Being one of those people new and struggling pig farmers meet for some ideas about business, I listen to a lot of stories about investing in piggery – both good and bad. Unfortunately, I sometimes fail to convince some of my clients to do the right thing.
Exposing business reality makes them think that I am just killing their ambitions and positivity. “The man is negative”, they always say! Anyway, my role is not to convince, but rather suggest the most appropriate ideas to the profitability of the farm depending on available situations.
Decision making remains a privilege of the farm owner. Some pig farmers, most especially those doing it for the first time, deliberately fail to understand that the business of farming pigs falls under two broad categories and these are:
1. The traditional pig farming business
2. The modern pig farming business
Traditional pig farming has been here for some time. Pig farming did not start today; it was here since colonial times. Traditional pig farming is defined by use of simpler methods of production and inputs to grow pigs for sale. The objective of this category may be business or something else, for example:
👉 Some farmers keep pigs to fix their money so that it is recovered later with some appreciation. So their pigs are banks!
👉 Pigs are kept for home meat.
👉 Others keep pigs to dispose of non-commercial crop residues and Kitchen waste.
This is why this category of pig farming is characterised by:-
👉 Poor housing, tethering and free range.
👉 Use of free or cheap feedstuffs without considering their contribution (negative or positive) to performance of the pigs for example, kitchen waste, brewer’s waste, hotel/restaurant refuse or grazing.
👉 Use of cheaper genetics without performance considerations.
👉 Number of pigs kept do not depend on business feasibility.
👉 No record keeping.
👉 Longer lactation periods leading to fewer litters per sow per year.
👉 No biosecurity and vaccination plans.
The goal of a traditional pig farmer is to spend as little money as possible on growing pigs. A traditional producer may not care about time taken to produce the pig and amount of money got after sale.
There are two main reasons why traditional pig farming is still coexisting with modern pig farming in Uganda;
👉 Some farmers are limited by resources such as finances to buy improved genetics, quality feeds, pay labour and build ideal pig shelters.
👉 This is how pig farming has been done for a long time in Uganda. For those who grew up from families growing pigs like me understand that pigs were kept at the backyard and feeding comprised of peelings, left overs, non-commercial roots of sweet potatoes and cassava leaves.
Traditional pig farmers are more exposed to risks such as disease outbreaks, mycotoxicosis and low grade pork. However, this does not mean they completely make no money. Since their inputs range from free to very cheap, whatever money got after sale is profit. After all, most traditional producers carry out pig farming as a side activity. It is not usually their main business.
Due to the fact that it has existed here for a long time, traditional pig farming set standards that make trade between commercial pig farmers and pork joints/butchers difficult.
The systems in most pig abattoirs have also been designed to obey the norms of traditional pig farming:
👉 There is excessive trimmings which reduce the killing out percentage.
👉 Pigs are slaughtered unhygienically, pork is poorly handled, harsh treatment to pigs before slaughter etc.
👉 Offal (legs, heads and internal organs) is not valued. It is taken for free.
The traditional category has also influenced pork consumer’s tastes and preferences.
👉 Free range or locally produced pigs are tastier. Of course, this is what they are used to in their “kafundas”.
👉 You must hide when eating pork because the meat is associated with unhygienic and rudimentary production/marketing systems.
👉 Dishes from pork are only two, barbecue and pan-fried.
Therefore, a commercial pig farmer must be careful when choosing market for their pigs. Traditional abattoirs may not be a market option.
Whereas in modern pig farming attention is paid to both quality and contribution of inputs used to the profitability of the business. Modern pig farming is about well planned pig farming activities aimed at generating a profit. Modern pig farming works with clear cut strategies;
👉 Level of out put per given input
👉 Duration through which output is obtained.
👉 Quality of output
👉 Pricing strategies for output.
👉 Marketing strategies for output
👉 Input/Output cycle. Etc.
The choice of any of the two categories depends on resources (Land, Feeds, skilled and knowledgeable labor, quality genetics etc) available.
The two categories are independent of each other. Methods working in category one cannot be implemented in category two for similar results and the reverse is true. The success in any of the categories demands for unique approaches.
Pig farming becomes frustrating when a farmer tries to import category one methods into category two or vice versa. It would have been fine if failure was abrupt but business deterioration happens gradually when interrupted by primitive or a mixture of modern and primitive methods which makes the cost of failing very high!
Sometimes, people invest 100M and harvest only 10M over a period of 1 to 2 years. This is because whenever systems on a modern pig farm are compromised, the process of failing starts but with gradual effects taking you long to realize most especially when farm records are not analyzed weekly/bi-weekly or monthly. Therefore by the time you realize, alot of money is lost already!
Let’s imagine of the following scenarios:-
1. A farmer stocking more pigs than what their capital base can sustain! Compromise in management, nutrition, health becomes inevitable therefore failure assured.
2. A farmer spending the largest part of their capital on stocking high quality genetics. The budget left fail to cater for feeds and other farm expenses. Failure is assured!
3. A farmer committing resources to construction of very expensive pig structures and stock them with poor quality genetics. Failure or delay in recovering farm investment assured.
4. A farmer with good housing, management, genetics but poor nutrition. Failure is assured. Investment unrecoverable!
5. A farmer who stocks quality feeds, genetics and practicing good management but fail to develop a reliable marketing system for farm produce. Cash flow frustration is assured therefore failure inevitable.
6. A farmer with a good pig farming business but lousy biosecurity protocols. Failure is assured!
The six scenarios above explains why some pig farming businesses in Uganda and countries we share similar situations fail. When properly analyzed, you find that there is still importantation of primitive practices from the traditional to modern farming businesses. This is either intended or influenced by limited resources resulting from poor planning. There are farmers who invest in quality genetics but subject it to poor nutrition! Others buy high quality feeds and subject it to poor genetics.
You must strike a balance in your investment plan. If your capital base can sustain 10 sows, please don’t stock 15! Work with the 10 sows and expand farm from revenue generated by them.
There is no room for compromise in modern pig farming systems. Even though you feed a pig well in its early stages of growth but fail to feed right during finishing stage, both money invested at sart and end may be lost. Proper feeding is required from starter to finishing stages and must be subjected to proper genetics.
Buying feeds for genetically inferior pigs is like washing your white clothes in muddy water, you loose both your energy and clothes! You invest money that will never be recovered.
Only traditional pig farming gives room for compromise. Modern pig farming doesn’t!