Sunday December 3 2017

Basics for small-scale pig farming

Ms Amooti in a pig sty at her home in Masaka. She

A farmer in a pig sty at her home in Masaka. File photo  

By Christine Katende

The size of your pig housing infrastructure will depend on the number of pigs you have. Ideally, it should be strong, simple and adaptable, says Joseph Masaba a principle technician, livestock breeding at National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI).
Recently, we discussed the basics needed for a pig farming operation. These include a reliable water supply and sufficient capital to start the operation and keep it going until sale of the first batch of pigs.
Some farmers invest in livestock but forget that it takes time and money to grow them to marketable size.
This article considers the basics needed for a small pig farming operation: design, infrastructure, construction cost, and running costs, including feed, early in the operation.
The basic infrastructure depends on how many pigs you want to keep.
The design should ideally allow for adding further pens as your operation grows.
Masaba, who is currently lecturing agriculture students and prospective farmers at the National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), in Serere District, advises farmers to construct a simple and ideal structure before buying the weaners.
“The structure must comprise four different units such as a rearing pen, furrowing pen, boar pen and a sow pen,” says Masaba.

Turnover
Your cash turnover cycle will also be quicker, as you will not need to feed a sow for four months while it is pregnant, manage the birth process, and then feed the piglets until selling them.
It is crucial to consider the economics. Is it worth your while to feed the sow for so many months, or should you let another farmer do this for you, leaving you only the task of growing the weaners out to ‘porker’ or ‘baconer’ size?.
If you start with six weaners (a practical number), one holding enclosure is fine but two are better in case you need to separate weaker feeders from greedy or aggressive ones, a common problem in pig farming.

Types of shelter
Pig shelters can be built in several ways, with some designs being more solid than others. You can also use the structure of an existing outbuilding, adding internal compartments as needed.
Brick and mortar construction is strong but expensive, and the layout cannot easily be changed at a later stage.
Using medium-heavy steel gates to form enclosures around the sleeping areas is highly recommended as this is cheaper than building walls.
Using wire or heavy duty cable ties, link the gates to one another to create a firm structure.
You can at any time change the arrangement/size of the enclosures.
Avoid using net or other types of fencing.
A pig is a strong animal and may start biting or forcing its nose through such a fence and eventually create an escape route.
You may have to cover a gate with some form of netting when housing young weaners, which can escape through the bars.

Guidelines
•Each pig requires about 4m² of pen space (including the sleeping area, about one-third of the pen).
•The total pen area for six pigs should be about 24m² (4m x 6m).
•Remember this when making or buying steel gates. Ideally, these should be 2m long, with no gaps wider than 15cm between the bars.
“If you have a tight budget, make sure each of the four pens in a mother structure is two by one and half metres. You must cover it with iron sheets and make sure at the end of every pen you put a run,” Masaba adds.
Concrete or paved surfaces are easier to clean. Otherwise site the pens on slightly sloping ground for water run-off when it rains. A permanently muddy surface with puddles of waterbreeds disease.

Costs
According to Masaba, low cost housing materials are available on the market. “You need to draw a budget for materials such as bricks, sand, cement, timber, nails and gauge wire,” he says. The approximate cost, Masaba says should be Shs1.5m.
“You do not need to break the banks to have a simple structure,” Masaba advises.
Additional reporting Farmersweekly

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