well underway. Consumers are aware that the nutritional quality, freshness and flavor of farm-raised produce is far superior to the industrial variety. There is no comparison farm-fresh wins every time."
Joannides, J., Kivirist, L., and Ivanko, J. Farming and ranching: Livestock. Renewing The Countryside. Web site. 2005.
"On this website you will find stories of everyday people making a difference in their rural communities"...These stories are meant to provide inspiration, ideas and assistance to individuals and communities who are looking for sustainable ways to strengthen their rural communities. "We accomplish our goals by sharing stories of rural renewal, building pubic awareness and support for sustainable endeavors, connecting people interested in sustainable rural development to each other, providing practical assistance and networking opportunities for those working to improve rural America, and fostering connections between urban and rural people."
Morning Has Broken Farm. Web Site. Land Stewardship Project.
Morning Has Broken Farm is 383 crop land and pasture acres in the heart of the rolling prairie of Southwestern Minnesota. "It is the home of 12 stock cows, Andy the bull, 50 ewes, 15 sows, Edgar the boar, 1000 broiler chickens and 8 beautiful Arabian horses." All animals are raised on pasture, no antibiotics or hormones are given. The farm history, farming practices, and family goals are outlined, and a farm phototour is available on the web page.

Padgham, J. Diversified small farm serves local market: Tony and Dela End's Scotch Hill Farm . The Organic Broadcaster. MOSES. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Soldier's Grove, Wisconsin, Nov-Dec 2002.
"Following organic practices, though not certified, in 2002 Scotch Hill Farm served 75 families through a CSA, sold chicken and eggs from 120 laying hens, and made and sold soap from the milk of several goats. The Ends are very focused on the concept of 'local food for local consumers' and have a goal of selling all of their production within 70 miles of their farmstead... Dominique and Jersey Giant chickens, heirloom turkeys, LaMancha and Oberhaslis goats and meat lambs now inhabit the barnyard. Poultry are truly free ranging and have full access to the un-fenced yard 24 hours per day. Sheep and goats are contained in a pasture nearby. Predators are controlled by the dogs."
Pastures A Plenty Farm. Web Site. Land Stewardship Project.
"The Pasture of Plenty Farm is home to a hog farrow finishing operation as well as a sheep flock and seasonal cattle grazing business. Decision making is by the Holistic Management Model, which takes into account the environment and family/community as well as long-term profitability. The farm is a grazing operation, with hogs on pasture seasonally as well as a flock of ewes which live there pretty much year around. Beef cattle are added to the sheep flock for the grazing season only. The hogs have young both spring and fall, and the offspring are fed to market weight either on grass or straw in hoop houses depending upon the season. In either case, they have the full opportunity to play and explore their environment. And they have access to fresh air and sunshine, which is so necessary for quality pork."
Profile of David and Kay James. "Farming and Ranching for Profit, Stewardship & Community." SARE 2000 conference proceedings. SARE, 2001.
"The Jameses and their children operate the James Ranch, a 450-acre ranch in the picturesque Animas River Valley near Durango, Colorado, where they grow and market grassfed beef and pastured poultry, along with organic produce and flowers. All of their products are sold through their weekly farm market (at the ranch), or through the Durango farmers market and other local outlets. The Jameses are a living experiment in small-scale, high-value holistic agriculture."
Salatin, J. Profit by appointment only: This farm family puts quality first, and their customers love it. The New Farm; 13(6):8-12, Sept/Oct. 1991.
The Salatins produce food for more than 400 customers who come to them by appointment to pick it up. By integrating forage, forest and livestock on 550 acres, they enrich the soil and make a comfortable living. Their farm relies on high levels of management, rather than expensive machinery and off-farm inputs. They've spent 30 years recycling nutrients and increasing soil fertility and forage diversity in their pastures. While producing beef, broilers, eggs, rabbits and vegetables on just 100 acres of open land with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, they try to keep these goals in mind: produce good food at a reasonable price; minimize marketing costs; target time and money to their areas of expertise farming. They use controlled grazing as a tool that can change the species complexion of a perennial sward. Such control requires flexible and portable electric fencing and water systems. Chickens clean up pastures. The Salatins have devised an eggmobile, a portable henhouse, that they roll over pastures and put the layers to work. While the hens free-range around the eggmobile, they break up cow patties.
Salatin, J. Family friendly faming. Acres USA. A Voice for Eco-Agriculture; 30(9):1-5, 2000.
Joel Salatin cultivates a vibrant sense of beauty and harmony at his Swoope, Virginia, farm, where each member of the family adds unique talents that are important to the health and success of the farm. "In a family farm operation, everybody has a niche to fill. At Polyface Farm, we believe that diversifying responsibilities allows us to make many decisions at once, increasing the number of decisions made. We all have something different to offer, and every child's talent is different. We have to appreciate their talents and create opportunities for children to express their natural abilities rather than saying, 'Well, I raise chickens so you are going to raise chickens.' Let the children express themselves."
Sayre, L. A rich mix of the new ... and old. the New Farm; Feb. 2005
In scenic northeast Iowa, organic farmer Dan Specht combines conservation, grass-based livestock production and open-pollinated corn breeding. It's a unique--yet in many ways traditional--farming strategy that honors the diversity of this region's natural and agricultural heritage.
Stone & Thistle Farm. East Meredith, NY.
Sheep, goats, cattle, chickens, pigs and rabbits are raised on pasture at Stone & Thistle Farm. "The farm's hilly pastures and slopes provide the perfect feast for goats. Goats are excellent foragers. Raised on nature's bounty of multiflora roses, thistles, burdock, berries and hawthorns, they help the environment and us by keeping pastures groomed.... Pigs are raised the old fashioned way on pasture and forage in fields and woodlands.... Laying hens roam freely on pastures protected by electrified net fencing. They lay eggs in a cabin on wheels that is moved on pasture."

Sustainable Farming: Livestock production for family farms

Cramer, C. Sustainable Farming Connection: Where farmers find and share information. Web site. Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, © 1997.
The mission of the Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing is to bring farmers the information they need to cut costs, grow healthy food, build strong rural communities and improve the environment. The web site was launched to fill the information void left by the New Farm magazine's demise. It has a wealth of information and resources on news, projects, discussion groups, production and marketing, links.
Digiacomo, G. et al. Sustainable Farming Systems: Demonstrating Environmental and Economic Performance. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA); University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, 2001.
The Sustainable Farming Systems Project researched the impacts of different farming systems on soil erosion, water quality, and the profitability of rotational grazing and also looked at home and community quality of life of farmers and rural land owners. Three farms (two dairy grazing operations and one beef cow-calf grazing operation) were profiled in great detail, measuring soils, rainfall, and runoff from their fields. At the same time, extensive data on production and finances were analyzed to evaluate the bottom line. Four years of painstaking research proved that these sustainable farms simultaneously benefit the environment and economically benefit the farm family. The dual goal of sustaining the land and sustaining the farmer is proven to work. Sustainable farms demonstrate environmental and economic performances that match and often exceed conventional farms.
Hall, B. and Kuepper, G. Making the Transition to Sustainable Farming . ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Dec. 1997.
"Sustainable agriculture is dependent on a whole-system approach having as its focus the long-term health of the land. As such, it concentrates on long-term solutions to problems instead of short-term treatment of symptoms. One result of such a strategy is that use of agricultural chemicals and similar inputs is reduced, though not necessarily eliminated. As a consequence, the land develops diversity and resiliency that further reduce the need for agricultural chemicals. It is widely agreed that a truly sustainable farm system must be sustainable economically, ecologically and socially. To be economically sustainable, farms should generate sufficient equitable returns to support farm families and to provide an economic base for the surrounding community. To be ecologically sustainable, farming methods must be modeled on nature to foster energy flow, effective water and mineral cycles, and viable community dynamics. To be socially sustainable, agriculture should promote the physical, spiritual, cultural, and economic health of farm families and communities."
Horne, J. Steps to a sustainable agriculture. Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter; 24(2) Fall 1998.
"Goals for a Sustainable Agriculture: 1. Conserve and create healthy soil. 2. Conserve water and protect its quality. 3. Manage organic wastes and farm chemicals so they don't pollute. 4. Select plants and animals adapted to the natural environment. 5. Encourage biodiversity (of domesticated animals, plants, wildlife, microbiotic and aquatic life). 6. Manage pests (weeds, disease, insects) with minimal environmental impact. 7. Conserve non-renewable energy resources. 8. Increase profitability and reduce risk."
Ikerd, J. The New American Farmer. Sustainable Agriculture Network (SARE-SAN), Beltsville, MD, 2001.
"This new SARE publication collects in-depth interviews with farmers and ranchers to describe sustainable farm operations around the country. In addition to describing successful farming practices, the features in The New American Farmer detail the effects of those practices on farm profitability, quality of life, rural communities and the environment. "
Ikerd, J. Sustaining America's rural communities. In: McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 6-9, 2000.
FULL-TEXT [Scroll down to find article]
" The industrialization of agriculture has caused many rural communities to wither and die. Some communities have diversified to reduce their dependence on agriculture. But many rural communities continue to be dependent on agriculture and suffer with farmers through every agricultural crisis. The trend toward fewer and larger farms in the U.S. is but a phase of a cycle that may well be nearing an end. The increased knowledge needed to manage resources sustainably suggests a trend toward smaller family farms that allow farm families to remain personally connected to the land. Sustainable agriculture strategies provide more opportunities for local ownership, hands-on management, and long-term commitment to the local community. Sustainable rural communities, like sustainable farms, must maintain the productivity of their local resources while protecting their physical and social environments."
Land Stewardship Project: Food & Farm Connection. Web Site. Land Stewardship Project (LSP), White Bear Lake, MN, 2001.
"A growing number of farmers are choosing to work with nature, and are adopting farming practices that build up the soil, reduce runoff, create habitat for wildlife, treat livestock humanely and produce safe, wholesome food. But the most environmentally sound farming practices in the world mean little if they don't provide a good income for the farmer. Farmers using sustainable methods cannot prosper without the help of urban and rural consumers. As these farmers explore creative new ways to market their carefully grown products, consumers can support their choice to farm sustainably by purchasing those products."

McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, 2000.
The sessions not only discuss innovative, successful marketing systems, livestock and cropping systems, and natural resource management but also examine building sustainable rural communities.
Mulla, D., Everett, L., and DiGiacomo, G. Whole Farm Planning: Combining Family, Profit, and Environment. Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; University of Minnesota Extension Service , St. Paul, MN, 1998.
"Whole Farm Planning is a four-step process which can be used by the farm family to balance the quality of life they desire with the farm's resources, the need for production and profitability, and long-term stewardship. Benefits of Whole Farm Planning include maintaining or improving profitability while enhancing sustainability. The planning process helps the farm family define long- and short-term goals which lead to an improved quality of life, and a better relationship with the community."
The New Farm (web site). Rodale Institute. 2003.
Excellent web site with a wealth of information and resources on sustainable farming news, projects, discussion groups, production and marketing; and links to other web sites and organizations both national and international.
Salatin, J. Balance: Stability for your life and farm. Acres USA. A Voice for Eco-Agriculture; 32(4):1-3, 2002.
Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm strives for a balance of open land, water and forest - creating a greater diversity of plant and animal life. "Our world needs us to provide examples of balance, to show that production need not compromise the local ecology, to show that a profitable business need not adulterate the demographics of the community."
Salatin, J. Emotionally-, economically- and environmentally-enhancing agriculture. In: McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 1-2, 2000.
"As farmers, we are in the landscape business. Whether we have a window box, a backyard or a million acre ranch, the more we can intersect the three basic environments of open land, forest land, and water, the greater the diversity of plant and animal life. The greater the diversity, the more stable the ecosystem. Guiding principles are: 1. All food production and processing models must be aesthetically and aromatically pleasing, period. Otherwise, it's not good farming. 2. All plants and animals must be produced domestically in a way that most closely approximates their natural setting. 3. All plants and animals should be allowed to express their physiological distinctiveness. 4. The more plants and animals a farm can integrate in close proximity, the better. 5. A farm is a solar collector and should run on current solar dollars; it should generate far more energy than it uses." Joel Salatin gives examples from his farm.

Salatin, J. Relationship marketing. In: McDermott, M., ed. Future Farms: New Ideas for Family Farms and Rural Communities. Conference Proceedings. February 8 and 9, 2000. Metro Tech, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma, pp. 34-35, 2000.
FULL-TEXT  [scroll down]
The following summary of guidelines was presented:" 1. Diversifying your pitch through education: Consumers need to be told how your product differs from the competition. Giving out samples of your products always works. Turn your patrons into evangelists by rewarding their efforts with free merchandise. 2. Diversifying your patrons: It's easier to find 100 people who will spend $1,000 with you than 1,000 people who will spend $100. Once you have your patron, diversify your product line so that you can capture more of the patron's money per visit. 3. Diversifying your product: A. Farmers' markets: Extending your efforts into multiple venues garners additional exposure and allows you to touch people who may not be ready to come out to the farm. B. Restaurants: The taste and texture of clean food makes it highly marketable to discriminating chefs. Given the choice, patrons will often choose food produced in a humane or non-chemical way. Product differentiation is key. And nothing is more uniquely recognizable than superior quality."
SARE staff. Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture: Ways to Enhance Profits, Protect the Environment and Improve Quality of Life. USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 1999.
"Agriculture is often viewed as consisting of three types of systems: economic, ecological and social. Sustainable improvement in agriculture -- usually thought of in terms of farm profitability, environmental stewardship and quality of life for farm families and rural communities -- must be based on these interlocking aspects of agriculture." This document gives a summary of what sustainable agriculture is with examples of sustainable farms and outlines the elements of sustainability.
Van Der Pol, J. Conversations with the land: The relationship between livestock and the land. Greenbook 2000, Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Program. Minnesota Department of Agriculture, St. Paul, Minn., pp. 4-6, 2000.
"To separate livestock from the land impoverishes land, reduces the usefulness of livestock and interferes with fertility of the entire system. The separation is a major roadblock to long term farm profitability to say nothing of agricultural system health..... A grassland system is never just plants and never just animals. That would be ludicrous. The plants and animals need each other. They must live together in a kind of harmony or interlocking dependence. That then, is the blueprint for a grassland farm."
Savory, A. The New agriculture. The Agriculture Vision 2000 Conference. Sustaining the Agricultural Community in the New Millennium, January 11, 2000, Great Bend, Kansas. The Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management, Albuquerque, NM, pp. 2000.
"Many minds are independently beginning to acknowledge the need to shift from a linear and systems-based world view and management to a holistic world view and management by process rather than prescribed systems. And, fortunately, this is not just theoretical, as many farmers, ranchers, academics, and corporations have begun to do so in practice in a number of countries." Holistic principles are outlined.

Sullivan, P. Holistic Management: A Whole-Farm Decision Making Framework. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., July 2001.
"Sustainable agriculture seeks in principle to "sustain" economic viability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. These three tenets are to be embraced as one functional unit. Decisions concerning a sustainable agriculture should then enhance the environment and the farmer's economic situation and benefit the regional society. Holistic management gives us a way to move forward on these three tenets. It gives us a way to design agriculture to truly mimic nature's principles of sustainability. It gives us a way to make decisions that automatically take into account the society, the economics, and the environment before they are made. This publication serves as an introduction to holistic management and provides resources for further information. Holistic Management is a decision making framework that assists farmers and others in establishing a long-term goal, a detailed financial plan, a biological plan for the landscape and a monitoring program to assess progress toward the goal. Holistic Management helps managers to ask the right questions and guides them in setting priorities. In holistic financial planning, profit is planned at the beginning of the year. This is in stark contrast to conventional financial planning where the net profit is often non-existent or a small amount left over once expenses are accounted for."

Whole Farm Cooperative. Web Site. Long Prairie, MN, 2000.
Whole Farm Co-operative represents 30 member families in Central Minnesota committed to creating farms that nourish the farmers' "families spiritually and economically, sustain the environment, and with providing eaters not only with safe wholesome food but with a clear sense of who and where their food came from. It seeks to create urban and rural links as well as linking with farmers from around the world who are involved in the struggle to create a sustainable agriculture for all of us." Pigs are given plenty of sunshine, exercise and fresh air. Chickens are free range birds and their feed is free of antibiotics. Cows are grass-fed, free of chemicals and antibiotics. Grazing cows restores water quality and wildlife habitat and is safer for farmers because fewer machines are involved.
Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE). "Farming and Ranching for Profit, Stewardship & Community." Sustainable Agriculture... Continuing to grow. SARE 2000 conference proceedings. SARE.
Profiles of sustainable farms and sustainable ranches. Farmers also share how they market, either directly to the clients on the farm, or through farmers' markets.


SARE staff. Reap New Profits: Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers. USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Washington, DC, 1999.
"Good marketing is becoming a must for small agricultural enterprises to be successful. Rather than accepting non-negotiable prices offered by wholesalers, direct marketers put the power to turn a profit back in their own hands. Alternative marketing outlets offer direct connections to customers, providing them an opportunity to get fresh products and knowledge about how they've been grown. Producers can learn what their customers need. The bottom line: Whether the product is beef or fresh-picked vegetables, selling products directly to consumers offers farmers a better price. This bulletin profiles successful direct marketers across the country and includes tips about how to start a number of alternative agricultural marketing enterprises."
Adam, K., Balasubrahmanyam, R., and Born, H. Direct Marketing. ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), Fayetteville, Ark., Nov. 1999.
"This publication on direct marketing alternativeswith emphasis on niche, specialty and value added crops features many farm case studies, as well as information on enterprise budgets and promotion/publicity. A new section discusses implications of Internet marketing and ecommerce for agriculture."

Practical Livestock Welfare

Grandin, T. Behavioral principles of livestock handling. Professional Animal Scientist; 1-11, December 1989.
"Reducing stress during handling will improve productivity and prevent physiological changes that could confound research results or lower productivity. Handling stresses lower conception rates and reduces both immune and rumen function. Handlers who understand livestock behavior can reduce stress. Livestock have wide angle vision and they are easily frightened by shadows or moving distractions outside of chutes. Solid sides on chutes will reduce agitation and excitement. Noise should be kept to a minimum because animals have sensitive hearing. When wild cattle or sheep are handled the handler should work on the edge of the flight zone to avoid agitation. Cattle, pigs, and sheep are herd animals and isolation of a single individual should be avoided. An animal's previous experience with handling will affect its reaction to handling in the future. Animals which have had frequent gentle contact with people will be less stressed during handling than animals which have had previous aversive treatment. Livestock can be trained to voluntarily enter a restraining device. The restraint device should be gradually introduced and should not cause pain. Feed rewards will facilitate training. Training animals to voluntarily submit to handling procedures would be especially useful for valuable breeding animals and animals used for research."
Grandin, T. Review: Reducing handling stress improves both productivity and welfare. The Professional Animal Scientist; 14(1) 1998.
"Reducing stress on livestock during handling will help reduce sickness and enable cattle to go back on feed more quickly. Many detrimental effects of handling stressors on animal performance and health are likely due to fear. Practical experience on ranches and feedlots shows that making cattle accustomed to people both on foot and on horseback will produce calmer and easier to handle cattle. An animal's first experience with a new corral, a person, or pieces of equipment should be made as positive as possible. If a painful or very aversive procedure is done the first time, it may be difficult to persuade the animal to re-enter the facility. The following tips will improve handling: move small numbers of animals at a time, do not overload the crowd pen, eliminate electric prods, open anti-back gates, eliminate visual distractions that make animals balk, use flight zone and point of balance principles, and reduce noise."
Grandin, T. Thinking the way animals do. Western Horseman; 140-145, Nov. 1997.
Animals think by making visual associations. These associations are like snapshots of events and tend to be very specific. Animals also tend to make place-specific associations. Fear is the main emotion in prey animals such as horses and cattle. Objects that make sudden movements are the most fear-provoking. In the wild, sudden movement is feared because predators make sudden movements. Animals are also fearful of high-pitched noises. People working with horses and other animals need to think more about how the animals perceive the situations we put them in.
Kidd. R. Put away your prod: herd stock with less stress by understanding how they think. The New Farm; 16(5):6-10, 44, July/Aug 1994.
"Low-stress animal handling not only results in higher animal performance but also less stress and greater personal satisfaction for you." To reduce animal stress, you first have to understand how your animals think. You need to know how livestock perceive your presence and movements, and how they naturally respond. You need to understand the dynamics of what is called the 'flight' zone.
Kidd, R. Help livestock keep their cool: Water and shade are keys to comfort. The New Farm; 15(5):8-12, July/Aug. 1993.
In most parts of the U.S. heat stress is the most costly and insidious environmental factor affecting livestock. There are many strategies to help keep livestock cool: Plenty of clean, cool water; shade: Trees are a natural choice. Portable or permanent artificial shade structures are another alternative; evaporative cooling: ponds and mud holes, foggers and misters, hog sprayers. "When you consider all the natural, low-cost ways to help livestock beat the heat, you start to wonder why we sometimes lock ourselves into systems that can keep them cool only at great expense."
Low-stress livestock handling: Herding methods and facilities that put less stress on you and your stock. In: Cramer, C., Sustainable Farming Connection: Where farmers find and share information. Web site. Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, © 1997.
"It's no secret that stress reduces disease resistance and increases health care costs -- whether you're talking about livestock or people. These sites and other resources will help you increase your stock's productivity and profits by showing you ways to reduce stress in the way you handle and herd animals and how you design and build your livestock facilities."
Low stress livestock handling. In: Ingram, R., Sustainable ranching research and education project: Ranching with nature . University of California Cooperative Extension, Davis, CA, pp. © 1997, 1998.
"Stress is one of the great hidden costs in the livestock industry. The good news is that making changes in our attitudes can lead to benefits economically and relationally without any associated capital or direct costs. We just have to be willing to invest time to learn." The principles and techniques developed by Bud Williams, the world's leading expert on handling animals are presented, and training programs to learn the techniques are offered as part of the UC Cooperative Extension program. In order for you to be able to work with animals the way Bud Williams does, you must change your basic attitude about livestock. Instead of the attitude: "I'm going to MAKE that animal do what I want", think: "I'm going to LET that animal do what I want." Instead of thinking that if you have problems, it is because of the animal or the working environment, ask yourself: "What did I do to cause that animal to react that way?"
Mortimer, J. and Mortimer, B. Shelter & Shade: Creating a Healthy and Profitable Environment for Your Livestock With Trees . Green Park Press, Jackson, Miss., 1996.
This book shows farmers and ranchers how to add a healthy, natural environment for their livestock, and at the same time improve their bottom line and beautify the landscape. It includes guided suggestions on planting shelterbelts to protect livestock from harsh winds, snow, and summer sun; enhancing the livestock's diet and cutting purchased feed costs by planting suitable forage trees; creating habitats with trees to attract birds, bees, and wildlife, adding to farms' beauty and diversity.

Smithfield's Invasion of Poland

by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Reprinted from The Ecologist
Date Published: 26/11/03
Author: Robert Kennedy Jr and Tracey Worcester

Fields covered with faeces, children vomiting at school, plastic bins stuffed full of dead pigs. Robert Kennedy and Tracy Worcester experience firsthand the reality of life in Smithfield's Poland.

Ignoring Smithfield's 'no entry' sign, we clambered over wire barriers and wrenched open the ventilation shaft of one of three vast concrete and corrugated iron sheds. The noise was deafening. Five thousand squealing pigs were crammed into strawless compartments inside the recently opened pig factory near the town of Szczecinek in the northwestern Polish province Zachodnio-Pomorskie.

Back outside, effluent from cement cesspits had over-flowed – sending a small stream of brown, stinking liquid into the lake below, which had then frozen over. In a large plastic bin we found 20 dead pigs. When we'd looked the night before, it had been empty.

It seems that the entire operation is illegal. During the communist era, the state farm had employed 44 locals. Officials told us that Prima (a Polish company now owned by Smithfield) had only been given a permit to renovate the derelict farm on condition it guaranteed 15 local jobs. Instead, no locals were employed and 5,000 pigs arrived in the dead of night. Villagers only grasped what had happened when the company began illegally dumping liquid faeces on the snow-covered fields.

People were angry and frightened, but village and township officials told us they were powerless to defend their community as the local government had taken Prima's side.

'If you had informed us of Smithfield's record six months earlier,' they told us, 'we would have refused all permits and prevented Prima from gaining a foothold.' Now they could only ask for our help in challenging the company on environmental grounds.

A few miles north we visited Prima's factory farm at Nielep, where 30,000 pigs are confined. We were met at the compound gate by a tall man in a surgical face mask. Removing the mask, he identified himself as the manager and demanded that we kept away. Responding to our questions about animal welfare, he claimed that although there was no bedding for the pigs, the factory had all the appropriate permits and required number of employees. However, he refused to say exactly how many pigs were impounded, how many died each day or what mix of chemicals were pumped into them. Admitting that he had been taken to Smithfield installations in North Carolina for training, he mouthed the standard company line: 'Our local and national opponents are selfishly concerned with animal welfare instead of feeding the world'.

Local resistance

In a nearby village, a meeting had been convened for local farmers and authorities to hear Tom Garrett of the animal rights advocacy group the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) describe Smithfield's record in the US. People sat in stunned silence as they tried to grasp the impending destruction of their livelihoods and community.

When Garrett had finished, the audience erupted. Many demanded that the local authorities in Poland take control of the country's former state farms and give tenancies to former employees rather than foreign transnationals. Desperate and angry, one old lady confirmed what we had already seen: 'The company has been spreading effluent over snow-covered fields,' she explained. 'People have developed rashes and stomach upsets.' The stench from the effluent had caused vomiting, which threatened the closure of the local school and the destruction of local businesses. To raucous applause, a local politician declared: 'Smithfield must be kicked out.'

This same cry is now being heard all over Poland, with locals signing petitions and farmers forming blockades to get Smithfield out. Across the provincial border from Zachodnio-Pomorskie is Wieckowice, a beautiful village of brick and wooden homes, shrines and long stone barns in the region of Wielkopolska. There we found several dozen local activists carrying signs outside a former state farm owned by Smithfield's Polish subsidiary Animex. The facility has permits for only 500 cows and 500 pigs. It has been reported that it houses 17,000 pigs. The farm is 40 yards from an elementary school where residents say their children get sick and vomit because of the pig odours.

Among the protesters was Irena Kowalak, a dignified woman who served as village mayor for 35 years. She told us she had resigned recently because of intimidation by Smithfield. Andrzej

Nowakowski is the governor of Wielkopolska. Nowakowski said that the local population was unanimously and adamantly opposed to Smithfield and that he refused to give the company permits when it bought the farm two years ago. But six months later Poland's environment ministry overrode him.

Nonetheless, thanks to the governor, Smithfield has not been able to get permits for liquid manure. So the farm uses straw bedding and has not yet devised a plan for disposing of its waste. Fields of wheat surround the pig barns, but they are never harvested because Smithfield is not interested in agriculture. To Smithfield, these fields are a place to dump the notorious wastes of industrial meat production.

A convoy of indignant Wieckowice residents took us out to see the giant pile of pig manure. On the side of a 1,000-acre wheat field was a mountain of pig waste 150 metres long, four metres high and 50 metres wide. 'Seventeen thousand pigs for six months,' a young man said, nodding at the pile. Local authorities have been ordering Smithfield to move the illegal pile for six months, but the company has refused. The night before our visit Smithfield covered its pile with a giant black tarpaulin, which was already inflated and writhing with the internal pressure of methane gas.

Half a mile downhill from the pile, villagers had created a public beach on a 1,500-acre lake where umbrellas shaded dozens of families swimming and playing on a steamy 90º day. Manure residues festered on the shores of a nearby bay into which Smithfield's waste pile drains. An old man with twinkling blue eyes stuck his hand into the water, smelled his fingers and offered us a whiff. 'Smithfield Foods,' he announced.

Governor Nowakowski told us that there is another Smithfield factory, in Sedziny, that has 4,500 pigs but a permit for only 1,000 cows. He said his assistants were now inspecting the facility. 'But,' he explained, 'the legislation is very difficult for the local government to enforce [without state support].' Unfortunately, the federal government is not supporting the Wielkopolska authorities.

Nowakowski is not the only local politician begging for federal help. Zofia Wilczynska is a deputy in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland's national parliament. Wilczynska has complained to the federal government that a Smithfield operation in Polczyn Zdroj is endangering the northern Polish town's 400-year-old health spa. Right over by Poland's northeastern border with the Russian Federation enclave of Kaliningrad (former East Prussia) another health spa, in Goldap, is also threatened by pollution and odours from a Smithfield site.

The day after our visit to Wieckowice, a member of a parliamentary agriculture committee told us that the Polish government had recently conducted an investigation of 16 Smithfield farms (14 owned by the corporation and two owned by front groups it controlled). The agricultural ministry found that every one of the farms had broken Poland's veterinary, health and construction laws. Yet when Smithfield lacks proper permits, or is caught breaking the law, it is fined, laughably, just a few hundred dollars.

Sometimes Smithfield just buys officials off. A hundred miles north of Wieckowice, the mayor of the Western Pomeranian village Wierzchowo gave Smithfield permits for two enormous farms after the company paid his wife approximately $4,000 to perform the environmental impact assessment.

Local communities devastated

The economic impacts of Smithfield's production methods are devastating local communities and markets. When Smithfield took over Animex, the latter's three principal farms near Goldap employed 60 employees. Following the farms' conversion to automated pig factories, only seven of these workers remain.

Smithfield says it wants to produce 6 million pigs in Poland each year. Polish peasants currently rear 20 million pigs per year, and a quarter of them will have to lose their livelihoods to make way for Smithfield. The corporation is already squeezing the small farms. In Western Pomerania we found that the region's small slaughterhouses had already been closed, and that the remaining Smithfield-owned slaughterhouse would not slaughter pigs from small farms. The same will soon apply to the rest of Poland. Once Smithfield controls the slaughterhouses and has eliminated local markets, it will be able to control prices and, ultimately, the farms.

Avoiding the monoculture in Poland

Instead of reinventing itself to mimic the failed systems in Europe and the US, Poland should celebrate its assets and sell them to the world. Polish meat tastes much better than factory meat. Polish sausage is world famous. Consumers like knowing that their meat is from animals that were humanely raised in ways that are good for the environment, supportive of family farms, and free of dangerous hormones, antibiotics and chemicals. But all these things make quality meat more expensive than factory meat. And when the consumer sees free-range pork that does not look much different to a Smithfield cut, they will choose the cheaper product. The answer is branding.

When Europe opens its markets to Poland, the Poles should establish a market for their produce by using branding to draw attention to their traditional values. The AWI has offered the Polish government to help brand the country's pork internationally. The institute specialises in helping small farmers by finding consumers who are willing to pay a premium for produce that is healthy and raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics and hormones.

Anybody who pays a premium for Polish meat will be getting a good deal. Some of the meat and sausage that we gorged on in Poland was among the best we've tasted. Pork of the kind produced by traditional Polish farms is widely recognised to be tastier and juicier than confinement pork of the sort produced by Smithfield.

If Poland is going to flourish rather than flounder, the nation needs to recognise its enormous strengths and start believing in itself. The words 'produced in Poland' should become a standard for high quality. This is no easy challenge. But the easy way out, signing a contract with Smithfield, is not the solution.

A last bastion of tradition in Poland

Poland is an oasis of traditional farming in a world dominated by agribusiness multinationals. Around 2 million Poles, about 18 per cent of the country's population, are farmers or members of farming families. That's as many as the rest of central Europe put together.

The Polish landscape is not yet marked by the vast monocultures of row crops that are typical of the US. Currently, Poland is a country of picturesque farm villages, with farms that average five hectares and modest homes of wood, timber and fieldstone. Typically, each farmer has a horse, a couple of cows and some pigs and chickens. Animals are raised free range and humanely. And Polish farmers rotate a variety of crops in the traditional way that fosters healthy soils.
Many Polish farmhouses still have occupied stork nests on their roofs. The country hosts 25 per cent of the world's white stork population – some 50,000 pairs. – more than the whole of western Europe combined. Elsewhere in the continent the bird has been exterminated by modern agriculture practices: liquid manure and pesticides effectively wipe out the fish, frogs, crabs and insects that storks eat. In Denmark, for example, there are only six pairs left.

Poland has large stands of timber as well as the last sanctuaries of European bison and Europe's last clean-flowing unregulated rivers. It has purer soils than anywhere else in Europe. Its land is uncontaminated by pesticide and fertiliser residue and almost entirely free of the heavy metals caused by industrial smokestack pollution throughout the rest of Europe.

Smithfield's Tasteless Enterprise

Millions of years of natural selection have endowed pigs with back fat to regulate their body temperature. But Smithfield gets more money from meat than from fat, so the company has bred its own strain of super-lean pigs with almost no back fat. They are highly-strung and unable to survive normal outside temperatures.

Food professionals say this extreme leanness has dramatically diminished the quality of US pork. Food magazine Saveur described the pigs of modern confinement agriculture as being so skinny that they look 'like dachshunds'. While applauding traditional farming methods of the kind used in Poland, The New York Times Magazine stated: 'The pork industry has managed to engineer a pig with almost no fat at all. And this is why most modern recipes for pork involve some kind of liquid – putting the meat in a marinade before cooking, basting it while cooking or braising it in broth. If you simply grill a mass-market pork chop, it becomes inedibly dry.' The Times went on to say that free-range pork 'is rich when sliced and sautéed, fine textured and robust in flavour. It needs nothing more than seasoning with salt'. The dryness and poor taste of confinement pork have become so bad that many major pork companies are now 'enhancing' their pork: adding water, flavoured liquids, or even stock to their tray-pack and prepared meats, and using red food colouring to improve its drab appearance.

Financing the Slaughter

Financial institutions like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) use EU taxpayers' money to subsidise companies like Smithfield. The result? Small farmers disappear, food quality deteriorates, animal welfare suffers. Although it claims to be 'environmentally sensitive', the EBRD has joined with the Polish banks BRE and Rabobank Polska to provide a $100m loan to Smithfield's Polish subsidiary Animex.

The EBRD's 'project summary' states: 'Follow-up investigations of [EBRD] environmental staff and discussion with Smithfield management responsible for such issues demonstrated that the [Animex] facilities comply with the national requirements for environment, health and safety.' Yet the evidence suggests that the EBRD is consciously and deliberately backing a corporate takeover of Polish agriculture. The bank's press releases and 'transition impact' statements are full of talk about 'restructuring Poland's agribusiness and food industry'. The EBRD refers, for example, to the 'restructuring of the meat-processing sector' and 'the consolidation of the agribusiness sector'.

The reality is that Poland, like the rest of the modern world, is about to bury an ancient culture based on community living, family and land stewardship for the benefit of future generations. As Tom Garrett of the Animal Welfare Institute has lamented: 'There is no salvation to be found in industrial agriculture owned and controlled by foreign multinational corporations. There is only damage.'

For more information about the EBRD's involvement in Poland:


As Smithfield buys local companies to front their operations, it is difficult to trace its products. The surest way of avoiding them is not to buy from supermarkets but to buy organic or locally produced pork from local butchers or farmers' markets instead. To find information about local producers, visit: or

In the UK Smithfield's pork products are marketed under the brand name PEK. However, it is more than likely that Smithfield meat is also ending up in mass-produced products like pizzas. So, while not buying PEK-branded products is good, not buying anything containing non-organic pork is better.

Contribute to or join the AWI (; it is the only humane organisation fighting the cruelty of pig factory farming in Poland. But the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside is also doing important work. See its website at

Robert Kennedy Jr is the president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots coalition dedicated to protecting water systems from pollution; Tracy Worcester is the associate director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (, a non-profit organisation that aims to protect cultural and biological diversity

Merciless MRSA Strain Alive and Kicking

Disturbing evidence of a potential epidemic has been published in a study by University of Iowa College of Public Health researcher Tara Smith et al this January. The study was the first in the country to document animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant form of a common bacterium that causes deadly infections, though such research has previously been conducted in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Syndicate content