The Food Web is a real world model for integrated livestock and sustainable food production. We have tested the methods, and we've seen the successes. This is a holistic approach that focuses on animal welfare, waste integration, water conservation, innovative feed systems, and profitability for small farmers.
Through Food Web, we hope to offer a sustainable alternative to conventional farming, one that will provide people with not only a cheap and healthy food source, but also a diverse business environment. It is modular by nature, so people can pick and choose which animals they want to include, depending on the space and resources available to them. However, the more animals you can include, the better, so that if one fails, the others can pick up the slack. Furthermore, each facet, if properly integrated into the whole, can help to feed others.
A web is a simple system. To make a Food Web, we select species that have feed inputs that align with waste outputs of other species, thereby reducing costs and increasing the diversity and resilience of your revenue streams.
These are possible species to choose from. Their outputs may exceed what is listed here, but the idea is to align the outputs with inputs of another species.
|Rabbits||Greens, grains||Meat, furs|
Viscera to pigs & poultry & fish
Droppings to worms, pigs, compost and as fuel
|Pigs||Grains, grazing, viscera, dairy||Meat|
Viscera to poultry, fish
Manure to poultry, compost, worms
|Goats||Grains, grazing||Dairy, Meat|
Leftover dairy to pigs & poultry
Viscera to pigs, poultry & fish
Manure to worms, pigs, compost and as a fuel
Viscera to pigs & poultry
Dirty water to garden
|Worms||Manure, scraps, viscera,etc.||Worms, Vermicompost|
Feed worms to poultry & pigs
Vermicompost for the garden
|Mushrooms||Straw, paper||Mushrooms||Leftovers goes to pigs, poultry & worms|
|Poultry||Grains, viscera, manure||Eggs, Meat|
Eat garden pests
Viscera goes to pigs & fish
Manure goes to pigs, worms, compost
|Fruit||Compost, fish water||Fruit||Leftovers go to pigs, rabbits, goats, poultry, compost|
|Vegetables||Compost, fish water||Vegetables||Leftovers go to pigs, rabbits, goats, poultry, compost|
|Bees||Flowers||Honey, Wax||Pollinates the garden|
Harvest "weeds" and grasses from local sources to feed your small group of rabbits. Manure from the rabbits feeds a worm bin, where you grow earthworms. The earthworms are harvested regularly to feed a small flock of chickens. The chickens browse pests from your garden area (soil fertility is increased by the vermicompost from the worms), keep the fly population under control, and clean up wasted food from other animals. Slaughter waste from the rabbits and chickens makes an excellent pig feed. Pigs offer a variety of high value products, and their manure adds to your worm population.
Even such a basic food web saves significant feed costs, while providing a diversified product range. There are at least 5 potential products being produced from the same resources it would take to produce just one of these products in a conventional setup. What's more, the farmer has eliminated multiple waste streams!
Consider the significance of being able to produce 5 products instead of one, from the same resources. This is where the Food Web shines.
Food Web Math
Using the Basic Model as a starting point, let's examine some math behind the Food Web Concept.
Starting with Rabbits as the top tier of your Cascading Feed System, the majority of your inputs will go to them. Rabbits are efficient at converting plant matter to meat. For homemade feeds, you can achieve a feed conversion ratio of 5:1. That means 5 lbs of input to 1 lb of live weight.
To feed a doe for a year requires about 150 lbs of hay/grass/weeds/tree prunings. These can be sourced locally. From that feed input, the doe will produce about 120 lbs of manure. She can average 35 kits weaned a year, harvested at 4.5 lbs each. Those kits will require about 15 lbs of feed each, or 525 lbs to get to weaning age. They will produce about 420 lbs of manure, as well. Each kit will produce 2.7 lbs of meat, and 1.8 lbs of slaughter waste. So, for one doe, we are looking at 95 lbs of meat (valued at $10/lb, for a total of $950), 63 lbs of slaughter waste, and 540 lbs of manure a year.
Those production rates alone make rabbits a profitable enterprise. But, we have produced 540 pounds of manure and 63 pounds of slaughter waste as well. We could compost this and give it to the garden, or we could gain more products from it. For this example, we are ignoring the value of the rabbit furs.
Earthworms generally produce about .9 lbs of manure (vermicompost) for every pound of input. They are extremely efficient. They also yield about .1 lb of live weight (high protein chicken feed). Vermicompost has significant value in and of itself ($500/ton), but we will ignore its value in this example.
To avoid depleting your population, you should harvest no more than 1/3 of the population a month. So, for every 10 pounds of rabbit manure a month, we produce 1 pound of earthworms. In our example, we have 45 lbs of rabbit manure a month, which yields 4.5 lbs of earthworms every month (54 lbs/year).
Chickens are very good producers. On homemade diets, they can achieve a FCR of 4:1. Earthworms make an excellent feed for chickens, but they are not a complete diet all by themselves. So, we need to add a bit of grain or garden/kitchen scraps to make up the difference. A ratio of 1 part earthworms to 2 part garden scraps is a good starting point. We have 54 lbs of earthworms per year, so we need to combine that with 108 lbs of other feeds to make 162 lbs of chicken feed. We can convert this to 40 lbs of live chickens per year, with a yield of 20 lbs of chicken meat (value @ $5/lb, total $100). If we butcher our own chickens, we also gain 20 lbs of slaughter waste. Alternatively, we could convert that to about 400 eggs a year.
These chickens will produce 108 lbs of manure a year (10 additional lbs of earthworms).
From the rabbits, we have 63 lbs of slaughter waste, and from the chickens, 20 lbs. We will feed this to pigs, but we need to mix it with 4 parts grains or carbohydrates. If you can get it, day old bread or distillers waste will be the cheapest way to go. Pigs can also eat kitchen scraps and garden surplus. They generally have a FCR of 4:1 on homemade feeds. So, with 83 lbs of slaughter waste (protein) and 332 lbs of carbs, with a total of 415 lbs of feed input. That will yield 104 lbs of live pig, which translates to 67 lbs of pork (valued @ $5/lb, total of $337) and about 37 lbs of slaughter waste. This waste can go to the guard dogs, or to a BSF bin for more chicken feed.
So, we have 675 lbs of rabbit inputs, 108 lbs of chicken inputs and 332 lbs of pig inputs, for a total of 1115 lbs of inputs. We have a total production of 95 lbs of rabbit ($950), 20 lbs of chicken ($100), and 67 lbs of pork ($337). Our total production is $1387. You can source free inputs for all of these species, but let's just assume you purchased grains at $.15/ lb (current corn price). That means your maximum cost of inputs is $168. Your total profit is $1219, if you purchase all of your feed inputs.
See how valuable that rabbit waste is? If you just composted it, you would have one product, valued at $950, but instead, we produced 3 high value products, with a total value of $1387 ($437 increase).
And we didn't even integrate the excess chicken manure, pig manure, and slaughter waste!
That's the power of integration!