Pigs grow­ing own food

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

A closed-loop farm­ing sys­tem where pig ma­nure is used to grow corn that is fed back to pigs is pay­ing off for a De­niliquin pork pro­ducer.

Don­ald­son Farm­ing flushes the ef­flu­ent from the pig sheds into a slurry pit ev­ery day, and from there it is pumped via a pipeline and mixed with ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter in nearby pad­docks.

Tris­tan Don­ald­son, who man­ages the 445 ha ir­ri­gated and dry­land live­stock and crop­ping busi­ness, said the sys­tem pro­vided high crop yields, a high en­ergy diet and re­duced feed and fer­tiliser costs.

‘‘Last sum­mer we grew 64 ha of PAC 606IT corn which pro­duced 1000 tonnes of grain,’’ Mr Don­ald­son said.

‘‘Con­sid­er­ing half the crop was patchy and the other half was amaz­ing, over­all we achieved 14.6 tonne/ha at 12 per cent mois­ture av­er­age, which is fan­tas­tic.

‘‘Some of the corn was look­ing you in the eye driv­ing the header.

‘‘With an IT corn, we also have the op­tion to spray her­bi­cide in­crop to tackle our big­gest weed, cal­trop.’’

Mr Don­ald­son planted from late Oc­to­ber into early Novem­ber and har­vested from late-April to early May; although a small amount of crop did not come off un­til June 5.

His pre­vi­ous sea­son, 2015-16, was even bet­ter, with his corn av­er­ag­ing 15.5 tonne/ha.

All of this has been achieved while deal­ing with the prop­erty’s hard pan — a com­pacted layer of soil just be­low the soil sur­face which in­hibits wa­ter and nu­tri­ent move­ment.

This was made more dif­fi­cult last year when un­like pre­vi­ous years, the wet win­ter made it im­pos­si­ble to deep rip the soil be­fore plant­ing the corn.

‘‘Be­cause of our clay soils, we can get stunted growth in crops as the roots strug­gle to get down deep,’’ Mr Don­ald­son said.

‘‘Our agronomist Matt Barker from Rod­wells is look­ing at ways to tackle the is­sue.

‘‘Last sea­son he did a leaf tis­sue test and sent it away for anal­y­sis to see what the plant was lack­ing. He then made up a spe­cial brew to ad­dress this.

‘‘Strangely enough, our first block of corn sown was the last to be har­vested due to hard pan.

‘‘It took so long to grow in those tough spots.’’

Corn pro­vides the pigs with high di­gestible en­ergy grain in the feed, where other pro­teins and vi­ta­mins are also sup­ple­mented to pro­vide a balance ra­tion for their growth.

‘‘Corn grown for grain pro­vides the en­ergy, but we also grow our own wheat, bar­ley, peas, baled vetch and canola meal which pro­vides the pro­tein and fi­bre,’’ Mr Don­ald­son said.

He said the home-grown feed pro­gram helped keep the busi­ness prof­itable, be­cause freight­ing in feed could cost $25/tonne.

‘‘Pay­ing for feed doesn’t make it worth­while.

‘‘We have bore wa­ter and Mur­ray chan­nel ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, so it makes sense to grow our own crops. We usu­ally bud­get on 10 Ml/ha each sea­son.

‘‘By us­ing the pig ma­nure we’re also cut­ting down the amount of syn­thetic fer­tilis­ers needed.

‘‘I find grow­ing a ni­tro­gen crop like vetch in front of corn really gives it a boost, too.’’

Waste not, want not . . . Tris­tan Don­ald­son grows corn in a closed-loop sys­tem at his De­niliquin pig­gery.

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