Pig Farming Guide – What Beginners Need To Know

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What is Pig Farming or Production?

Pig farming or production is the art of raising pigs for consumption or to make money. Pigs are kept for meat production. Pig meat (pork) is a very important source of animal protein in human diets. Pig rearing is popular in West Africa, and Nigeria is the highest producer. In areas where pigs are reared on free range, they are most valued as a kind of savings to the farmer from where he can get some finance in the time of need. Commercial pig farming under an intensive and semi-intensive system is possible in the country because of the high demand in some part of Africa.

Sow lactating her litter

Characteristics of pig as a farm animal

  1. Pigs are very aggressive and also inquisitive in nature.
  2. Unlike other livestock, pigs have higher survival rate especially under the scarcity of inputs.
  3. They reproduce faster than cattle and from an estimate, they have more offspring. By the time the first calf is ready for market, 30-40 slaughtered pigs can be sold from one sow with about 5-10 times the amount of the edible meat.
  4. Pigs have the ability to convert agro-industrial waste products to meat cheaply and more rapidly than any other domestic quadruped.
  5. The pig carcass yield a high dressing percentage of edible meat which is of greater nutritious value.

Terminologies in Pig Farming

  • Boar—Adult male pig
  • Sow—Adult female pig that has farrowed at least once
  • In Sow—Pregnant pig
  • Barrow—castrated male pig
  • Gilt—young female pig that has not farrowed
  • Piglet—newly born pig under
  • Weaner—piglet that was recently removed from the mother
  • Farrow—act of given birth
  • Gestation—pregnancy (114 days)
  • Runt—smallest pig in a litter
  • Pork—meat from pigs
  • Grower—pig fed for slaughter
  • Drove—group of pigs
  • Service—act of mating in pig farming
  • Wallow—water-filled depression where pigs lay in to cool off or act of cooling off in water

Limitations to Pig Production in Africa

  1. One of the most limiting factors in pig production is the loss due to parasites and diseases. Adequately planned veterinarian programmes for pigs will go a long way in enhancing the profitability of the enterprise. Also, the veterinary cost may be reduced with a high standard of sanitation.
  2. Unavailability of breeding stock with a superior genetic background, efficient disease control, good nutrition, and management cannot make any impact in pig production enterprise if the genetic make-up of the animal is poor.
  3. The third problem is poor feed. Feeding of pigs in West Africa is poor.
  4. Capital. Swine production requires good housing and fencing materials.
  5. Poor management system. Pigs are very sensitive to a careless management system. Poor management is mostly responsible for the low average productivity in pig production in West Africa.
  6. Religious and social disposition to pig and pig production.
  7. Marketing problem. Unlike egg, milk, and meat which are universally acceptable to many people, pig products are not as widely acceptable to all.
  8. Record keeping. Most farmers do not have the habit of record keeping.

Pig Production Systems

There are three distinct production systems.

  1. Extensive or free-range system:  This system is the traditional method of rearing pigs in most parts of the world.
  2. Semi-intensive system: In this system, the animals are restricted to a limited area and therefore the farmer takes the whole responsibility of feeding them. The pigs are allowed into a fenced larger yard to graze, wallow and exercise.
  3. Intensive system: This is the commercial method of pig production under which economic considerations are the sole determinant of herd size. The farmer grows or buys feed for the animals. There is an absolute requirement for skilled management including veterinary protection against parasites and diseases to optimize output.

Management Procedures in Pig Production

Management procedures in pig production can be divided into two categories:

1. Daily Routine Management

  • Supply of water: Water should be provided first thing in the morning. The leftover water in the trough should be removed and the trough is thoroughly clean and refilled with clean fresh water. The water in the wallow should be changed regularly too.
  • Feeding: Dry feed should be made available at all times. Restricted feed should be supplied twice daily. The fresh feed provided should not be more than what the pig can consume within 20-30 minutes. Leftover should be removed because such feed can get sour and may be a breeding ground for maggots. If possible green vegetable should be provided daily. If breeding stocks are reared on pasture, this must be done in the morning before the weather become hot.
  • Cleaning: After watering and feeding, clean up the pens. Remove moist bedding and replace with a dry one. Wood shavings can be used for young animals and sawdust for older ones. If a pen is vacated, it should be washed, disinfected and allowed to rest for at least one or two weeks before other animals can be brought in.
  • Animal inspection: Inspect animals early in the morning and watch out for any abnormal behavior. Observe their general state of health, injuries, general comfort and signs of heat.

2. Occasional Management

  • Management of breeding herds

Pigs selected for breeding usually include the young male and females. The pig experiences fast oestrus at about 5-6 months of age but should be allowed to cycle twice or thrice before mating and it is usually better to start mating at about 8 months of age. Breeding of gilt (a young female) at an early age causes production of few piglets per litter. Similarly, the boar should not be allowed to breed until about 8 months of age. Early breeding could lead to low conception rate in female due to sperm dilution. The mating ratio is 1 boar to 10 sows. Pregnant sows required exercise on pasture and restricted feeding. Flushing before mating and farrowing is recommended.

Once the gilt/sow has been successfully served, conception will occur. The gestation length in pigs is 114 days. All sows should be checked periodically to detect anyone that has returned to oestrus so that they can be served again.Heat stress has been recognized as a major source of embryo losses, especially during early pregnancy. It is important that pregnant sows should be shielded from extremes of heat especially during the hottest months of the year through the provision of shades and wallows.

Heat stress has been recognized as a major source of embryo losses, especially during early pregnancy. It is important that pregnant sows should be shielded from extremes of heat especially during the hottest months of the year through the provision of shades and wallows.

  • Management of sow and piglets

The foundation for successful farrowing is laid by proper feeding and care of the sow during the gestation and pre-gestation period. The pregnant sows should be led to the farrowing pen a few days before parturition to enable them to adapt to the environment. The pen must be thoroughly fenced and disinfected before occupation.

There must be a suitable type of bedding such as wood shavings, sawdust, straws, and crushed maize cobs. The more unfavorable the weather, the greater the bedding materials required. After farrowing, the foetal membrane and wet beddings must be removed and a thin layer of dry bedding is put inside the pen. The stubs of each piglet should be dip into 15% iodine tincture to disinfect and seal the navel against harmful micro-organisms.

The additional management practices for the piglet include cutting of the 4 pairs of needle teeth which are normally present at birth. This is done because piglets can inflict injuries on their dams and one another. Iron is given orally or intramuscularly to prevent baby pig anaemia. Baby pig anaemia is a common cause of baby pig losses. It is also necessary to reduce the number of piglets to the number of functional teats by either artificial rearing or by passing some of the piglets to foster dams. The foster dam should be the pig that farrowed the same time to guarantee the acceptance of the piglet by the foster dam. Harmless disinfectants or other local materials such as onions can be used to rub the body of the foster piglet and the body of the foster dam. The dam should not be provided with concentrate for the first 2 days. Fibrous feed should be fed to the dams. Within 24 hours of birth, the individual piglets should be marked for identification and record purposes.

  • Management of growing and fattened pigs

Pigs that are not purposed for breeding are sent into a growing fatten stock. The pig can be castrated to improve the carcass quality, increase the growth rate and also prevent the production of phenols which are the characteristics odour (i.e. born odour). Their management essentially involved good nutritional practices. Growing pigs up to 45 kg weight are fed ad libitum while restricted feeding is practiced between 45-90 kg body weight to ensure that there is no excess deposition of fat.

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