VIDEO: A whole farm approach to incorporating pasture raised organic poultry and a novel cereal grain (Naked Oats) into a multi-year organic rotation

eOrganic authors:

John Anderson, Ohio State University

Kathy Bielek, Ohio State Universityy

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PROJECT TITLE: A whole farm approach to incorporating pasture-raised organic poultry and a novel cereal grain (naked oats) into a multi-year organic rotation.

I am John Anderson from the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University. Our study is being conducted on certified organic fields at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center near Wooster, Ohio.

We are using a three-year rotation with naked oats, broiler chickens, and spelt as the main crops. These are the three, one-acre fields in 2012 with spelt on the left, pasture in the middle, and naked oats on the right.

One of the primary goals of this grant is to study the use of pasture-reared organic broiler chickens as one component of an organic poultry and crop rotation system. Poultry would diversify the product mix from an established organic enterprise, with the poultry manure contributing to the soil fertility. The second goal of this work is to study the feasibility of incorporating naked oats, also called hulless oats, into a multi-year crop rotation, with the naked oats used as a major part of the poultry feed.

The cost of certified organic corn and soy-based diets is often the main factor limiting organic broiler production. Hulless or naked oats based diets could be an interesting option. When compared to conventional oats, the hulless varieties have less crude fiber and a significant increase in both protein and lipid. In pasture-based systems, broilers do get some nutrients from the pasture itself, but need a grain-based diet to perform economically.

In this study, chicks will be started in the brooder on a commercial organic chick starter. When the chickens are placed on pasture at three weeks of age, they will be switched to the diet containing naked oats. In this project we will also be comparing two different types of meat birds: commercial broilers and a slower growing type often used on pasture called Red Rangers or Redbros. We will compare growth rate and feed conversion of these two types.

Slower growing genotypes have reduced protein requirements compared to commercial broilers. This reduced protein requirement might be an advantage given the challenge of balancing the amino acid profile in organic poultry diets. Slower growth may also minimize growth-associated anomalies such as leg problems, and may result in some improvement in the quality of the carcass.

In order for any production system to be successful it must be economically profitable. Profitability will be estimated for each crop studied, each year of the project. Rations and broiler production will be valued at farm gate prices. Actual crop and poultry yields from the experimental plots will be used in the analysis. Cost of labor and all other inputs will be included. Outputs from the system each year include spelt, naked oats, straw, hay, and poultry.

Finally, a variety trial of available varieties of naked oats will be conducted each year. A replicated experiment with four replicates of at least three varieties (Paul, Buff and Streaker) will be established in an organic research field. Yields, test weights, and feed quality will be measured yearly.

Published November 15, 2013

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