Spatiotemporal pattern of hog foraging in apple orchards when grazed for orchard floor management

Graduate Student CERES Grant Final Report

Project Leader: Krista Buehrer, Graduate Student, Michigan State University, Dept of Entomology

Major Professor: Dr. Matthew Grieshop, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, Dept of Entomology

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Our study was conducted in an organic apple orchard in Eaton County, MI USA in 2013. The apple trees in the orchard are 30 years old and spaced 10 ft apart, and the drive rows are 15 ft wide. The orchard was maintained and harvested using organic production practices.

We established a total of eight plots in the orchard. Each plot was 0.5 acre in size (545 ft long and 80 ft wide), and contained three rows of trees that each had 45 trees. Six of the plots were grazed by hogs, and the other two plots served as controls. The hog plots were fenced using poly rope and step-in poly fence posts. The fence was connected to the farm power grid to electrify it. The grower rented 33 Duroc-mix hogs from a nearby hog producer from June 11 to July 5, 2013.

The hogs had been raised on organic pasture prior to being rented and each weighed ~60 lb when introduced to the apple orchard. The 33 hogs were divided into three groups of 11 hogs and penned separately on the north border of the apple orchard. Hogs had ad libitum access to water and were fed a grain mixture each morning while in the apple orchard.

Hogs were rotated through the six plots, and spent 9 d in each plot. Hog Group 1 was rotated through plots 1 and 2; Hog Group 2 was rotated through plots 3 and 4; Hog Group 3 was rotated through plots 5 and 6. Grazed plots 1, 3, and 5 comprised the first set of plots along with control plot 1. Grazed plots 2, 4, and 6 comprised the second set of plots along with control plot 2. Hogs were released into the first set of plots on June 16, 2013 and into the second set of plots on June 25, 2013.

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