Introduction to pig farming
Domestication of pigs began a long time ago, when they were merely treated as scavengers; they gradually evolved as they are now domesticated for home consumption and commercial purposes.
Statistics show that there has been an increase in pig production all over the world, with China being the leading producer of pigs (Kyriazakis, 2006). There are various breeds of pigs examples include: Yorkshire, Landrace, Duroc, Chester White, Spotted, Hampshire and Poland China (Gillespie, 1997).
Several factors have to be put in place when rearing pigs in an intensive unit. Arid to semi-arid environments often pose a challenge when it comes to pig rearing. Costly feed supply such as maize which is the main ingredient in feed diets has resulted in a significant drop in pig production especially in an intensive setup.
How to manage pigs in a confined area
Well managed piggery units yield great profits for a farmer or organization.
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Crucial factors to consider when rearing pigs:
- Biosecurity: effective disease control measures ought to be put in place to minimize spread of diseases from the outside into the piggery unit. The initiative are basically:
- footbaths for the employees as they enter a piggery unit/section;
- strict control of cellular phones which are often neglected by most as they move with people everywhere;
- specific clothing for employees in the piggery unit, in order to guarantee that home clothes will not be exposed to the pigs in case of a disease outbreak.
- Adequate nutrition: Sufficient well balanced nutrition has to be fed at all times, in particular trace mineral elements magnesium, sodium, copper, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium etc.
- Cooling facilities: Pigs do not have sweat glands, hence they rely heavily on support from the farmer especially in the summer months. Use of water sprinklers and fans are appropriate to regulate the pigs’ body temperature. Since, extreme high temperatures may result in pigs succumbing to stress and eventually death.
- Manure disposal sites: Ideal disposal of manure on a farm has to be put into consideration, as frequent contact with manure may promulgate disease causing micro-organisms.
- Avoid mixing different age groups: So as to minimize bullying among sows, boars and piglets. When feeding one may be faced with a serious challenge of bullying.
- Routine vaccinations: Different geographical zones often succumb to different diseases.
- Clean supply of water: Clean water enhances the smooth growth of pigs and suppression of water borne diseases. A water nipple system set up is quite convenient as it reduces wastage of water.
Management of different pig units/section
- Service unit: When handling boars and sows in this section one has to be vigilant, as this is the unit that deals with artificial insemination (AI), whereby breeding sows are artificially inseminated.
- Artificial insemination: Barrows commonly referred to as teasers are used to stimulate sows on to come on heat often seen when sow ears are erect and standing still, hence ready for insemination.
- Natural mating: therefore a boar is placed in a unit with sows to be served by the boar. Upon successful mating, the boar can be separated from the sows.
- Farrowing unit: In a farrowing unit it is equally important to note that an employee ought to be always on standby. Uniquely a sow’s gestation period is three months, three weeks and three days which totals to 114 days. During farrowing several complications may arise such as a breech, a scenario whereby an unborn piglet blocks passage for other unborn piglets. Therefore, assistance may be required to facilitate smooth farrowing. Sometimes a sow may accidently lay on top of newly farrowed piglets. Use of farrowing crates that specifically isolate the sow from accidentally stepping all over the pen are quite ideal unlike open pens that may result in the death of many piglets when accidentally stepped on by sows.
NB: Helping piglets suckle and placing them under infrared lights when the sow is still farrowing is advisable.
Studies have shown that sow milk gradually decreases after farrowing therefore, creep feeding may be introduced as a supplement. Piglets are weaned from the sow at 28 days old, however, weaker piglets may stay a-little longer in the farrowing unit.
Fostering among sows is a common phenomenon, whereby immediately after farrowing weaker piglets are selected and given to another sow. Delays in this process may result in a sow resenting fostered piglets.
The advantage of fostering is that it minimizes bullying in piglets, as often happens when stronger piglets get a tit in-front whereas the weaker ones at the back and sometimes may still suckle from other tits. Hence, if this goes unnoticed the piglet’s health may deteriorate.
Boar: male pig
Sow: female pig
Barrow: castrated male pig
Piglets: young piglet
Furrowing: act of parturition in pigs
Creep feed: a solid diet given to piglets from seven days onwards
Even if it is a basic intensive farming operation, a few challenges remain because of the cramped system in which animals are farmed. Issues such as management, hygiene and disease outbreaks need careful thought.
A proper management system significantly contributes to the success of a piggery unit.
Gillespie, J.R. (1997). Animal Science. An International Thomson Publishing company ITP. Delmar Publishers.
Kyriazakis, I. (2006). Whittemore’s science and practice of pig production (pp. 105-147). Oxford: Blackwell publishing.