Did you to know that pork (pig meat) is the most widely consumed meat in the world. 36% of the meat consumed in the world is pig meat, followed by poultry with 33%. Sitting comfortably at third position is beef with 24%. Surprised, right? Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) published these statistics recently.
Across the world, the pig industry and its by-products run into billions of dollars every year and Africa enjoys less than 5 percent of this multi-billion-dollar business. China, with a fifth of the world’s population, is both the largest producer and net importer of pig products on the planet! The United States of America produces 13 percent of the world’s pork. In 2020, the value of the United States pork exports surpassed $7.7 billion in value. In total, more than 6.56 billion pounds of pork was exported to China and other countries across the world.
Pigs are sensitive animals that need a higher level of care and management as compared to other livestock such as sheep, goats and cattle. However, when raised properly, pigs can give the farmer a better return on investment because of their breeding rate (10 piglets in a good litter) and a feed-to-meat conversion ratio that is far better than that of other livestock. Because of the very high growth rate, pigs are ready for market much earlier than most livestock.
As a beginning pig farmer, you have two options, to do free-range pig farming or to do intensive pig farming. With intensive farming, pigs are kept in a high- density closed housing system whereas in a free-range pig farming setup, they are run in smallish camps, foraging on feed crops such as oats, barley, lucerne and even grass. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, but a pig farming beginner should also consider other factors before venturing into pig farming and this tutorial will explore all that.
Before you start a pig farming project, you have to decide how many pigs you want to farm, where you are going to keep them, and your target market. The number of pigs you keep will depend on the amount of land and capital you have, and also the size of your target market. You should always carry out a market research, cost-benefit analysis and write a business plan before you venture into any business. Do not make the mistake of starting a piggery business or any other farming project just because someone is doing it and they are making a lot of money.
Before you start your intensive pig farming business, a number of factors have to be put in place. Dry and semi-desert environments often pose a challenge when it comes to pig farming. In the pig farming business, costly feed supply such as maize which is the main ingredient in pig feed diets has resulted in a significant drop in pig production especially in an intensive setup. We will talk about this later in this tutorial, for now lets talk about measures and systems to put in place as you start your pig farming business.
Also take note of the following tips when setting up your pig farm structures and systems:
Effective disease control measures should to be put in place to minimize spread of diseases from the outside into the piggery unit. For that reason, it's a good idea to set up foot baths for the employees as they enter the piggery unit/section. Some farmers go as far as imposing a strict control of cell phones which are often neglected by most workers as they move with people everywhere.
Giving your farm workers specific cloths to wear in the piggery unit in order to guarantee that home clothes will not be exposed to the pigs in case of a disease outbreak is also a good disease control measure.
2. ADEQUATE NUTRITION
In every farming business, proper nutrition is the major factor for success. Sufficient well balanced pig feed has to be fed at all times, in particular, trace mineral elements like magnesium, sodium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc and selenium should be found in your pig feed. Also always ferment pig feed, the same way we ferment chicken feed. The concept is very much the same and fermented pig feed is much more healthy than dry feed.
3. COOLING FACILITIES
Pigs do not have sweat glands, hence they rely heavily on support from the farmer especially in the summer months. Use water sprinklers and fans to regulate the pigs’ body temperature. Where fans can not be provided or where funds are very limited, then set up pigpens or pig houses with lots of ventilation. Extreme high temperatures may result in pigs succumbing to stress and eventually death.
4. PIG MANURE DISPOSAL MECHANISMS
A swine farmer should always have an ideal disposal system for pig manure on their pig farm as frequent contact with manure may promulgate disease-causing micro-organisms. Did you know that pig manure is the best animal manure you can get for most horticulture projects? Pig manure has all the 13 nutrients and minerals that most plants require for excellent growth. So for that reason, consider venturing into horticulture as well and grow tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cabbages or even potatoes, then use your pig manure there. You can even do fish farming and pig manure makes excellent fish feed. For more information about integrating horticulture and livestock, please watch my Best Farming Tips Youtube video.
5. AVOID MIXING DIFFERENT AGE GROUPS
So as to minimize bullying among sows, boars and piglets, always group pigs according to their age. When feeding one may be faced with a serious challenge of bullying. You will also achieve good growth rates and minimize fatal fights when pigs and piglets of the same age are housed together.
There are over 50 different types of pig breeds in pig farming business throughout the world. These various meat pig breeds all offer different pros and cons. Some of the most common pig breeds are Yorkshire pigs, Duroc pigs, Berkshire pigs, Landrace pigs, Meishan pigs, Large White pigs, Chester White pigs, Hampshire pigs, Pietrain pigs, Hereford pigs and Tamworth pigs.
For setting up it is better to use local breeds because they have already adapted to your climate and are easily available within your country or town.
For breeding purposes, it is better to start with piglets. Grow and eventually sell them, since you will be able to gain experience during the process in addition to being able to develop management protocols. Your management expertise should be sound since breeding is far more complicated than rearing pigs. We will talk about breeding pigs and more about pig breeds in the next videos.
WAYS OF FARMING PIGS
Usually pigs are farmed on a barn or hut or pigpen, which is intensive pig farming. Another alternative is the pasture or free-range pig farming.
1. Barn or pigpen (intensive)
To be able to raise pigs on an intensive setup, the barn or pigpen should be made of a humidity and heat resistant material such as concrete. The feed area and the resting area should be separated for easy cleaning. A feeding area of at least 3 meters wide (or 10 feet wide) is perfect for every two pigs. The resting area should be about half the size of the feeding area and should have a small pool for them to bath. Thus, if we consider these precautions we will be able to easily farm pigs.
2 Pasture (free-range)
To farm pigs on a free-range setup, we need to have a large pasture area with plenty of grass and soil, and the area needs to be fenced for the pigs not to roam too far off and be secure. Farmers should be careful about the structure of the fence, because adult pigs can damage the fence and escape.
Making a good house with the availability of all required facilities is very important for a successful pig farming project. A good pig house or pigpen or pig hut not only keeps the pigs healthy, but also helps them stay free from adverse weather conditions.
Install a good ventilation system, and ensure flow of sufficient amount of fresh air and light inside the house. Make proper facilities for keeping the boar, farrowing, weaner and dry sow separated from each other.
Feeding the pigs with good quality and nutritious food is the most important part of commercial pig production. Good pig feed keeps the pigs healthy and also helps them grow faster and gain weight faster. You can feed your pigs almost everything, but some feeds are more nutritious than others. You can either feed them ready made commercial feed or you can make your own pig feed. Which ever method you choose to use, I strongly recommend you to ferment your pig feed for three days before giving the feed to the pigs. Fermented feed is more nutritious and more healthy and increases in mass as compared to non-fermented feed. The same way we ferment chicken feed, is the exact way we ferment pig feed.
Formulating your own pig feed is the cheapest way of feeding your pigs. You can select the most economical ingredients for preparing the feeds. Basic ingredients of pig feed are oat, grains, maize, wheat, rice, sorghum and pearl millet. You can add some protein supplements like sunflower seeds or soybean cake, fishmeal and meat meal.
Add all types of mineral supplements and vitamins. Add antibiotic supplements at the rate of 11mg per kg. It would be ideal if you can allow your pigs to browse in the pasture and feed on fresh green legumes. The best way to feed the pigs on a farm is to keep them and feed them separately. That means, keep the different age groups of pigs separately and feed them according to their age and weight.
Along with feeding nutritious food, always serve them sufficient amount of clean and fresh water. Providing adequate water is very important for good growth of the pigs.
Pigs are naturally very good breeders. They will breed easily if you keep good ratio of sows and boars. This is usually one boar per 20 sows with supervised hand matings, but in small herds or under extensive conditions, the ratio could be between 15 and 18 sows per boar. Pigs generally reach breeding age faster. Both boars and sows become suitable for breeding within their 8 months of age.
Heat period of a sow lasts 2 to 3 days. But the first day during the heat period of a gilt is the best time to breed, and the second day is the best day for a sow.
A lactating sow becomes ready for breeding again 2 to 10 days after weaning her piglets. Gestation period of pigs is not more than 115 days. It's usually called 3 months – 3 weeks – 3 days. Generally, a sow can give birth to piglets twice a year, with about 8 to 12 piglets per litter.
HEALTH AND DISEASE PREVENTION
Pig production depends on the well-being of the swine. Farmed pigs tend to be more profitable when all the animals are healthy.
Consider consulting a professional vet for diagnosis in case you notice some weird symptoms such as low appetite, diarrhea, eye discharge, excessive coughing, hernia, dry skin and irregular spots on the skin surface, excessively long fur, backbone showing, etc.
It is advisable not to slaughter pigs that are on antibiotic medications for about 21 to 45 days. Consult a vet before considering to sacrifice them for tests. The pig antibiotics take long to dissolve in the blood, and they are unhealthy to humans.