Pig farming has several advantages including quick herb multiplication and rapid investment turnover with minimal expenditure on building and equipment. In Kenya, there is a well paying pork processing and hotel industry that produces bacon, ham, sausages and lard. Pork has a relatively higher energy value and is rich in vitamin B1, B2 and Niacin. Pig fat has also found industrial use in chicken feed, soap and paints manufacture. Pig manure can be used as fertiliser in agriculture and fish ponds.

When properly reared and bred, a sow (female pig) can give birth to up to 12 piglets and they can do this for up to two times a year. Pigs grow fast and can be served at eight months old. In other words; with just one sow you can quickly establish a farm within one year.

Selection of your breeding stock is of utmost importance as this will determine the survival rate of your litter.

Selection of the breeding Gilt

Gilts are female pigs that have not been bred; after giving birth they are called sows. When selecting gilts for breeding check for reproductive traits because your business will be hinged on getting larger litters (collective term for a batch piglets produced by a single sow). The best time to select gilts is at weaning based on their growth rate, alertness, strong legs in addition to good body conformity.

Gilts should have a six or seven pairs of evenly distributed teats; this will ensure a larger size of the litter. Gilts with supernumerary teats (extra teats normally not well developed) should be rejected as this is not a good genetic trait for a breeding sow. Historical background of the gilt should be checked as an indicator of the genetic potential of the gilt.

The gilts mother should have been a good mother – it should at least on average have produced nine piglets per litter with the first farrowing (giving birth in pigs) happening at 12 months and thereafter a farrowing interval of seven months.

Selecting the Boar:

Boar is a male pig; though applicable, artificial insemination in pigs is not so widely used therefore boars are widely used in pig breeding. It is important to select a boar that will ensure you have superior offsprings on your farm. When selecting a boar for breeding, like with the gilt selection; do a thorough historical background check to ensure that he is from a good mother. It must have six pairs of rudimentary teats as this trait is genetically inherited and will be passed on to his gilts.

Of great importance are the sexual organs which must be well developed. The boar must be active and strong and should be at least eight months old at first service. Breeding boars should be checked regularly for brucellosis and leptospirosis by a veterinary surgeon. The recommended boar to sow ration is 1:25. A boar should be used for service two to four times in a week.

If being reared for pork; it is recommended that you castrate male piglets when they are two weeks old to avoid the boar taint in the pork.

Flushing:

Remember to give extra feed to gilt or sow one to two weeks to breeding; this is called flushing and is aimed at increasing the number of eggs ovulated and hence the piglets per birth.

Heat detection and serving: Like in the cow; pigs have an ovulation cycle of three weeks; a sow or gilt will be on heat for 2-3 days during which they should be served. Signs of heat include the following; – restlessness, red and swollen vulva with a whitish mucus discharge and mounting other pigs. When ready for service the gilt or sow will stand still when you apply pressure on its back – this is called standing heat and it shows willingness to be served. Timing of service is important and it is recommended that gilts should be served on day one while sows should be on day two. Whether a sow or gilt; they should be served twice on the recommended day at 12 to 14 hours interval to increase chances of conception.

Heat induction:

Heat is many a time induced in sows especially those under intensive rearing systems and this is normally done within two to ten days after weaning. There are two ways of doing this either through hormone injection or playing with the psychology of the sow. The former is straightforward and should be done by a veterinary surgeon the later can be done by gently stroking the sow’s vulva every morning for three to five days, spraying her house with boar urine and introducing sow to boar.

After service, wait for three weeks and observe for any heat signs; absence of heat signs shows that the pig conceived. Pregnancy will take 114 days.

Farrowing:

When about to farrow (give birth) separate the pregnant pig from the rest and put her in a special farrowing pen. Pigs in most instances give birth unaided but ensure you provide soft bedding for the piglets. Veterinary intervention is needed when a delay of about one hour interval is noted between the arrivals of successive piglets. Vaccinations against e.coli and atrophic rhinitis and deworming should be done two weeks to farrowing. Take note that some dewormers can cause abortions and are contraindicated during gestation.

After birth, cut the umbilical cord to about 5 cm and disinfect with iodine to prevent inflammation and tetanus infection. It is important that you clip the needle teeth using a teeth trimer to avoid injury to the mother’s teats during suckling; if this isn’t done the mother is at risk of getting mastitis or rejecting her litter due to the pain.

Ensure that the piglet suckle enough colostrum and thereafter that they have enough milk. Piglets normally identify one teat which they will suckle; this is called ‘teat fidelity’ and prevents piglets from fighting during suckling. The piglets should be able to suckle to satisfaction if the sow has enough milk but in some circumstances the sow may not have enough milk and a farmer has to supplement or look for a foster mother who has enough milk.

Cow or goat milk and mashed bean porridge can be used to supplement low sow milk. If using a foster mother; she must have farrowed at almost the same time and you have to spray all the piglets in that litter with some spray to disguise the piglets you are introducing since sows use smell to identify their piglets. Piglets are borne with inadequate iron and thus must be supplemented through oral administration or injections. Weaning is normally done at around eight weeks after farrowing.

Feeding:

It must be noted that pigs are monogastric (they have one stomach) and shouldn’t be fed on fibrous feeds as their digestive system doesn’t have the ability to digest such fed. Pigs are nonetheless ferocious feeders and have a high fed conversion ratio. The feed must be rich in energy, proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Pigs can be fed on rice bran, maize, soyabeans, cassava, vegetables, distiller’s residues, milling by products, pumpkins, water hyacinth (pigs are among few animals that feed on this). Where restaurant or chicken waste is used as pig feed they must be screened thoroughly.

Common diseases:

Pigs suffer from myriad bacterial, viral, fungal and nutritional diseases. Signs of ill health include fast breathing which is a sign of fever, droopy ears, change in skin colour, diarrhea, dullness, lack of appetite. When you observe signs of infection in pigs; immediately separated from others and call a veterinary doctor.

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