Pig farming in Kenya: Clean pigs produce more meat
I am a great fan of pork. The rich taste and soft texture make every mouthful worth savoring. The bones are not as meaty as chicken or beef . However, this enhances the meal as one takes time to taste it. I have to take care not to swallow my tongue!
Pig farming has grown in leaps and bounds. Many newspaper articles have been written about it. Many N.G.Os have started programmes educating and promoting it. Our neighbours in Uganda have taken pig rearing so far that pork is their main meat of choice as opposed to beef in Kenya.
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What does one need in order to pursue pig farming ?
Pigs are quite strong so you will need sturdy living quarters for them. There also need to be spacious. Contrary to common belief , pigs are clean creatures! They keep their latrines separate from their sleeping areas. Air circulation and shade are vital. Piglets are very sensitive to low temperatures while adult pigs are affected adversely by heat. Piglets should be kept with the sow apart from the boars. This promotes fast growth as competition is reduced.
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There are numerous types of breeds . Examples are the Landrace,Large White, Duroc and Hampshire.
Above is the Landrace sow.
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The Landrace is usually white with sagging ears and a straight snout . It also has a long middle. However, it has frail legs and tends to have a nervous disposition. It is excellent for pork or bacon production with high lean meat content.
Above is the Duroc sow
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They have a slightly dished in face. Their colour ranges from dark brown to gold. They are medium sized with small drooping ears. The males are quite aggressive and the litters are relatively small compared to other breeds.
Above is the Hampshire boar
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They have erect ears and a black body . They have a white middle band and front legs. They are very good meat producers outperforming Large White and Landrace breeds. However, they do not grow as fast as other breeds. It is used heavily in crossbreeding.
There are various pig processors in Kenya. Some of them are Farmers Choice, Oscar butcheries as will as many pork butcheries spread throughout the country. The dominant player is Farmers Choice which processes about 70% o f the pork in the country. Demand for pork is growing as it is cheaper than beef especially during the dry season. However, supply is yet to catch up with demand. This is partly because pigs are regarded as dirty and undesirable . However, this belief is disappearing rapidly.
The pigs are harvested every six months and payment depends on size and weight. Farmers Choice pays between Kshs 12,000- 18,000 (150$-225$) to the farmers for one pig. This kind of farming is mostly done in Central Province although there has been rising numbers in Western Province. One can also sell the pigs directly to butcheries. In my view, this is the more lucrative option.
Pigs are kept mainly for meat. The meat products include sausages ,bacon , gammon ,ham , head cheese, liver , blood and pork scratchings.
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However, this is the tip of the iceberg.
More than 170 products can be made from a pig!
The following list names by products of a pig:
- heart valves
- calcium which can be added to yoghurt and is good for bones
- gelatin is used to distribute powder to bullets
- haemoglobin from blood is used to make cigarette filters
- fattening acids are used to make crayons
- pig fat is used to make car paint
- chewing gum
Threats to pig farming
Outbreak of epidemics such as African swine fever have threatened the development of pig farming in Kenya. They lead to embargoes on pork by lucrative markets such as the European Union, China and the USA.
Lack of a government pig breeding programme. Pig farming is pushed mostly by processors such as Farmers Choice and non -governmental organisations. The government is well placed to spread pig farming since it has the funds and organisational muscle to do so. An example is the recent popularity of fish farming in Central Province .
There is limited availability of veterinarians and laboratory facilities that will help to do research and monitor outbreaks of epidemics. There should be emphasis on training and spreading awareness of the need for vets . More colleges and polytechnics should be encouraged to offer these courses. Diversification into the same should also be introduced into secondary schools through making the Agriculture syllabus up to date and in tune with problems faced by various farmers in the country. Solutions should be encouraged at all levels through trade fairs, symposiums etc.
Periodic drought and famine outbreaks in Kenya lead to death of various livestock due to hunger. However, the bigger risk lies in swarming of livestock in a small area leading to spread of infectious diseases. Some of these diseases are spread through fomites such as skin cells , hair and clothing. The overpopulation of animals in inadequate tracts of land compounds the dire food situation and makes matters worse. The already scanty population of veterinarians and animal care professionals is stretched to its limit and non- governmental organizations have to come in and help.
High cost of feeds and other inputs . This has been caused by many factors including inflation and drought. There are various recipes for making one’s own feed that greatly reduce costs. One can also give the animals dry feeds .
Aggressive behaviour of the pigs especially boars can put many people off rearing them. It is essential that all farmers go through training so that they can learn proper pig handling . This can be provided by NGOs, processors such as Farmers Choice and Ministry of Livestock officials as well as agronomists and vets.
Pig farming is a worthwhile activity to engage in. There are various challenges
but they are surmountable. The market is growing rapidly and supply is still limited.