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Pigs literally bring home the bacon. However, for them to do so farmers need to ensure they are fed a balanced diet.

How can a farmer improve his pigs’ productivity, weight and make reasonable profits from this business? Proper feeding is key. Most farmers moan that feeds are the most costly part of pig farming. Any savings related to feeds would be a relief. Pig feed availability, accessibility, affordability and sustainability are the common challenges farmers face.

Presently, farmers bear the brunt of increased costs due to the recently introduced value added tax. The available commercially-produced feeds are pig creep pellets for piglets, sow and weaners for breeders and pig finishers for fatteners.

These feeds are relatively expensive, as presently, a 50-kilo bag of sow weaner is retailing at Sh1,950. This bag often lasts for approximately 15 days if exclusively fed to a sow at an average of three kilos a day.

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Cumulatively, the total costs per month are beyond the reach of many small-holder farmers. The best way to reduce these costs would be for a farmer to combine commercially produced feeds with home-prepared ones. Easy-to-grow feeds — such as maize bran, sweet potato vines, cassava leaves, sunflower seeds and nappier grass — are some of the preferred choices since their production is sustainable.

Pig farmers should plant napier grass, maize, sweet potatoes and cassava. The last two crops are of great benefit as the farmer will harvest the tubers and feed the vines and leaves to the pigs.

Grocery by-products are also a relatively cheaper and can easily be sourced from vegetable markets. Another easily available and affordable feed, especially for pig farmers in rural areas, is posho mill waste that can be cooked or mixed with the other commercial feeds.

Different varieties of vegetables such as cabbages, pumpkins and fruits are also good pig feeds.

For pigs to gain good weight and improve productivity, farmers need to feed them at least two times a day depending on the different ages and nutritional needs of the pigs. The farmer must consider the feed rations and dietary requirements.

To ensure maximum weight gain, maize or wheat bran is highly recommended. Home-grown feeds need to be “processed” to some degree.

This basically means that the farmer may need to invest in a mill and mixer to ensure the splitting of grains and even mixing of different feed rations.

For a quick source of proteins, offals (matumbo) and blood may be collected from local slaughterhouses and cooked with some maize meal before being offered to the pigs. It is recommended that a pig farmer, who collects these by-products from a slaughterhouse ensures that they are cooked thoroughly due to the often poor hygienic conditions in some slaughterhouses. Omena is also another alternative protein source.

Gilts (piglets) require at least 2.5kg per day while pregnant sows and boars need 3kg. It is paramount to ensure that the feeding and watering troughs are well-cleaned to prevent diseases. Contrary to the common misconception that pigs like dirt, a clean environment will result in a happy pig and consequently maximum returns. The market for pigs is insatiable.

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