May 26 - A Chinese agricultural institute has developed a microbial bedding system for pigsties that it says helps pigs stay healthy and grow faster. Called a ''microbial mattress'' the system absorbs and neutralises the pigs' waste which can later but turned into fertilizer. Tara Cleary reports.
Conventional pigsties in China; concrete and crowded. But now, thanks to a new, soft compost material, these pigs are living high on the hog, and may be among the country's healthiest. Developed by the Beijing Agricultural Institute and currently being tested on 50 pig farms, the so-called 'microbial mattress' uses science to keep sties clean and free of disease. The mattress is a multilayered combination of straw, rice husks and sawdust - separated by layers of hungry microbes produced by local laboratories. The microbes feed on the pigs' faeces and urine, breaking it down to form part of a firm, warm bed, according to the institute's Guo Xiushan. SOUNDBITE: GUO XIUSHAN, PROFESSOR OF BEIJING AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE AND CONSULTANT OF DAXING ANIMAL HYGIENE SUPERVISION BUREAU, SAYING (Mandarin): "The microbes use the nitrogen in the excrement and the carbon in the mattress material to form nutrients. In the process of the microbes making constant use of these nutrients to reproduce, they degrade the faeces and urine." Guo says the microbial mattress system is cleaner than conventional concrete floors which must be hosed down regularly, washing excrement and urine into water systems. And after two years, the material can be processed for fertiliser. Farmer Li Baishui says the warmer mattress and increased sty space means livelier and faster growing pigs. SOUNDBITE: LI BAISHUI, PIG FARMER, SAYING (Mandarin): "The fermentation mattress is obviously much better than how it was before. The pigs we raised before didn't have much space. The winter was cold, but now it's warmer. Their growth period is shorter, they grow quickly." ... and that, says Guo, is good for the industry. SOUNDBITE: GUO XIUSHAN, PROFESSOR OF BEIJING AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTE AND CONSULTANT OF DAXING ANIMAL HYGIENE SUPERVISION BUREAU, SAYING (Mandarin): "Pigs raised in this kind of natural setting - which gives them more space to move and clean air - are undoubtedly very healthy. In this kind of situation, they are more resistant to disease. If they get fewer diseases, we don't need so much medicine. If we use less medicine then there is less medicine residue inside the pigs." And since the live microbes rapidly reproduce, the animals can even munch on the mattress material. These hogs, both men agree, are as happy as pigs in … microbial piggy litter.