Pig farming, of all the livestock production methods, can be considered the easiest. This kind of farming requires fewer inputs than other animal farming methods. People practice pig farming either for commercial purposes or as a small-scale venture. Commercial pig farmers supply large quantities of meat (pork), while small-scale farmers use pig farming to supplement the food requirements in the domestic household and earn a little extra income.
Whether a large-scale farmer or a small-scale farmer, everyone should know the basics of this farming method. To have a successful venture in pig farming, you should know about the different types of pig breeds, styles of raising pigs, pig diseases, and what your pigs will need to be healthy and provide good yields. In this article, we shall learn about all that and more to equip the reader with the necessary information on how to start and maintain a pig rearing venture successfully. We shall also demonstrate why more and more pig farmers are shifting to organic pig farming for better and healthy products. Keep reading the article to gain the best information about pig farming.
Table of Contents
- Reasons for Pig Farming
- Benefits of Pig Farming
- Common Pig Breeds
- Pig Farming Methods
- Organic Pig Farming
- Pig Diseases
- Important Information for Beginners
- FAQs About Farming
- Final Thoughts
Reasons for Pig Farming
The following are the main reasons why most people practice pig farming:
1. Meat production
Meat production is the foremost reason why many farmers choose to rear pigs. Pig meat, commonly known as pork, is a widely consumed product globally, with many countries having this product as a significant export. Unlike other meat-producing animals, Pigs are known to convert feed into meat very fast. While you may have to wait for the other animals to mature for a long time, pigs will be ready in less than eight months, with some of them being ready in five. That makes pig meat production a lucrative business for farmers with quick expected returns.
2. Skin production
Skin is also another reason why farmers choose pig production. That is because it can be used for various reasons, including food and as a source of leather. A pig’s skin is fatty, and some people opt to use it as meat instead of processing it into other products. That is why in a majority of the pig meat, the skin will be intact, that is, part of the meat. The skin can also be processed into leather, making many human accessories like shoes, bags, wallets, etc.
3. Breeding of piglets
Pig breeding is another reason why some people consider pig production. That is because breeding piglets to suit a particular environment or customer needs can be lucrative. These farmers will produce desirable piglets to sell to new or existing farmers. Some farmers may want pigs that mature faster or that are disease resistant, which becomes the task of the breeder to provide piglets suited to those specific needs. The demand of a particular area will dictate the kind of piglets the breeder will breed.
Benefits of Pig Farming
A pig farmer will gain several benefits from pig farming. Some of those benefits are:
1. Good waste management
Pigs are known to eat most of the table and food leftovers, which makes it a promising avenue for disposing of such waste. That is why large institutions with large amounts of leftovers like schools and hospitals are advised to keep pigs to have a productive way of disposing of their waste food remains. Although the modern pig farmer has moved away from feeding pigs waste food to more modern feeds, pig farming remains the most economical food waste management process in the big institutions.
2. Source of income
Although raring pigs is a lucrative business opportunity for large-scale farmers, small-scale farmers and starters can also tap into the market since it is ever growing with the supplies always beaten by the demand. A small-scale farmer can earn extra household income from selling pork and other pig products locally, which will prove worthwhile since pig farming cannot be only for household food requirements alone.
3. Good nutrition
Pork can be considered the best alternative to beef and most other kinds of meat. It is a good protein source rich in fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Since pork is relatively cheaper than other kinds of meat, it is an excellent substitute for your family’s meat needs at a lower cost. That means pig farming can address the food shortage and increased malnutrition in society.
4. Source of organic fertilizer
Pigs are heavy feeders, which means they pass a lot of waste as fecal matter. That can be used as a source of fertilizer for your crops which means that your farm will be less reliant on chemical fertilizers. With the world shifting towards organic foods and organic agricultural methods, having pigs on your farm will mean your fields are well fertilized and have enough nutrients to produce crops without chemical fertilizers.
5. Source of energy
Common sources of energy are getting more and more expensive, especially in the household setting. Gas for cooking, heating, and lighting is a significant user of financial resources in many families. That is why many people are turning to alternative energy sources like biogas. Biogas as a source of energy is becoming popular in many families as a good energy source. With pig farming, its production becomes easier since pigs pass a lot of faecal waste matter per day, which can be utilized to generate biogas. To know more about biogas production and whether your farm can produce it, you can contact Biozone for assistance for those in Kenya by clicking HERE.
Common Pig Breeds
Now that you know the reasons and the benefits of venturing into pig farming, you should familiarise yourself with the different types of breeds available. You should know that due to cross-breeding, some breeds can exhibit different characteristics than the ones mentioned here, but the following remain the main breeds across the globe:
- Berkshire. This pig breed originated from Berkshire in England. It has a black coat with a white snout, lower legs, and tail tip. It has erect ears and is medium-sized compared to other larger breeds. The market-ready Berkshire males reach up to 270 Kgs in gross weight while females can go up to 220 Kgs. Their meat is considered better flavoured, firmer, and able to withstand high temperatures. They are said to be able to withstand almost all climatic conditions, which is the main reason why they are recommended for beginners and small-scale farmers.
- Duroc. This pig breed has no known origins. It’s medium in size, with males weighing 300 Kgs and females up to 250 Kgs. These pigs have a red coat with brown skin, making them easily distinguishable. They are famed for their fatless lean meat, making them a favourite amongst pork lovers. Their docile nature and motherly instincts for their litter make this breed of pigs a recommended breed for starters and small-scale farmers.
- Landrace. This is a crossbreed between the large white pigs and the native Denmark pigs, producing a predominantly white breed with seldom black spots on its body. They have floppy ears and pointed long snouts as their major distinguishing characteristics. Most commercial farmers and large-scale farms keep this breed of pigs because they are excellent meat producers, with males going up to 320 Kgs while females can weigh up to 275 Kgs. They are market-ready in less time than other breeds and highly fertile, with up to 15 piglets per farrow.
- Yorkshire. It is the most predominant breed of pigs in America with pink skin and white coat, making it among the favourites for meat production since the skin is unblemished. They are also excellent meat producers, with males weighing 335 Kgs and females 295 Kgs. They are very fertile, with up to 13 piglets per farrow, making them one of the breeds highly recommended for starters and small-scale farmers.
- Large White. They are large and white with erect ears. This breed of pigs is the most common globally in all major pig farming countries. That is because they are the best meat producers, with fully grown, well-fed males going up to 450 Kgs while females will weigh 350 Kgs. They are also good breeders, and their piglets mature and attain the desired market weight very fast, which is the main reason which makes them a favourite for all commercial pig farmers.
Notably, many farmers have crossbred these breeds of pigs to produce desired breeds that adapt well to specific environments and suit the particular needs of the farmer. Therefore, it is essential to consult a vet on the best pig breed that will do well in your current environment before purchasing your first pig or piglet.
Pig Farming Methods
Since you are aware of the different breeds of pigs common amongst many farmers, you should know about the various methods of raring pigs to decide on the one that suits you the best. The following are the different styles of raising pigs:
1. Indoor/ intensive pig farming
In this kind of system, pigs are kept indoors and spend all their time in stalls or cages. It is a capital-intensive system requiring special equipment to feed and water the pigs. It is mainly practised by large-scale farmers and those with limited space to raise the pigs. It is considered a cruel treatment to the pigs by animal lovers, but the farmers justify it since they are after minimizing costs and maximizing profits. The method is labour-intensive and requires a lot of capital, so it is not recommended for small-scale farmers.
The advantages of this method include:
- Less space is used with the capacity to hold many pigs.
- Enhanced security of the pigs from bad weather, predators, and thieves since the pigs stay in enclosed areas.
- High feeding efficiency leads to a high growth rate.
- It is easy to monitor the pigs in their cages or stalls, which is good for medical purposes.
- It is easier to prevent diseases since the pigs do not come into contact with other animals or humans.
- The hygiene and cleanliness of the pigs can be easily controlled to the required standards of the farmer.
The disadvantages of this method are:
- It is labour-intensive and needs good knowledge about pig farming.
- It is expensive to start and maintain because of the facility requirements.
- In case of a disease outbreak, the farmer may suffer huge losses since the pigs will easily infect each other.
2. Free-range/ natural pig farming
This system means that the pigs are raised in their natural habitat. They are left to roam freely in the fields without the need for special feeding and watering equipment. The system does not require a lot of management skills since the pigs are almost out all the time. The only structure needed is for retiring at night. The pigs in this system do not require a lot of feeding since they almost entirely depend on the pastures on the open fields, with little supplements required.
The advantages of this method are:
- No specialized care is required; hence it is suitable for small-scale and inexperienced farmers.
- It does not require a lot of capital to start and manage.
- Meat produced by free-range is lean and contains fewer fats, a delight for many people.
- It does not require a lot of labour to run this system.
- Since the pigs are free to roam, they grow happy and stress-free.
- Disease outbreaks can be avoided since the pigs live spaciously.
The notable shortcomings of this method are:
- It requires expansive pieces of land, which can be unavailable to many farmers.
- The pigs grow slowly due to uncontrolled feeding habits.
- It is hard to ensure the security of the pigs from predators, bad weather, and thieves.
Organic Pig Farming
Organic pig farming is a specialized method of free-range pig farming whereby the pigs have access to free fields all year round with little or no non-farm inputs in their growth. Organic pigs are only fed with natural or organic feeds which contain no chemicals or are genetically modified. The pig farmers are also not allowed to use antibiotics to treat their sick animals. Still, when the pig’s life is in danger, the farmer may use selected and limited synthetic medicines in extreme conditions.
The main aim of organic pig farming is to ensure that the final product has as few synthetic chemicals as possible. Farmers are advised to adopt strict husbandry and management practices that help to eliminate pests and prevent diseases. With many consumers moving towards organically produced animal products, being an organic pig farmer is getting more lucrative as the market increases.
With the prohibition of using non-organic feeds in organic pig production, the farmer is restricted on the number of choice foods to feed the pigs. Pigs are heavy eaters and should be adequately fed to meet the required and target weights within the desired timeframes. The organic pig farmer will then suffer a significant disadvantage compared to conventional farmers. It hence becomes increasingly essential to have the right organic supplements and feeds to help cushion that disadvantage.
Biozone is the leading brand in organic feeds and organic food supplements for organic farmers in Kenya. For organic pig production, the brand has the Piggyzym BFB, certified as purely organic. This food supplement will enhance the quality of meat, help fatten the pigs at an increased rate, and help the pig’s immune system. It is among the best products in the country, proving beneficial to all organic farmers and conventional farmers. The Piggyzym BFB has been tested using real farm pigs before being recommended to the farmers.
You can check the product here for buying options and other inquiries.
The topic of pig farming cannot be complete without highlighting the various diseases that every farmer should know when it comes to pigs. The following are the major pig diseases to watch out for:
Coccidiosis is not only a fowl disease but also a pig’s. It is an intestinal disease often occurring in piglets less than 15 weeks old. The main signs of this disease are diarrhoea, lack of appetite, and severe emaciation. It is a disease that should be prevented since it will cause a delay in the time when the pigs should attain the market weight even after it has been treated. Pig coccidiosis is highly prevalent in indoor and intensive pig farming methods due to the crowding of the pigs. This disease is highly contagious and will result in massive losses to the farmer due to the extra feed costs incurred to get the pigs to attain the market weight.
2. Swine dysentery
Swine dysentery is another lethal pig disease that affects pig farming. It is caused by pigs ingesting their faecal matter, caused by poor hygiene, and poor pig waste disposal. The signs to watch out for are mucus and blood in the faecal matter, diarrhoea, loss of weight, sunken eyes, and general weakness due to dehydration. It may kill over 50% of the herd when left untreated for long. Proper hygiene and disposal of waste s the key to preventing this deadly disease.
Mastitis is a bacterial disease that affects breeding female pigs. It causes the mammary glands of the pig to get inflamed, which means that the piglets will not suckle. All the piglets are in danger of death, especially when they have not been introduced to solid food. The signs to look out for are high fever, refusal to suckle, and the udder losing colour.
4. Swine respiratory disease
Swine respiratory disease is a disease that affects young pigs or pigs ready for the market. It is caused by bacteria which make the affected pig have a dry cough, eventually leading to illness. It is one of the diseases that spread very fast in the herd, especially in indoor and intensive farming methods. The signs to look out for are dry cough, fever, blue colouration of the ears, loss of appetite, and depression.
Although parasites are not diseases, they will eventually cause diseases to the pigs if they remain unchecked and untreated. The most common parasites in pigs are lungworms, nodular worms, kidney worms, threadworms, whipworms, and roundworms. Most pigs are prone to these worms, so regular deworming exercises are encouraged. When the populations of these worms increase in the pig’s intestines, it will affect the overall growth of the animal, hence a weight reduction. The worms are easily visible in the pig’s faecal matter, making treatment easier for the farmer.
Important Information for Beginners
This information is essential and critical for any aspiring pig farmer or those who are starting a pig farming venture. It will help you get good returns and help take reasonable care of your pigs.
1. Feeding and watering
Every new pig farmer should know how best to feed and water their pigs. Pig farming needs intensive amounts of food to help the pigs reach maturity or market weight in the shortest possible time. The better the quality of the food given to your pigs, the faster they grow. The amount of food given to the pigs also increases as they grow, with more significant amounts of food required when they are in the last stages before they are market-ready.
The best food for pigs will depend on their age, weight, and environment. Kitchen leftovers should be mixed with enough concentrates like Biozone Piggyzym BFB to make the pigs’ food more balanced and nutritious. Concentrates increase the energy and protein levels in foods, making the pigs healthier and grow faster.
The other common misconception is that pigs don’t need water as much as food. The farmer should ensure that the pigs have easy access to fresh water. Before starting pig farming, you should invest in water catchment facilities or a good water source. You should also invest in good feeding troughs and waterers, keeping in mind the size of your herd and accommodating future growth. The feeding troughs and waterers should be as many as possible to avoid scrambling for food and water, which may cause some pigs to go without.
2. Pig housing
Many farmers make the mistake of thinking that housing is not vital in pig farming. That is especially for those who practice free-range farming. Housing is essential to shield your pigs from adverse weather conditions. Since pigs are curious diggers, the strength of your structure should be able to withstand such digging. Farmers decide the shape of the housing depending on the method used in pig farming.
However, it is good to have separate or divided housing units for dividing or segregating the pigs whenever necessary. That is because different pigs may have or need specialized care than others. For example, pregnant or lactating females need special attention, which can only be achieved when separated from the other pigs.
3. Pig bedding
Often ignored is the issue of pig bedding in pig farming. The kind of bedding you choose will determine the type of waste management practices to apply, which directly relates to the pig’s health, hence the success or failure of the venture. Framers can use different beddings for their pigs, all of which have their benefits and shortcomings. The most common bedding materials for pigs are hemp straws, wheat, barley, oats, rye, grass, wood chips, and wood shavings.
Whatever material you use as pig bedding should adequately absorb the urine and hold the faeces so that you don’t have to wash the area where they stay constantly. However, the bedding should be changed at least once a week, depending on the number of pigs you have in an area. It is good to consult a vet on the best material before settling on the best one for your pigs.
4. Pig fencing
Regardless of the method you use for pig farming, pig fencing is crucial as it is used to secure your pigs and keep away predators and thieves. Since pigs are curious diggers, the fence material should also concern every pig farmer. The fence should have a strong lower part, preferably steel, to discourage the pigs from digging. Most farmers use an electric fence since it is the best deterrence to pig digging. Whatever fencing material you use, keep in mind that it should be strong enough to keep the pigs in, and unwanted visitors away.
5. Pig deworming
Pig deworming is a critical factor in pig farming. Pigs are prone to worm infestation by how they live and eat. That is why pig deworming is necessary after every six months. For the younger piglets, deworming should be done every three to four months. Pregnant sows should be dewormed two to three weeks before giving birth to keep the litter from infections.
The Deworming of pigs is done by injections or by orally introducing the medicine to the system. Nowadays, some medications can be mixed with food, making it easier for farmers to deworm their pigs.
6. Cleaning and grooming
Cleaning and grooming pigs is also an essential exercise in pig farming. Contrary to popular belief that pigs are dirty animals, they are among the cleanest of all domestic animals. If pigs are dirty, then it means that the farmer is negligent of their duties. Apart from regularly changing the bedding materials and washing the pens with water and detergent, the farmer should also clean the pigs.
The best way to keep the pig’s skin and coat clean is to spray water from time to time. It would be best to clean the ears and eyes regularly as parasites can easily hide there. The brown discharge from the eyes can be wiped by a wet cloth whenever it is seen.
Another part of grooming your pigs is trimming their hooves. It prevents parasites and pathogens from hiding there. Hoof trimming should be done after every six months. You should, however, differentiate the hard and the soft part of the hoof to avoid causing injury to the pig.
FAQs About Farming
Is pig farming profitable?
Many people ask if pig farming is a profitable and worthwhile venture. The answer is YES. Pig farming is among the most beneficial in all livestock keeping. That is because of the high fertility of pigs. A farmer can start with less than four pigs and, by the end of the year, have over 20 market-ready pigs.
How long does a pig take to be market-ready?
Some ask how long it will take to have a pig ready for the market. That depends on the pig’s weight, mainly determined by the breed. Most pigs are ready by six months, but others will take longer to attain the desired market weight. You should also know that the type of food you feed your pigs will determine how quickly your pigs get ready for the market.
Which is better between organic and conventional pig farming?
Another common question is what method of pig farming is better between organic and conventional pig farming. It will depend on the available market and the resources available to the farmer. Organic pig farming is better for small-scale farmers and those with enough land to keep the pigs free-range. On the other hand, large-scale farmers are not better suited to practice organic because of the challenge of not using regular medicine to treat their sick pigs.
Pig farming can be lucrative and profitable if the farmer is committed to the welfare of the pigs. The most important thing is to keep the pigs well fed, watered, and appropriately groomed.
Choosing between indoor and free-range pig farming systems will depend on the amount of space available and whether you want to be a commercial farmer or a small-scale farmer. On the other hand, organic farming is for a select market and needs a lot more commitment to have the pigs ready for the market at the right time.
Whatever kind of pig rearing system you decide, if you keep diseases and parasites away from your herd, and know the right types of food to feed your pigs, the venture will be worthwhile for you to practise.