Research on Parasite Control in Organic Swine Production

 Yuzhi Li1, Rick Carr2, and Alexander Hernandez3 

1West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), University of Minnesota, Morris, MN; 2Rodale Institute, Kutztown, PA; 3Kutztwon University, Kutztown, PA.

June 2019

Swine parasite infection and contamination represent significant challenges to organic pork producers because there is a lack of organically-approved control measures. Organic farmers continue to appeal to scientists and extension specialists for options that are substantiated by field trials. In response to farmers’ demand, researchers from the University of Minnesota, the Rodale Institute, and the Kutztown University collaborate on a research project to address challenges of parasite control in organic pig production.

The overarching goal of this project is to explore manure and pasture management strategies to reduce parasite contamination and transmission in organic pig production. To achieve that goal, the first step  we will take is to evaluate parasite pressures on organic pig farms in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The four states represent about 60% of national organic pig production. During the summer months when students are available to help with the project, we will visit two to four organic pig farms in each of the four states and collect samples of pig feces, bedding/manure in pig barns, and soil of pastures occupied by pigs. In addition, animal trials will be conducted at the WCROC using the alternative swine facilities to identify parasite species and parasite distribution among individual pigs. Lab analyses for parasite species and parasite viability are performed at Kutztown University. Meanwhile, we are determining the effectiveness of manure composting on reducing/eliminating swine parasites and its underlying mechanisms. Furthermore, we are assessing biofumigation as a novel approach to swine parasite control in pastures. Finally, we will test effectiveness of grazing rapeseed (a crop with biofumigation properties) by organic pigs on reducing swine parasite contamination in pastures. Manure composting, biofumigation and grazing trials are conducted at the Rodale Institute research farm. This project will be the first to document effects of composting swine manure and biofumigation to reduce/eliminate parasites and develop an integrated livestock-pasture management strategy to mitigate swine parasites in organic production. Results will be disseminated to farmers and agricultural professionals through field days, workshops, seminars, online materials, and publications. The first field day has been planned for July 19th at Rodale Institute, in coordination with their annual field day.  

Key investigatorsKey investigators for the project include (pictured left to right) Rick Carr, a composting specialist from the Rodale Institute; Alexander Hernandez, a parasitologist from Kutztown University; Shelby Dukes, a research coordinator of organic swine production at Rodale Institute; and Yuzhi Li, swine scientist from the U of MN WCROC.

This three-year project is supported by Organic Transition Program (Award# 2018-51106-28772) from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The project is expected to be concluded in 2021. To learn more about the project, please contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yuzhi Li.