Commercial piggery requires keeping pigs with known history of performance in daily weight gain, feed conversion, litter size, environment adaptability, temperament, meat quality, average daily gain and the possibility to pass them to future generations.
Market preference should also be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a pig. Therefore careful choice of breeds is vital for a profitable business operation.
The continuity of profitable pig farming largely depends on the ability of farmers to reduce chances of inbreeding and implementation of sustainable genetic improvement plans.
There are several breeds of pigs in the world. Here are the available and more preferred in Uganda.
Large White: These are distinguished by their erect ears and slightly dished faces. They are long-bodied with excellent hams and fine white hair. Prolific, late maturing with good mothering ability and can be used for pork and bacon production. They are fairly hardy animals. Large white are found practically in all crossbreeding and rotational breeding programmes. Sows have an enviable reputation as dams and form the foundation of the classic F1 hybrid gilt. They are one of the favourite breeds in the country though have not been put to proper use due to lack of the art of pig breeding.
Landrace: It is a versatile breed performing well under good management. They are white in colour, have drooping ears and a straight snout. Sows produce and rear large litters of piglets with good daily gain and high lean meat content ideal for pork production.
Durocs: They are golden brown to black in colour with a thick coat and hard skin. They have small, slightly drooping ears. Traditionally, Durocs have been used as terminal sires (traits are quick growth, deep body, broad ham and shoulder). Its tenacity in looking after its young, combined with its docility between times, makes it an ideal candidate for an outdoor pig either as a sire or as a dam. Its succulent carcass and heavy muscling makes it a suitable pig for anything from light pork to heavy pig production.
Hampshire: The breed has been developed in US and is now one of the world’s most important breeds. It is used extensively as the sire of cross-bred pigs for pork production. The Hampshire is very prolific. It produces an abundance of lean meat and has more meat than the Large White or Landrace. Hampshires have erect ears and black with a belt through the girth—a strip of white across the shoulders that cover the front legs around the body.
Camboroughs: They are a product of a cross-breeding system known as criss-crossing—an alternated use of boars of two or more breeds on the female stock produced in a herd. This distributes good characteristics from many different breed lines involved and these are related to meat fat distribution (carcass quality), disease resistance, larger litter size and others. The animal is usually white in colour but, in rare cases, may show characteristics of particular breeds involved in the criss-crossing. The breed is preferred by many Ugandans.
Generally, the prices cut across all these breeds depending on age: Two months (Shs150,000) three months (Shs300,000) four months (Shs400,000) five months (Shs500,000) six months (Shs600,000) pregnant sows and boars ready to serve (Shs900,000).
Principles of pig breeding
The main objective in the selection of a breeding pig is to produce large number of litters of fast-growing pigs, which are capable of being fattened to marketable weight at the age of six months that is 90 to 120 kilogrammes with fair distribution of meat and fat on slaughter.
While selecting a pig for breeding, the principle considerations are:
Type of appearance; Before selection, one should have a clear picture of the appearance of desirable type of pig for breeding and this includes general form and conformation and breed type, size or weight for age, strength of feet and legs, development of high priced regions, that is, the back and loin, teat development and performance ability.
Performance ability: Productive ability of a gilt or sow is an important factor in its selection. Sows with higher litter number and weight should be selected.
A good to excellent level of performance for a gilt first litter is eight or more piglets and, in the case of sow, not less than 10 piglets.
Pedigree; Pigs should be selected from a herd, which has a good pedigree record. These pedigree records provide us with all kinds of information like birth, number of animals in each of the several generations name of the breeder, etc. Selecting pigs from farms where record keeping is poor must be avoided.
Transmitting ability or prepotency, an important test of a boar, gilt or sow as a breeding animal is how well it transmits good characters to its offspring.
A gilt or sow that transmits desired characters to her offspring in a steady manner is said to be highly pre-potent. If a gilt or sow possesses a dominant nature in most of the important genetic traits, such an animal should be selected.
Note: This can only be properly analysed when proper farm records are available.
Health, the boar, gilt or sow selected should be healthy; the farm must be implementing proper bio-security and not located in an area under quarantine. The farm environment must be ideal for survival of a normal animal.
Reliability of the breeder, the person from whom you are selecting the pig for breeding should be truthful and reliable.
He/she should give accurate information on litter size and weights as well as on litter-mates and parents, which depends on the honesty and dependability of the breeder.
Price, price is an important factor in selecting a boar, gilt or sow. One should make sure to get good yield for the money spent.
He should buy a good and healthy pig for breeding, even though if he/she has to spend a little more.
Pig breeding is a scientific practice aimed at genetic improvement through successive generations by planned reproduction.
Successful breeding is an art accomplished by only a few. A successful breeder should have adequate knowledge of various qualities and capabilities of different breeds.
Factors for reproduction in pigs
The age at puberty varies from four to eight months; gilts have their first heat cycle in six to seven months but is better to serve them at the second cycle. Boars attain puberty in seven to eight months. These should be allowed to mount from the ninth month. Attainment of puberty also depends upon breed and environment.
Reproductive cycle denotes to estrous cycle, which is averagely 21 days but can be 18 days in some sows and gilts. The cycle is divided into four different phases and the breeders are mostly concerned with this phase since this is the sexually receptive period in all kinds of animals. It is important to be able to recognise the estrus
The average gestation period of sows is 114 days; more commonly spoken as three months, three weeks, three days. The period may vary from 108 to 124 days.
Giving birth to piglets is known as farrowing. Pigs normally farrow at night, the last part of night or at dawn. The day before farrowing the vulva starts swelling and edematous, udder is fully developed and the number of teats is developed normally according to the size of the litter. The pigs show restlessness, lose appetite, sit idle and thereby giving pressure over the vulva. They prepare their bed for farrowing if they are provided with straws, which are tender and dried. Farrowing normally completes in half an hour but may take longer.
Breeding after farrowing, Sows should not be bred a few days of weaning if their body condition score is very poor although they come into heat during this time. Piglets can be weaned as earlier as four weeks incase creep feed is available or eight weeks in its absence. After five to nine days of weaning on average after seven days, sows come into heat. The farm manager may decide on whether to rest it until the next cycle or inseminate depending on body condition and management during lactation.