Maintaining a piggery worm farm
You must regularly maintain your worm farm to make sure you are providing the best conditions for worms. Poor management of worm beds can lead to the death or mass migration of your worms.
Fortunately, automatic watering and lighting systems have greatly reduced the labour involved in maintaining a worm farm. Your primary maintenance tasks will be:
- feeding your worms
- checking your worm beds and making any changes necessary to maintain ideal conditions.
An experienced worm farmer can look after 2 million worms on a part-time basis while still carrying out other farm tasks.
Worms can consume more than their own weight in organic matter each day, from the moment they hatch. Because worms don't have teeth, anything they eat must already be softened by moisture or bacterial action so that it can be sucked into their gut. Once organic matter enters a worm's gut, it is further broken down by internal grinding.
Raw pig manure makes excellent worm food - in fact, some say it is the best manure for worm farms. Dried effluent sludge also works well, and aged deep litter is used in some worm farms.
Feed your worms pig manure or sludge, supplemented with products such as:
- mulched straw or old compost
- old sawdust
- dried grass clippings
- chopped cardboard
- shredded paper
- old straw.
Apply the material to the surface of the beds.
A worm feeds by anchoring the back half of its body and then stretching to its limit to draw food into its hole or tunnel. The less frequently your worms' tunnels are disturbed, the more time your worms will have for feeding, excreting and growing. Worms feed more at night than during the day, so it's especially important not to disturb them after dark.
Maintaining ideal conditions for worms
In addition to food, worms need:
- a moist environment
- a moderate temperature range
- close to neutral pH conditions.
Commercial meters are available that can measure each of these variables for you.
Best moisture levels for worm farms
Your worm beds should be watered regularly to maintain moist - but not wet - conditions. If the bedding becomes soggy, use dry newspaper or cardboard to restore moisture to its optimal level.
You can also use watering to reduce the temperature in your worm farm if it gets too hot. Automatic misting sprinklers are good for maintaining ideal conditions for worm beds.
Best temperature range for worm farms
Worms prefer a temperature range from 17°C to 25°C. They are generally less active during colder periods. If they get too hot, they will become distressed, may try to escape, and may even die.
You can increase the temperature of your worm beds by adding more organic matter to the bed. If the temperature rises too high, you can reduce it by lowering the amount of organic matter added and turning the top of the bed with a fork to increase aeration. You can also use shading and water to maintain ideal temperatures.
Best pH conditions for worm farms
Most worms require pH conditions between 6.8 and 7.2 for best food digestion, although tiger worms will tolerate higher acidity. Adding agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) to increase the pH may be necessary. Do not use hydrated lime as it will kill the worms. Adding peat moss or newspaper will increase acidity.