Pig farming: A good business to consider

Pig farming is an emerging sector in Uganda. With an estimated population of 3.4 million pigs spread through 1.1 million households, these figures indicate most are small-scale farmers, keeping from one to three pigs.

There is an increasing consumption of pork in the country. At 3.4kg per person per year, a report by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows Uganda has the highest per capita consumption of pork in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike other countries where the consumption is boosted by tourists, Ugandans consume their own pork.

Since most producers are smallholders, the pigs produced are insufficient for the market. Most traders face limited supply especially after seasonal celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Martyr’s Day and Independence Day. This indicates there is sufficient market for pork in but limited supply.

Given this great opportunity, why do pig farmers fail? There are mainly two reasons for this: Lack of production information and lack of market information.
Apart from having adequate capital to invest, the need to have the necessary information is paramount.

Farm types
There are three main pig farm systems: Farrow-to-wean, where a farmer concentrate on production of piglets for the market. Fattening, where a farmer concentrates on growing pigs purposely for pork. Farrow-to-finish, where a farmer combines all above.

The fourth one would be a boar stud, where farmers keep male pigs purposely for semen collection. Before adapting any of these systems, farmers must analyse market availability.

If you choose farrow-to-wean, you must understand the different seasons when piglets are on a high demand and target your sows to produce in such time. You must also understand the price given per pig in your own locality.

Due to the fact that there is limited specialisation in pig farming, the main market for piglets is usually in your own locality. Understanding the price is very important for you to make planned investment.

There is huge market for pork, this makes fattening the most interesting system. However this requires preparation to avoid losses, selection of good breeding stock, proper feeding, health and general management.

Distance and weight
The distance from the main towns to the farm is a consideration because most pork is consumed in towns and citys than in rural areas. However, if the number produced is large enough, distance may not be a limiting factor to access competitive markets and prices.

Many pig traders determine weight by visual estimations and because such traders are more experienced than farmers, they have a chance to underestimate the animals. The best way is slaughtering and paid against kilogrammes on offer.
The increasing costs of maintaining farm boars by medium-holder pig farmers and relying on village boars by smallholders have raised the need for artificial insemination.

Invest in pig semen
There is no farmer currently investing in this kind of farming, yet it is very lucrative. Boar studs require more than just keeping male pigs. A farmer must invest in qualified labour to collect, process, store and transport semen. Boar semen cannot be frozen however boar semen extenders are available on market.

These can increase semen viability to about seven days. Also, boar semen is very sensitive to changes in temperature. This decreases its viability so a farmer must invest in thermostat to regulate temperatures. Access to boar semen is still a problem in East Africa so a farmer can extend the product to the other countries.

Factors to consider
Average Daily Gain: Daily weight gain from weaning to market influences profit because fast growing animals have to be kept only for fewer days, thus requiring less labour, housing and health care. Weight at 154 days of age includes both pre- and post-weaning growth and therefore is an important economic trait.

Feed Conversion Ratio: This is the amount of feed required for a kilogramme weight gain by individual pigs. It is difficult to calculate as it requires individual feeding, which requires additional costs. Besides, the rate of weight gain and efficiency of feed conversion depends on the relationship between the two traits, which varies with differences in breed, feeding and management.

Genetics: This largely affects the two factors above. Pigs with genetically poor Average Daily Gain and Feed Conversion Ratio lead to poor farm efficiency. Genetics also affect litter size, fat levels in porkers, adaptability, mother-ability and others.

Reproduction: The ability to identify individual pigs on heat and the choice of either keeping (a) farm boar(s) directly affects farm productivity. Poor management of pregnant mothers and their piglets increases mortality hence losses.

Health, feeds and house
Health: The main threat is African Swine Fever, a highly contagious viral disease that affects pigs of all ages characterised by sudden onset, rapid transmission, and high mortality.

The disease is transmitted through direct contact, contaminated feeds or equipment, or the germs carried via workers and vehicles. It is prevented by implementing proper farm security, for example limiting entry of stray animals, visitors and untrusted feedstuffs. This should be followed by effective disinfection of visitors and equipment used on farm, restrict feeding and avoiding restocking from areas under quarantine.

Feeding: Feeds account for between 60 to 70 per cent of the total cost of production. Therefore, correct feeding is critical. If feeding is incorrect, profit and income will suffer. Giving a right feed for the right age, weight, breeding stage and health is a challenge faced by many farmers. The inability to identify counterfeit feeds on market has also led to failure of many farms. Integrating pig farming with crop production is the best way to minimise feed costs. No single feedstuff can supply all nutrients required for a pig. Pigs are monogastric, thus inefficient converters of forages therefore do not only rely on fodder.

Housing: It must be convenient to enable thriving of individual pigs. Weaned piglets, pregnant sows nearing delivery and sick pigs must be considered during house planning. Boars tend to be aggressive and due to the fact that females on heat join it for mating, its house must be strong enough. There is no need to adopt expensive plans when operating on a limited budget. This may affect feeding and health leading to poor productivity. Well-constructed temporary houses can as well fully accommodate the pigs. Proper housing limits spread of African Swine Fever and other diseases.

The author is the production manager, Pig Production and Marketing Uganda.


SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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