How to go about rearing pigs

Uganda has one of the highest consumption rates of pork in Africa but pig production is still low. Carol Nambowa sounds out some experts for key factors for increased production.

Wednesday February 18 2015

Martin Kinobe, a pig farmer feeding piglets.

Martin Kinobe, a pig farmer feeding piglets. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Carol Nambowa

In addition to pork being favourite for many people, due to a high demand for it, rearing pigs is highly profitable. Though many have a stereotype of the animals as dirty animals which live in smelly places, with good husbandry practices, this should not be the case.
Christopher Mulindwa, production manager at Pig Production and Marketing Uganda Ltd, highlights key factors that one should know about when rearing pigs to get the best of it.
With pig production still low despite a rise in pork consumption, change in perception of piggery, better organisation by farmers and value addition are major factors that will boost pig production in Uganda.
But before one starts rearing pigs, they should choose an area they want to concentrate on. “For example, a farmer can rear pigs for piglets, for the market, for pork and for one or more of these,” notes Mulindwa.
As a pig farmer, it is important to take the following aspects into consideration.

Investment
To start pig farming, initial investment is directed towards the breed, housing, and feeds. “Expenditure is high in the first year. Feeding accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the total cost,” he points out.
Before investing, one should take time to plan. He or she should know the product, market and resources required. “The pigs must come from a trusted source because this will be a major determinant of how good the product shall be. To make a decision, farmers should base on the quality of piglets,” Mulindwa cautions. It is best to buy a two-month-old piglet
They should be bought from trustworthy farmers. Proper selection is partly ensured by counting the number of teats on a sow. This is an indicator of the number of piglets it can deliver.
It is also important how one transports the pigs or piglets since they can die due to stress. There should be no compromise since piggery requires a lot of commitment.

Breeds
There are several breeds but the most common in Uganda include: Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, Large White, Large Black and Camborough.
It is better to have cross-breeds because the different good traits are shared. These traits are mother-ability (ability to take care of its piglets) and ability to have a large litter size.
The Large Black commonly referred to as the local breed is advised against by most people because it is a poor food converter and it has slow growth rate.
Reproduction
The ability to identify individual pigs on heat and the choice of keeping a boar on farm directly affects farm productivity. Poor management of pregnant sows and their piglets increases mortality hence losses.
The average breeding age is eight months. The gestation period for a sow is 114 days and on average, litter is 10 to 14 piglets. The weaning age for the piglets is two months. The sow then rests for 14 days before the next breeding.

Handy tips
Farmers are advised to develop a pig-crop system where they can use pig waste as fertilisers for the crops or biogas for domestic use. Secondly, pig farmers are advised to seek veterinary help as soon as they notice a sick pig on their farm.
Farmers are advised to research the market for their prospective products, and how to attain the most from their pigs. Apart from consulting experienced farmers, they can also acquire information from companies or institutions that specialise in piggery.

Feeding
The nutritional needs vary with age, weight, and stage of production. Three types of feeds are available with differing protein content. Though most people assume pigs need a lot to feed on, this is not true.
A pig on average eats two to three kilos a day. The feeds should include all nutritional requirements. The diet should include maize bran, fish meal, cassava, cotton-seed cake, pre-mixed vitamins and water.
When feeding, a farmer should consider the digestibility. So, a farmer should cook the food or chop it up. For things like grass, leaves like potato vines and peels, and other leafy foods, it is best to sun dry for a day to get rid of toxins before they are fed to the pigs.
Genetics also determine a pig’s daily feed conversion ratio and average daily weight gain.
If the genetics are not right, the level of conversion will fail leading to poor farm efficiency. On minimum, a pig should put on 0.6 kgs per day. Genetics also affect litter size, fat levels in porkers, adaptability, mother-ability and other aspects.

Housing
The housing should take into account good drainage and set aside feeding and watering areas.
Methods of housing include structures with a concrete slanting floor or applying Indigenous Micro-Organism (IMO).
Using IMO would require digging about a metre deep in the floor area and fill it with saw dust, coffee husks or rice husks. Compared to concrete floors, IMO is cleaner, cheaper and environment friendly.
When planning for housing, consider setting aside pens (enclosures) for weaned piglets, pregnant sows nearing delivery, sows that have delivered, sick pigs and boars.
There is no need to adopt expensive plans when operating on a limited budget since this may affect feeding and health leading to poor productivity. Well-constructed temporary houses can fully accommodate the pigs.
Proper housing limits spread of African swine fever and other diseases.

Diseases
A pig farmer’s worst fear is African Swine Fever (ASF). This is because the disease has no vaccine or cure and can wipe out a farm. It is an acute contagious viral disease affects both domestic and wild pigs.
Brian Kawuma, communication specialist, Smallholder Pig Value Chain Projects at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) explains: “Wild pigs carry the virus but do not get sick or have signs of it. Humans and other species are not affected by the disease. The virus is released in the blood, faeces, saliva, urine and vomit of sick animals, which then can contaminate food, farm equipment, vehicles and other objects in the environment.”
Pigs can also pick up the virus when they eat infected food. It is spread from pig to pig by direct or indirect contact via contaminated items.
“Items that can get contaminated include vehicles used to transport infected animals, farm tools, feeding troughs, boots and veterinary equipment,” Kawuma adds.
Christopher Mulindwa, production manager at Pig Production and Marketing Uganda Ltd, notes that this is the reason farmers are advised to limit public access to their farms or disinfect visitors’ shoes and other attire while on farm visits.
Furtherstill, to avoid infections such as these, Martin Kinobe, a pig farmer, and members of his household, agreed not to eat pork from anywhere else unless it is from their farm.
The virus is present in the meat, bones, blood, skin and all other body parts of infected pigs with the highest concentration in the blood.
Therefore, meat and other body parts can transmit the disease. It is for this reason that farmers should avoid careless disposal after slaughtering sick pigs.
Another health threatening aspect is parasite infestation.
In an ILRI assessment carried out in 2013, parasites were considered endemic in the pigs in Uganda, resulting in low pig productivity and profitability among smallholder systems.
“A more in-depth assessment using laboratory methods indicated the existence of worms and external parasites including mites, lice, ticks and biting flies in pigs,” adds Kawuma.
Insufficient knowledge, low health-management skills and poor husbandry practices were identified as the principal factors contributing to the problem. It is important to give the pig vaccinations to ensure they will be disease resistant.

Marketing
A piglet bought at two months old is ready for sale within six months. Profits per pig range from Shs200,000 to Shs300,000.
In order for farmers to increase their chances of making more profits, it is advisable for them to get into groups and sell in bulk.
Farming in groups gives farmers strong bargaining power. For instance, 30 farmers with two pigs each to sell, will have a total of 60 pigs which increases their bargaining power than one selling two pigs to a buyer that wants 60 pigs.
In a group, famers can share transport costs to the abattoir as well as slaughter costs. Pork is bought in three grades of whole pork with fat, pork with bones, and pork without bones. Farmers can also attain a lot through groups by starting savings and loans schemes, which enables farmers to access funds easily and repay the money with interest.
The current average price of a kilogramme of pork is Shs6,000. Farmers can add value to their pork by carrying out processing themselves.
A farmer can do simple processing after inspection by a district veterinary doctor and then slaughter the pig.
There is also an increasing market for pig offals and legs.
For more market, farmers can also establish their own pork joint, which will act as a direct market for their animals.

A farmer’s experience

My plan is to earn Shs5m per week
My name is Martin Kinobe, 33, an IT specialist, and I have been rearing pigs for one year and a half. Right now, I have 84 pigs including the latest litter of 12 piglets. Roughly, we have had a turnover of 200 piglets. I started with five sows and a boar.
From my research, I found out a six-month-old pig if fed for two months, would be able to get pregnant and give birth. This is as opposed to starting at an earlier age and incurring feeding costs for six months before it gives birth. This worked for me.
Also, I learnt about Pig Production and Marketing Uganda (PPM) as a valuable source of information. And that the Camborough breed has good quality meat, is better at mothering its piglets and has a fast growth rate.
I bought the five sows at six months and the boar at eight months. Each sow was Shs450,000 while the boar was Shs500,000.
I have an employee who I provide with accommodation, food and pay Shs100,000 per month.

Housing
My biggest cost was the housing because of the urban setting. I had to use bricks and a concrete floor. It cost Shs800,000 to build six units for the pigs.

Feeding
We put the pigs on a fattening diet rich in proteins and carbohydrates so that by six months they have gained 60 to 80 kgs. We also feed them on pre-mixed vitamins to boost immunity.
For maize bran, I get from maize which I grow in Nakawuka. But when maize bran is cheaper on the market, I buy it. When prices are up, I mill my own maize which is a cheaper option.
An average pig consumes two to three kilos a day. A boar’s feed is increased only when it is about to serve and a sow’s when pregnant and after delivery. We increase the amount for a sow based on the number of piglets. That is half a kilo for every two piglets.
The first two months, a piglet is breastfeeding. In the third month, it eats about half a kilo a day and the three kilos in the following three months. Therefore, it costs about 30,000 per pig per month fed for three months. After selling it at Shs500,000 you have about Shs 220,000 as profit per pig. This is if you follow the right procedure.
The pigs have to be trained to feed at specific times; in the mornings and evenings. In the day, we give them more water. Each pig needs to take 10 litres of water per day. Never feed a pig on food that has gone bad. If you believe that pigs eat anything and feed them like that, their growth will be stunted.

Challenges
One of the main challenges is the price of feeds. Even if costs go up, the customer maintains the standard price for a kilo of pork. Another challenge is that sometimes drugs like those for deworming are fake. One has to do a repeat treatment.
Another problem I faced at the start was of middlemen who offered very low prices but I now go to the consumers and bargain for a good price. I sometimes go through PPM to sell and also encourage farmers who previously bought piglets from me and want to sell to join me so that we sell in bulk.
Diseases
What we do for diseases is prevention by ensuring that the pigs receive the right drugs at the right time, are in a clean environment and try as much as possible to restrict visitors.
We prevent African Swine Fever by limiting access to the farm, disinfecting people that work in the farm and keeping the sties clean.
We also supplement by giving the pigs a vitamin shot every two months.

Market
Since it is is a pure Camborough, I sell piglets at Shs150,000 each but the price is negotiable. When I have many male pigs, I castrate them and feed them up to six months then sell them to Fresh Cuts which buys them in bulk and to nearby abattoirs. A kilo of pork at the abattoir is at Shs6,500 and Shs7,500 to Shs8,500 at Fresh Cuts. When you sell a kilo by yourself on the market, it is Shs 10,000. For 10 pigs, one makes about Shs5m selling each at Shs500,000.

Future plans
I plan to expand so that I am able to sell 10 pigs per week. And also to provide consultancies for farmers who want to learn. I charge 100,000 for learning on the farm.

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