Parasites in organic swine operations present challenges such as poor animal health, minimal productivity and efficiency for producers, and potential threats to food safety and the environment. Swine parasite contamination is a significant barrier for such operations because the lack of organically-approved control measures. In response, researchers at Rodale Institute, the University of Minnesota, and Kutztown University developed a project to address challenges expressed by producers.

pastured hogs

The United States Department of Agriculture awarded $499,542 to Rodale Institute, the University of Minnesota, and Kutztown University for a three year study of manure and pasture management strategies that can control swine parasites in organic swine operations.

The project includes four objectives:

  1. Evaluate parasite prevalence on organic swine farms.
  2. Determine the effectiveness of manure composting.
  3. Assess biofumigation as a parasite management approach.
  4. Determine effects of grazing biofumigation pastures by organic pigs.

The project team will use four approaches to study these objectives:

  1. Conduct farm visits to organic swine farms across four states.
  2. Thermophilically compost swine manure bedpack in windrows.
  3. Use mustard plants – evidence of biofumigation potential and anthelmintic properties – in pastures. 
  4. Use two approaches to incorporating biofumigation pastures into the soil: biologically through pig grazing and mechanically with equipment.

Bedded floors and access to outdoor pastures are required by the National Organic Program, but are the major sources of parasite contamination in an organic swine operation. Until now, there has not been a comprehensive study of parasite prevalence in organic swine operations in the United States leaving the extent of the problem unknown.

rodale hog facility

The long-term goal of this project is to develop manure and pasture management strategies for organic and transitioning swine operations that mitigate swine parasite contamination and transmission. Successful completion of the project objectives will provide producers with effective tools to overcome challenges associated with swine parasites and ultimately increase organic swine production across the U.S.

Read the full United States Department of Agriculture award announcement here.

The project team includes: