Pig farming guide for beginners: How to start your own pig farm business

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It may surprise you to know that pork (pig meat) is the most widely consumed meat in the world, followed by poultry and beef. Surprised, right?

The value of trade in pig products around the world runs into billions of dollars every year and Africa enjoys less than 5 percent of this action. China, with a fifth of the world’s population, is both the largest producer and net importer of pig products on the planet!

Compared with other livestock such as sheep, goats and cattle, pigs are sensitive animals requiring a higher level of management. However, when farmed properly, they can yield a better financial return 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.

They are also market-ready far sooner.

A pig farmer has two options: intensive or free range. In the former, pigs are kept in a high- density, closed housing system. In free-range farming, 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 the novice pig farmer must also consider other factors before taking the plunge.

Before you start a pig production business, you have to decide how many pigs you want to keep, where you are going 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 feasibility study, market research and write a business plan before you venture into any business. Do not make the mistake of starting a piggery business or any other business just because someone is doing it and he/she says it’s profitable.

Several factors have to be put in place when rearing pigs in an intensive unit. Arid to semi-arid environments often pose a challenge when it comes to pig rearing. Costly feed supply such as maize which is the main ingredient in feed diets has resulted in a significant drop in pig production especially in an intensive setup.

Crucial factors to consider when rearing pigs:

– Biosecurity: effective disease control measures ought to be put in place to minimize spread of diseases from the outside into the piggery unit. The initiative are basically:
* footbaths for the employees as they enter a piggery unit/section;
* strict control of cellular phones which are often neglected by most as they move with people everywhere;
* specific clothing for employees in the piggery unit, in order to guarantee that home clothes will not be exposed to the pigs in case of a disease outbreak.
– Adequate nutrition: Sufficient well balanced nutrition has to be fed at all times, in particular trace mineral elements magnesium, sodium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium etc.
– Cooling facilities: Pigs do not have sweat glands, hence they rely heavily on support from the farmer especially in the summer months. Use of water sprinklers and fans are appropriate to regulate the pigs’ body temperature. Since, extreme high temperatures may result in pigs succumbing to stress and eventually death.
– Manure disposal sites: Ideal disposal of manure on a farm has to be put into consideration, as frequent contact with manure may promulgate disease causing micro-organisms.
– Avoid mixing different age groups: So as to minimize bullying among sows, boars and piglets. When feeding one may be faced with a serious challenge of bullying.

There are a multitude of pig species available throughout the world. For setting up it is better to use local breeds because they are already adapt to the climate and are easily available within the area.

For breeding them it is better to start with piglets: grow and 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.

WAYS OF FARMING PIGS

Usually pigs are farmed on a barn/hut (intensive) or on pasture (free-range).

– Barn/hut (intensive): to be able to farm pigs on an intensive way, the barn or hut should be made of a humidity and heat resistant material such as concrete, the feed area and the rest area should be separated for easy cleaning. A feeding area of at least 3 meters wide is perfect for every two pigs. The rest 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.

– Pasture (free-range): to farm pigs on a free-range, first we need to have a large 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.

HOUSING

Making a good house with the availability of all required facilities is very important for successful pig farming business. A good house not only keeps the pigs healthy, but also helps them to 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 facility for keeping the boar, farrowing, weaner and dry sow separated from each other.

FEEDING

Feeding the pigs with good quality and nutritious food is the most important part of commercial pig production. Good food not only help to keep the pigs healthy, but also help them to grow better and gain weight faster. You can feed your pigs with almost everything. You can either feed them ready made commercial feeds or you can prepare the feeds of your own.

You can select the most economical ingredients for preparing the feeds. Basic ingredients of pig feed are oat, grains, maize, wheat, rice, sorghum and other millets. You can add some protein supplements like oil cakes, fishmeal and meat meal.

Add all types of mineral supplements and vitamins. Add antibiotic supplements at the rate of 11 mg per kg. It would be better if you can allow your pigs to browse in the pasture and feed fresh green legumes.

The best way to feed the pigs of a farm, is to keep them and feed them separately. That means, keep the different aged 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.

BREEDING

Pigs are naturally very good breeders. They will breed easily if you keep good ratio of sows and boars.

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 for 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 become ready for breeding again 2-10 days after weaning. Gestation period of pigs is not more than 115 days. Generally, a sow can give birth of piglets twice a year, and about 8-12 piglets each time.

HEALTH AND DISEASES

Pigs production depends on the well-being of the animals. Pig farm animals tend to be profitable if 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 surface, excessively long hair, backbone showing, etc.

It is advisable never to slaughter pig farm animals that are on antibiotic medications for about 21-45 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 for humans.