Easy guide to starting a thriving pig farm

PIG Farming

“What livestock farming can I engage in that does not entail a lot of work and the returns are almost guaranteed?” That is a question I get from many young people I interact with. Pig farming is a good bet. So today we will talk about all things pig farming from A to Z. The basic requirement for a pig venture are a pigsty, young piglets, a boar or pregnant sows, feeding equipment and feed. Pig housing Basically, a pig house can be constructed using locally available and affordable materials. Land space has to be available in a safe, well-drained and quiet environment with proper lighting, ample clean water and passable roads. Land measuring 60ft by 40ft would be adequate. Construction of the house has to take into account the age and sex of the pigs. The floor of the house must be 3 X 3m and the floor of the house must be raised about 60 cm above the ground. The floor boards should have spaces of 2 centimetres between them or should be made of concrete. The house should be rain-proof with the higher side of the roof facing sunshine but with a shade area included. The house should have good ventilation, no overheating, no smells, no draft and no dampness. The pig building needs to be divided into different pens for each phase of the production cycle. The number and the size of the pens depend on the expected numbers of pigs to be housed in each production phase. The following are the space requirements for various ages and stages of pig growth. Fattening pig 0.5 – 1.0 sqm per pig, pregnant sows1.5 – 2.0 sqm per sow, lactating sow 4 – 6 sqm per sow, weaner piglets 0.3 – 0.5 sqm per piglet and breeding boars 6 – 8 sqm per boar. Never forget that lactating sows are the future of every venture. They need utmost attention in a quiet environment thus there is usually the need to use individual pens.

There should be provision for a  furrowing pen, heating and cooling arrangements, piglet nest/box, creep feed/starter feed for piglets in a creep area. The spacing does not mean a cube for every pig but the calculations should be done whenever housing many pigs using these standard requirements. Once this is achieved, you are ready to stock your pigsty. Selection of pigs There are generally five exotic breeds of pigs. These are chosen according to production targets and prevailing weather conditions. These breeds are highly susceptible to infections but at the same time highly prolific producers and with up to 3kilos daily weight gain.

These breeds are Large White which was originally kept as a free range breed, it is highly adaptable to different production systems. It is the most preferred breed because of its wide availability and high prolificacy with an average litter size of 12 piglets. Large Whites have excellent maternal skills and high milk production. The Landrace is an excellent breed for pork and bacon production. Not as prolific as the Large White but the piglets (average 10) have the highest daily weight gain. The Yorkshire is also among the largest pig breeds. They are good mothers, with an average litter size of 12.

Hampshire breed is known for good quality bacon with average litter size of nine piglets. Hampshire litter has a higher weaning rate compared to the Landrace. Other breeds include the Tibetan, Duroc, Tamworth and Meishan — a breed developed in China. It’s highly prolific with a litter size of 14 to 17 and 8 to 9 pairs of teats. Breeding and profitability Picture this: You purchase two pregnant sows from the most affordable source at between Sh30,000 to Sh60,000 from your source. Since sows can only be confirmed pregnant any time after 23 days post service, by the time of purchase, only about three months will be required until they furrow. Other costs to factor in include transport and veterinary costs.

Within three months, your sows will produce an average 11 piglets each if taken good care of, your pigs will have grown to 24. These pigs can be sold either as weaners at about Sh3,000 each or can be kept up to about seven to eight months after which they can be sold or bred. The live weight of pigs at eight months is 90 to 120kg depending on the feeding system. The dressed weight of the same is between 60kgs and 70kgs. This is where the money is. One finisher pig will cost between Sh13,000 and Sh16,000. This is irresistible wealth assuming you sell 15 of all the weaned piglets! It is possible that if you have started this business in your area where pig production has not picked up, you can be the source of breeding stock.  

Assume half of the litter was female without any abnormalities and you serve all of them using a quality boar and sell them as pregnant sows. Selling at the cheapest cost of Sh30,000, this is a cool Sh330,000 or more. A boar to serve the gilts can be purchased and bred on farm or a group of farmers can pool together to keep boars for their use ensuring there are no reproductive infections in their sows. Boar services can also be hired at a fee. Feeding of pigs A business venture without expenses is no business. Pigs have to be fed, they have to get veterinary attention among other expenses. Every age of pigs must be fed according to physiological requirements that will lead to the highest weight gain and high prolificacy in breeding sows. The feed can either be self formulated or can be commercial.

The commercial preparations are normally well compounded and balanced unless purchased from unscrupulous manufacturers. Most of the time feeds are bought with manufacturer’s specifications. Feeding pigs on commercial feeds Balanced pig feed should ensure optimum growth, body maintenance and the production of meat and milk for lactation sows. Locally available feeds that are inexpensive, but can be nutritionally complete when properly prepared. Sometimes, pigs can be fed well, using only kitchen leftovers from a family’s household. As usual, nutritional needs of pigs can be divided into six classes — water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Feeding equipment Like other animals, pigs are fed on feeding troughs. To prevent wastage and soiling or the shed, a food trough should be firmly anchored on the floor of the pigsty to ensure it is not overturned.

Like other animals, pigs prefer fresh non-contaminated feed for optimum growth and production. To maintain hygiene standards, ensure feed troughs are not mouldy or clogged with water. Pig feeding time must be established to make the animals familiar with a feeding regime and they should be fed according to age and size. The feeding area must also have sufficient space to allow all animals to feed sufficiently. Feed troughs have to be frequently washed to ensure proper hygiene. Watering equipment must also be kept clean and watered always (provide water adlibitum). Troughs, bowls or nipples can be used depending on the farm size and automation.

These must also be fixed to avoid overturning by the animals. The daily water intake per animal varies with the lactating sow being the highest at about 20 to 30 litres. Sourcing best breed Once all this is achieved; capital, pig shed, feeding troughs, a known source of feed and advice from a qualified veterinary practitioner, you are good to go. To source pigs, identify seasoned pig farmers with best practices in the field to purchase from. Such can include rural folks who have been at it for several years. The other formidable source of breeding stock is Farmer’s Choice for those who can afford since it also provides a huge market for live pigs hygienically kept according to their recommended standards. The other sources of breeding pigs include the University of Nairobi Vet Farm in Kabete among other institutions. Free roaming pigs Pig farming sounds lucrative yes, but if you intend to keep pigs as free range animals, please keep off it! The reason behind this is that you and your free roaming pigs could be the cause of acquired epilepsy in your neighbourhood. (Look out for Part 2 on pig breeding and diseases) The writer is a veterinarian surgeon based at the University of Nairobi

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