How to really become a pig farmer

Cape Town – It would appear there is a great interest in pig farming in South Africa, but not much information about how to become one… until now.

Last year Fin24 published a story titled, How to become a pig farmer, with tips from Portia Matsane of the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (Sappo).

The story sparked a great deal of of interest and since then Fin24 has received countless emails from South Africans hungry to start a pig farm, but with little experience and no funding.

An example is Fin24 user Stanley Siphosandile, who said he wants advice about starting a piggery. “I want you to assist me in creating a business plan and taking into consideration my financial issues, because I'm young and unemployed and come from a poor background.”

Fin24 reached out to Mobile Agri Skills Development and Training (Masdt), a Seda initiative in Nelspruit that specialises in developing skills and funding projects.

Masdt business development manager Inocent Makuwaza read through the Fin24 readers’ requests and sent us this report:

How to become a pig farmer

1. Productivity of pigs

Pig farming is one of the most productive farming businesses one can venture into. You realise profits very early and the cash flow into the business is quick. The trick is to use a good breed, a good feeding programme and good management.

A good quality sow (female pig) can give birth to approximately 15 piglets at one given time. A pig is pregnant for about 116 days (three months, three weeks and three days). After giving birth, the piglets are weaned at day 28. The sow will come to heat about three to seven days after weaning. It is serviced again by the boar (male pig) and becomes pregnant again. This means one pig can give birth twice in a calendar year.  Therefore, one sow can give you approximately 30 pigs in a year.

If you start your farm with the recommended 8 sows and 1 boar, it means that by the end of the year, you would have raised about 240 pigs on your farm. Pigs can either be sold as porkers at four months or as baconers at six months.

2. Pig breeds

There are three main breeds used in South Africa, namely the large white, landrace and duroc.

Landrace: Landrace hogs are white with large, droopy ears that cover the entire face. They are extremely long bodied and are used primarily as a maternal breed because of their mothering ability. They have more number of teats and the litter size is big.

Duroc: Durocs are solid red in colour and have drooping ears. They are among the fastest-growing pigs available to producers.  Durocs are primarily used to produce fast-growing market weaners.

Large white: The Large White is one of the most numerous of all pig breeds and is widely used in crossbreeding. It is taller than the landrace, but shorter and so has less teats. It has erect ears and a dished face.

3. Feeding programme

The table below shows a general feeding guideline that one can use. Note that feeding programmes differ from farmer to farmer depending on the breed, climate and type of feed.

4. Management

The trick with management of pigs revolves around the housing. Good, efficient housing makes management easier and helps the farmer to successfully rear 85% or more of all the live born piglets to market weight in the shortest possible time. Pigs at different growth stages need different environments (housing). A pig house is called a pen. In general, a pig farmer must have the following pens:

- Boar pen
- Pregnant sows pen
- Dry sow and guilt pen
- Farrowing pen
- Weaner and finishing house pen

In some cases, farmers raise their pigs on free range farms. The management in this case needs to be on point since diseases will be rife.

There should be some kind of shelter for the pigs to go into during adverse weather conditions.

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