Please feel free to ask us questions on how we make our feeds, to give us feedback on how you make your own on-farm feeds, or for recommendations on how we might do it better.
Our farm is in Bataan, Philippines (http://MountainAir.farm). We currently have 7 Large Black Pig(LBP) breed and 4 local feeder pigs. The LBPs were picked because the breed is especially well suited for efficiently converting forage feeds into pork.
We are in the process of planting 1000 lacatan bananas and we are interested in fermenting the stalks after the bananas are harvested. I can find no readily available local source for either molasses or mineral salts.
- Could we grow sugar cane and use either the extract or chopped stalk as a substitute for molasses? If so, at what ratio of banana stalk to sugar cane stalk?
- Is mineral salts required for fermentation? If so, where do we buy it.
(I have been buying mineral lick blocks)
- Would napier grass need similar fermentation so as to make it suitable for pig feed?
Good questions! Let me see if I can answer some of them for you:
1). Yes, you can absolutely use fresh sugarcane (or pressed sugarcane juice) to substitute for the molasses. Its primary purpose is to kick off the fermentation process, to feed the microbes as they break down the plant material. If you used chopped fresh sugarcane you might aim for a 10:1 ratio (banana stalks: chopped cane).
2). The fermentation step can be done without the mineral salts. It is my understanding that the mineral salts are primarily added to help meet all of the nutritional requirements of the livestock. I am told that adding it during the fermentation stage though can help with preservation of the chopped stems, and even with absorption of the high water content of the chopped banana.
3). Yes napier grass can be used also. I am not sure it can be used to completely replace the banana, but I think it can be used to supplement the banana portion, to help cut down the amount of banana stalk needed. As a monogastric animal, pigs are just limited in the amount of fiber they can digest. As such, we recommend that young banana stems (or napier) be used. As they get older, especially after they have fruited, they get tough and more difficult to digest. If you using older banana stems, we recommend using the inner core which is more tender and nutritious.
Can ripened fruits(sourced in markets waste or farms) be used to supplement sugar to enhance fermentation, instead of going for sugarcane, which is an economic crop, humans could consume can juice as such, much healthier too.
YES! I have used mango fruit waste in making silage before, it seemed to work well! That’s especially useful approach in times of oversupply, like right now during mango season!
Hey Patrick, great talking the other day! Interesting read, really curious to see your results as you refine the feed.
As a future suggestion: I wonder if adding small amounts of biochar (made from crop waste & residues like rice or corn husk & stalks) to the feed might help improve it?
There’s a few ways it might help:
- It can improve microbial activity, so I wonder if adding it to the banana stem mash before fermenting might increase the total protein generated during fermentation
- It’s a really limited study, but it seemed to improve hog growth and feed conversion in this study
- Healthier pigs: there’s lots of studies demonstrating biochar’s benefits to animal health and digestion, meaning less money lost to sick hogs. It’d probably be difficult to quantify these savings for the average small-holder farm. But then again just one lost pig could be a significant loss
- Extra crop income: the biochar passes through digestion and will improve the quality of the manure as a fertilizer. Again, hard to quantify, but if biochar could improve pig growth and FCR, then improved crop yields from the biochar manure would be an extra added bonus
Thanks for sending this on! We often add small amounts of biochar to our feeds (not for this experiment), but it may be an interesting avenue for some further research! I like that study you found, thanks for passing that on.
@Noah_Elhardt has some experience with feeding biochar to livestock also.