Piggery Farming – Why are farmers silent!

piggery farming

In our first issue this year, we write about piggery production and the major challenges faced by subsistence farmers. We specifically focus on production and disease management, with a special emphasis on African swine fever which has affected most smallholder farmers in the past year.

Piggery production as an enterprise, provides subsistence farmers with an opportunity to improve household income. Most smallholder farmers who practice piggery farming keep 1 to 5 pigs tethered around the homestead. The main source of feed is kitchen leftovers, remains of food and crop residues.

There are a few small to medium scale commercial farmers with 10-20 pigs. Some farmers let their pigs free to move around in search for feed. This however, attracts complaints from neighbors and most often leads to penalties from the local village councils.

At the subsistence lower conversion level, productivity is poor, its mainly exhibited by; low re-productive performance, slow growth rates, high worm burden, and in-breeding.

Marketing of pigs is still not well organized. There are several slaughter slabs, some slaughter houses; and one so far known commercial abattoir located at Nalukolongo in Kampala. All these sites offer their own prices to the farmer. In addition, economic losses due to death, often caused by the African swine fever and other diseases are high.

Focusing on pig production as a business

Subsistence farmers need to engage in pig production as a business with the aim of providing meat (pork) and other pig products to the consumer. The purpose therefore should be: earning an income from the sale of pigs / piglets, meat, compost and others.

To run a successful piggery unit as a business, the subsistence farmer has to increase the number of healthy piglets weaned per sow per year and minimize feed costs while ensuring consistent adequate performance of the entire herd. Good record keeping is inevitable. This helps the farmer to know the financial position of the enterprise or how much investment is going into the business.

Types of piggery enterprises

There are four common pig production enterprises a small scale farmer may choose from. These include the following:

  • Farrow-to-finish: The farmer keeps a Sow herd and produces his own growers for a finishing operation which he also owns.
  • Farrow only: The farmer keeps a Sow herd which produces weaners which are sold to other farmers.
  • Finishing operation: A farmer buys piglets either as weaners or growers and fattens them for the pork market.
  • Breeding: The production of the breeding stock is a very specialized enterprise that is often reserved only for the experienced pig breeders. It requires heavy capital investment.

The choice of any of the above enterprises depends on the farmer’s interest / motivation, the resources available and the market. The major issues to consider when choosing to start a piggery project are: Capital, Knowledge & Skills, Breeding stock, Availability of market, Source of clean water, Housing type, Availability of feeds, Technology that will be used. ( Adapted from: Africa Innovations Institute, Piggery Production Manual )

Keeping pigs healthy and free from disease

Diseases and parasites are a major cause of death and eventual loss to a pig farmer. An outbreak like the one we recently experienced with African swine fever can have very disastrous consequences. Therefore, a farmer should always regard disease as a potential economic threat.

To minimize this threat, the farmer should keenly monitor the pigs for any signs of disease, maintain close contact with the local veterinary personnel for advice and emergency cases, and report suspected disease conditions early for quick diagnosis and treatment.

A healthy pig and a diseased pig will always show signs of good or ill health. To know whether a pig is sick, a farmer should always look out for the following signs: Loss of appetite, difficult & abnormal breathing, dullness, defecation of excessively hard or watery feces, feces are blood stained or contaminated with worms, high temperature & abnormal heart beat, rough hair coat or its loss, Coughing, lameness, diarrhea, nasal discharge, abortion & skin discoloration, rubbing against hard objects (signs of irritation or itching).

Controlling diseases in pigs

A clean and disinfected environment provides the best prevention for internal and external parasites which can become a serious problem to the farmer. Confinement also prevents pigs from contaminated fields and dirty lots. Some drugs e.g. wormicides, when properly used, aid in the elimination of parasites.

Antibiotics also protect pigs against disease proliferation and reduce disease outbreaks. They can also promote growth in pigs when given the recommended dose at each level. For diseases that can be prevented by vaccination, a veterinarian should be contacted to provide such services routinely.

Running a farm exposes a farmer to set-backs that require creative thinking. Indeed, one has to come up with new ways to solve problems every time to make the farm run smoothly and more productive.

African Swine Fever

There are three major viral diseases that often affect pigs, namely: African Swine Fever, Gastroenteritis, Foot and Mouth disease. Of the three, the most fatal is the African swine fever. It is also the most contagious and deadly disease in Uganda today. Its clinical signs are: fever, dullness, loss of appetite, pigs huddle together, uncoordination, coughing, discoloration of the skin to bluish, discharge of fluid in the eye and nose, vomiting and diarrhea.

It can cause up to 100% mortality within a very short time. The disease is spread by bush pigs and warthogs which are carriers of the virus, although they are themselves immune to the disease. Infection occurs by contact with other sick pigs or through contaminated food or water. There is no effective vaccine as of now. A farmer can only attempt to control the spread of the virus.

A transforming medium scale farmer disinfecting the pigsty

When the outbreak has been confirmed in the herd, it is highly recommended to: 1. Restrict movement of pigs or meat from the affected areas, 2.Slaughter all pigs on the affected farm followed by disinfection. The killed animals should properly be disposed off.

Successful farmers, and in particular smallholder farmers are expected to constantly research. They should always look for new information to improve their farming methods and practices. By doing this, it helps them to increase productivity on their farm and avoid such diseases. Continuous research or innovations ensure that you are always ahead with modern farming.

Author: P&V Commodity Supplies, a member organization of ACSA.

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