Pork and other pig products account for 38% of meat products consumed worldwide. This gives Kenyans the opportunity to get into this in-demand product and make some profits.
One of the questions potential pig farmers ask is whether pig farming is profitable in Kenya.
Our answer is yes. Pig farming is profitable in Kenya if you are prepared to handle the challenges that come with pig farming and grow your pigs to reach the required market standards at minimal costs.
In this article, we look at what needs to be done to be able to make pig farming in Kenya a worthwhile venture.
Benefits of Pig farming
According to the Chinese zodiac, pigs are seen to represent happiness, fortune, and virility. In as much as you are not Chinese, pigs could as well bring you fortune and happiness in your life. There are a lot of farmers out there making a good income from pig farming and I really hope this article brings you closer to being one of them. Some of the benefits include;
- Pigs have very high feed conversion efficiency. This is especially important if you do not have a lot of animal feeds in your farm. Pigs gain more live weight from a given weight of feed than the other livestock.
- Also, pigs can consume a wide variety of locally available feeds such as grains, forages, and non-meat kitchen leftovers and convert them into valuable nutritious meat.
- Pigs are very fertile with a shorter generation interval than other livestock. A sow can be farrowed twice in a year. It can give birth to up to 12 piglets in each farrowing.
- Pig farming is not capital intensive on buildings and tools. Locally available materials can easily be utilized to save on costs.
- Pigs manure can be utilized as fertilizer for agriculture farms. You can use pig manure to ward off rodents that may be attacking your crops. Also, you can use pig manure as a free source of fish food.
- Pig farming provides quicker returns than other livestock such as cows. This is because it achieves its marketable weight in a period of 6-8 months. Other livestock may require years to attain market maturity.
- There is a high demand from domestic and also the export market for pig products such as sausages, pork, and bacon. Am sure you have seen the white ‘smokie’ vendors selling pork products in almost every estate. Pork products are also used as the main ingredient in many pet food products in supermarkets.
Factors to consider before getting into pig farming
Before beginning a successful pig farming venture, there are some things you should look at before actualizing your plans. Some factors I’ll talk about here could be the make or break of your investment. Ignoring some factors may lead to untold losses in terms of time and money. Some of these factors include;
- Availability of Water
Water availability is a factor that comes first. Pigs consume 10-50litres of water in a day. Any shortage will lead to reduced productivity, diseases, or even death. You should ensure that there is enough water supply that will serve your herd. I recommend a 3-day water reserve at all times be available to the pigs. Water is also essential to maintain sty hygiene to prevent the spread of any diseases.
Pigs are omnivores hence you can mix their feeds with a range of other ingredients to produce a balanced diet. The availability or affordability of such feeds hugely influences the profit margins you intend to achieve in the running of your pig farming business. If possible, you are advised to plant your own forage and try as much as possible to practice feed mixing yourself as ready pig mix feeds are quite costly.
You are going to require a strong built-in structure to house your pigs. The house should be divided into pens of various sizes depending on the growth stage of the pigs. Any overcrowding in the pig pens will result in losses due to fast-spreading diseases such as diarrhea. The sty should also be easy to clean in order to maintain hygiene at all times.
You can also get into the pig business by starting a breeding farm. However, if you are a new farmer, you should first start by rearing small pigs to help you learn about the desirable pig traits and the nitty gritties of pig breeding. You will also need a lot of capital in order to purchase very high-grade pigs and high quality feeds to kickstart your business.
Housing is key in the growth and development of your pigs. The location of the pigsty is also important. The golden rule is, a comfortable pig is a healthy pig and a happy farmer. Some factors you should consider in terms of location are;
- Your pigsty should be away at least 8-10metres from your house unless a pig’s bleat is music to your ears.
- The site should be elevated to avoid flooding by rainwater.
- Your chosen site should be close to your electricity and water source and should also enable you to easily collect manure.
Your sty could be constructed with wood or cement depending on the availability of the resources. Cement floors could make it easier for you to clean but it may be colder for younger piglets to stay. This may require you to purchase sawdust for cubicles that will host piglets. Other considerations you should look into include;
- Ventilation and ample shade. This means your pig’s sty should not smell and should not be damp. The same way you would not want to live in a smelly and damp place.
- The sty should be split into different pens for every stage of the production cycle. This will help you reduce fights over food and water and therefore happier pigs.
- The orientation of the sty should be in a north-south direction to shield the pigs from harsh weather like strong sun and rain.
- If you choose to build using cement, ensure the floor is not smooth to avoid slipping. It should also be slightly sloping to ensure easy cleaning with water.
Space requirements for pigs
Depending on the stage of growth of your pigs, the optimum space required for healthy pig development varies. When looking at the spacing of the pigs' pens, divide the pigs into five categories. If you have many pigs, you can build more pens for pigs within a category to reduce competition and fights among the pigs. These categories include,
- Weaner piglets - Each piglet requires 0.3-0.5 square metres of space. The place should be warm to protect the health of the young piglets.
- Fattening pig- These are pigs that are being prepared to be sold for slaughter. Each pig will require 0.5-1.0 square metres of space. Ensure that you place enough feeding troughs depending on the number of pigs in the pen.
- Breeding boars- These are pigs specially selected to improve the quality of your herd through breeding. Each boar will require 6-8 square metres of space. The pen should be particularly strong and high to avoid ‘prison breaks’ to gilts and sows that are on heat.
- Pregnant sows- each sow will require 1.5-2.0 square metres of space. If possible, each sow should be allotted its own pen to maintain a conducive quiet environment.
- Lactating sows- Lactating sows require up to 6sq metres of space depending on the number of piglets lactating. You should allot each lactating sow an individual pen with provisions for a farrowing pan, a piglets nest, creep feed for the piglets. Due to the fragile state of the piglets, you should also add provisions for heating and cooling the pen.
Pig Breeds In Kenya
You might have seen various coloured pigs roaming around in your village shopping center and struggled to identify the specific breed. This may be difficult because the stray pigs may have bred over the years with other several breeding meaning most of the roaming pigs are crossbreeds.
However, for confined pigs, it is easier to identify the breed due to its characteristics and colour. Some of the most common pig breeds in Kenya include;
- Large white
This is the first choice of farmers in Kenya. This is because of its unique features. Their head is usually moderately long. They have erect ears and their face is slightly dished. They usually have longer legs compared to other breeds. Its robust body can withstand different climatic conditions and performs very well. The large white breed sows are known to produce between 10-12 piglets. They are however prone to sunburn due to their white skin and therefore unsuitable for outdoor farming.
This breed has a hard skin and a thick fur that is reddish in colour. It possessed good attributes for both growing and rearing. In addition to that, they produce very good bacon. Its forequarters are light and it has small lop ears. The Duroc-Jersey can survive in both extreme cold and wet climates making them preferable if you live in a high altitude region. Also, pigmentation makes it an ideal outdoor pig as it is not vulnerable to sunburns. Its downside is that they produce less litter size than the other breeds meaning the growth of your herd will be slower.
- Landrace pigs
The Landrace breed is known for their white skin, forward drooping ears, and their straight snout. They do well in both confined and outdoor farms. This makes them great for a farmer starting to practice who still has not established the structures. Its sows produce a large litter size thus making them ideal if you are looking to expand your pig litter. They are also good for the production of bacon and pork since they are weaned at a higher weight in comparison to other breeds.
This breed is usually used to crossbreed with others in order to improve their litter. However, their lack of skin pigmentation makes them vulnerable to sunburn.
The Hampshire, originally from the US, are large, hardy, black, and white pigs with very lean pork. They usually have a black head and shoulders. They are also distinguished for their large and upright ears.
This breed is usually ideal for farmers who are starting pig farming as they usually have large litters and make excellent mothers. This breed is also known for its fast growth rate. Many farmers prefer using this breed as the sire of crossbred pigs for bacon and pork production.
Other pig breeds available in Kenya are Maxgrow and Camborough
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Breeding your pigs
Breeding your pigs enables you to improve your pig grade to one of better quality. A good boar and gilt contribute greatly to the quality of your herd. While selecting a good boar or gilt for breeding, you should consider:
- The boar should be healthy with sound feet, uniform back curves, and of good length.
- Your chosen boar should have at least 12 neatly placed rudimentary teats so as to pass this genetic trait to the piglets.
- You should select the boar at about 4weeks just before castration. Select the biggest piglet from the entire litter.
- Ensure your boar is at least 8months old before you put it to the task.
- For gilts, ensure it has at least 12 teats so that it can be able to accommodate a large litter.
- You should select your gilts at the weaning period while it's about 5-6months of age. Consider the fastest-growing ones as it will consume less feed per weight gain.
- Your gilt of choice should not have any defects such as inverted teats, supernumerary and fat deposits at the bottom of its teats.
Heat detection in pigs
Detection of heat in pigs is very essential. Early detection will enable you to source the boar in time to mate the gilt. This is because you only have a 3-day window during which the gilt is on heat and can mate.
Some of the early heat signs include;
- The gilt will be restless.
- There will be a white discharge from your gilt’s genitalia
- The gilts genitalia will swell and turn red.
The second stage during the three day period is the service period phase. This phase will last for about 40-60 hours. Some signs you will see in your gilt includes;
- Gilt’s genitalia will become less swollen and have less colour
- There will be a slimy mucus discharge from your gilt’s genitalia
- The gilt will have an urge to mount or want to be mounted by others.
- The gilt will be more accepting of weight on its back. The gilt will remain standing when weight is applied on its back.
The third and final phase is the post-oestrus-period stage. Some of the signs that the gilt or sow is at this stage include;
- The gilt/sow will not stand when pressure is applied to its back.
- The swelling on the gilt's genitalia will disappear.
How to induce heat
Sometimes, your gilt may have matured but may not show any signs of heat. If this happens, do not panic. There are a few things you can do to try and induce heat in the gilt or sow. Some things you can do include;
- Try gently stroking the gilt’s genitalia with a freshly cut pawpaw stalk in the morning for
- You can as well make use of the pheromones in the boar's urine by spraying the gilt’s pen with boar urine every morning.
- You can also try taking the sow to the boar or if the pen is small, house the sow in a pen next to the boar.
Take note that you should always take the gilt to the boar. That way, the boar will be more comfortable to mount thereby increasing chances of success.
Care for new piglets
Newborn piglets are very fragile and vulnerable to many risks. It is especially important to take good care of them to ensure the survival of the whole litter.
Caring for newborn piglets is usually a huge challenge for every farmer, even the experienced ones. However, do not worry. Here are some tips to help you care for your newborn piglets.
- A few minutes after birth, the navel of each piglet should be dabbed with an iodine solution to prevent tetanus and inflammation.
- You should also ensure that the piglets are able to suckle as soon as possible after birth. The weaker pigs should be assisted if necessary. Suckling encourages the sow to let her milk down. Just like humans, the first milk is rich in colostrum and it protects the piglets against diseases.
- If the sow’s milk appears to be little, you can add cows milk to supplement. You can also use mashed bean porridge with a little sugar to feed the piglets.
It is necessary to trim the piglet's teeth to keep them from biting and injuring the udder which may lead to infection. Piglets are born with very sharp teeth which may in turn cause pain to their mother and may prevent the sow from allowing the piglets to suckle.
Now, you don’t have to be a dentist to do this easy task. All you need is a teeth trimmer and strong guts to go ahead. You should then hold the pig in a comfortable position and roll back its tongue. Using the teeth trimmer, cut off only the top points of the teeth. Always be careful not to injure the piglets.
Pigs are born with very little iron, (about 50mg) in their body. They then get about 1-2 mg/day from the sow's milk while they require 7mg during the first seven days. This deficiency causes the piglets to become weak and pale thereby slowing down their growth.
To prevent anemia, give the piglets oral iron paste within 24hours of birth. Also, you should give the piglet iron injections on day 3 and day 10 after birth preferably at the neck muscle.
Heating for the Piglets
If the piglets are born during a cold season, it may be necessary to heat the room to help keep the piglets warm to prevent pneumonia attacks. You can heat an area within the pen using an infrared lamp or a charcoal stove. This helps keep the piglets warm and comfortable.
Feeding program for piglets
Two days after birth, you should feed the piglets five times each day for a period of 10 minutes. On the third and on the fourth day, you should reduce the number of times you feed the piglets to four times a day, and after that 3 times a day.
After 2 weeks, increase the amount of milk at each meal while slowly decreasing the number of meals per day.
Slowly shift to more solid food. The piglets should be able to take regular feed when they attain the age of 3 weeks.
Creep feeding piglets
One week old piglets should have high protein feeds available to them at all times. This should be in an area where the sow can’t access. Creep feeding is very economical as the feed conversion rate of young piglets is very high.
In addition to that, it helps the piglets to get used to feeding while they are still young.
Weaning is usually a struggle for the piglets. Equipping yourself with information on the nutrient requirements, health, and growth patterns for modern breeds of early-weaned pigs is very important.
Modern methods keep changing daily and it is important to keep yourself updated. Early weaning of piglets at 2-3weeks helps increase sow productivity through the probable increase in the number of litters per sow per year.
Nutritional requirements for Pigs
Good nutrition is important to a pig’s health, growth rate, success in its reproduction, and longevity. Unless you are keeping your pigs as ‘pets’ then nutrition is a key factor to ensure a return on your investments when selling your pigs or pork.
Energy intake is the first determining factor determining the growth of pigs and the amount of milk produced by lactating cows. Protein (lysine) is the second determining factor for the growth of your herd or the amount of milk production in lactating sows.
Boars reap a lot from sufficient protein during their growth. You may need to limit the daily feed intake to avoid excess weight gain as age.
You should feed a balanced diet to your growing pigs from the weaning stage through to the point of slaughter to ensure that pigs grow rapidly. Also, a balanced diet helps to ensure that the meat composition and quality, especially for the export market.
Minerals and vitamins in a balanced feed will contribute greatly in ensuring that your animals stay strong and healthy throughout their growing stage. Any sudden changes in the diet like too much fat and excessive undiluted milk can cause diarrhoea.
Diseases affecting pigs
A sick pig should be taken care of immediately so as not to spread disease or die which will cause you untold losses. Some of the general symptoms a sick pig may display are;
- The pig may loose appetite for food and water.
- Its breathing may increase rapidly as an indication of a fever.
- A change of pigmentation as white pigmented pigs may become reddish.
- The pigs’ ears appear droopy ears or ears pointing downwards.
- Their eyes may become dull eyes.
Diseases can be caused by parasites which can either be internal or external. The most critical internal parasites (worms) that may attack your pigs include;
- Roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides)
They are found in the stomach and consume food from as the pig eats. This deprives the pig off nutrients, therefore, makes them thin. Giant roundworms are very common especially the tropical climates that are warm and moist. They are about 6 inches on average. Pigs become infected after ingesting eggs present in contaminated soil or forage grown in infected soils.
When infected, your pig will loose weight and display symptoms such as anaemia and anorexia.
The best way to prevent roundworms is periodic deworming. If you run a completely organic farm setup, then you can use herbs such as moringa which is said to be able to kill intestinal worms.
These are flat and long ribbon-like creatures found globally. They don’t have a digestive tract so they absorb food through their skin. They especially absorb folic acid and vitamin B-12.
Some of the symptoms an infected pig displays include poor growth and a swollen belly. The pig may also develop a rough grey hair coat. The best way to prevent attacks by tapeworms is to regularly deworm your herd.
You should take care when preparing pork as your food as tapeworms cause pork measles in pigs which can infect humans’ as well through undercooked meat.
Some of the external parasites include;
These are flies that cause diseases by laying eggs on wounds on the skin of the pig. The eggs will then hatch into larvae. These larvae will then feed on the pigs’ flesh and develop into pupates.
These pupate eventually fall off when they are mature thereby creating more wounds. An infected wound will look soggy and dirty and the edges will be covered with a grey mass of eggs. To treat such wounds, you will need to wash the infected wound daily with disinfectant and apply insecticides on the edges to discourage the flies.
To prevent a myiasis infestation, you need to be careful when doing ear notching, tail docking, and castration. Use disinfectants on the wounds formed by these processes to prevent the laying of eggs on the wounds.
This disease is caused by mites that live on the skin. They are found mostly on the head and around the eyes, nose, or ears.
They form lesions on the skin which may worsen to become hyperkeratosis and the epidermal debris will start exfoliating. The infected pig will become restless and it may itch severely.
In severe cases, anaemia will develop in piglets and the pigs may even die. It is so ironic how a small mite can kill such a huge animal. That is why it is very important to prevent its infestation.
You can prevent this disease by washing the sows and boars. This may seem unorthodox but it is the first line of defense. General cleanliness plays a very major role here. Also, you should strive to maintain a good health program and balanced animal nutrition to reduce the severity and spread of the disease.
Other diseases that can attack pigs include;
- Foot and Mouth disease (FMD)
This is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks hoofed animals, such as pigs, goats, and cows. Its symptoms include blisters on areas like the udder and teats which rapture within a day.
There may also be frothy saliva around the mouth. The animal will also display signs of severe lameness and fever.
Contact your vet IMMEDIATELY when you see such signs in your herd. This disease spreads fast and could easily wipe out the animals within your community. The best way to prevent FMD is through vaccination.
- Swine Fever
This disease is symptomized by lesions on the body, reddening of the ears and skin, and incoordination of the limbs. This is a very dangerous disease as it has a 95-100% mortality rate.
Treatment should be done immediately once you notice the symptoms. The best way to prevent this disease is through vaccination of the herd and disinfection of the affected pens if an infestation occurs.
Though uncommon, it is associated with contaminated feed containing meat. This is why it is advisable to keep your pigs on a non-meat diet if possible.
Pigs will display symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, fever, oedema, and swelling of the neck region. Fortunately, this disease can be treated by using antibiotics as directed by a qualified vet.
Any carcasses of pigs that died from this disease should be burned immediately to tame the spread of this bacteria.
The Market for Pigs
Currently, there are no live pig markets in Kenya unlike other livestock such as cows and goats which are common.
This should however not discourage you from delving into pig rearing. The pig market is huge and is still growing with many people taking up pork as a delicacy.
Some of the huge markets for pigs (pork) include;
- Farmers Choice Limited
They are the biggest abattoir in Kenya. The company purchases pork according to their cold dressed weight after the slaughter of live pigs. They supply both the local and international markets with pork products such as sausages, ham, and bacon. You never know. The pig you reared could be someone’s dinner in Europe or Asia.
- Various slaughterhouses within the country
There are many pig slaughterhouses and slaughter slabs spread out within the country. These slaughterhouses supply pork to many pork butcheries in urban estates and entertainment joints where pork is a fast-moving delicacy.
- Pig Breeding business
You may also decide to enter into the pig breeding business as it has a niche market. You can look for the best breeds to rear and sell breeding services to local farmers who may want to improve their herd. This is still a relatively new concept which you may decide to venture into.