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When looking to venture into pig farming, the beginning point is to have good gilts (female pigs yet to give birth) and nice boars (male pigs). So what do you look for when selecting this stock?

A good gilt

Good gilt should come from a good background. The mother should have weaned at least 10 piglets. This is a sign that it will be a good mother in future. That is not all the mother or the sow should have farrowed (given birth) for the first time at one year of age meaning that she should have been served for the first time at 8 months of age. In addition, an inter farrowing interval of seven months gives a good score for reproductively.

Strong legs

The best time to choose future sows is at around five to six months of age; choose the ones with the fastest growing rate with good body conformity and strong legs. The chosen gilt should have 12 teats that are well spaced and developed. Gilts with supernumerary teats or inverted teats or teats with fat deposits at the base should be rejected. They aren’t good signs of reproduction.

Choosing the boar

The next critical step is selecting the boar. Bear in mind that the boar will contribute half the quality of the next generation and as such selection should be taken seriously. Check that the sex organs are normal or well developed without any anatomical deformities. Select the biggest at around five to six months of age. Just like in the females the boar must have 12 well spaced rudimentary teats and feet must be strong. When selecting the breeding male; ensure that it is chosen from a sow that had over ten piglets per litter.

On heat

Despite this selection; there can be instances when the gilt will not conceive and this can be caused by the either the sow being too fat, some gilts will not conceive on their first heat cycle. In addition the problem can be due to too young boars that will need assistance to breed or when a boar is serving more than five females per week. Heat signs to look for in a gilt or sow include the following:- swelling and reddening of the vulva, white mucus discharge from the vulva, the pig will mount other pigs and will stand still when pressure is applied on its back. Sows sometimes are slow to come to heat after farrowing.

The following can be done to speed up cycling in such sows— Separate them from piglets at six weeks of age and mix them with other dry sows in close contact with a boar; putting the sow in a group causes stress which induces heat. Give the sow 4 kgs of feeds daily for ten days (flushing) to increase the conception rate and thus litter size.

This feature was published by Dr. Othieno Joseph, who works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council –KENTTEC

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