In Summary

  • Confirm that the farm selling the pigs has records regarding mothering ability of sows, and growth rate of the piglets.
  • The lifespan of a pig farmed in confinement is five to 10 years depending on the quality of management and the swine’s genetic composition.
  • In selecting the breeding stock, regardless of the breed, there are specific characteristics a farmer should be interested in.
  • Mastitis is the infection of the mammary glands. Metritis refers to infection of the uterus while agalactia is lack of milk production.

Many times people have called me enquiring about how to select a good dairy or beef cattle, but somehow farmers assume that on the contrary, pigs do not have to be selected like cows.

This is probably because pig farming is not heavily promoted in the same way as cattle farming.

However, over the last four months, I have had several enquiries from various parts of the country, particularly, Murang’a, Kiambu and Bungoma of people seeking to know how they can ensure the pigs they wish to buy would be good for breeding and slaughter.

Orina from Bungoma said he had bought two groups of five pigs each but was disappointed that they calved few piglets.

I knew he was unfamiliar with pig farming when he concluded, “I believe the heifers and bull I bought to start my stock were not of good quality”.

Well, heifers are female cows of breeding age that have not given birth.

The equivalent in pigs is known as gilts while the males are boars. A mother pig is called a sow while in cattle, it is a cow.

I always advice farmers and those planning to be farmers to familiarise themselves with the various terms that are used for each type of farming.

This is important because when looking for information, the farmer will be able to recognise and understand the correct terms.

In addition, the farmer is seen to be knowledgeable and gets respect from the animal health service providers and other farmers when she uses the right terms.

Interestingly, even livestock traders respect farmers who are knowledgeable and offer them better prices for their animals.

SELECT FROM WELL-MANAGED FARMS

To assist Orina and others wishing to learn more about pigs, I will delve into the process of selecting pigs for breeding and producing slaughter hogs, as pigs are also referred to. They are also called swine.

Just like cattle, swines have various breeds that have different characteristics that are associated with each. Some of the performance parameters in pigs are the number of piglets they can produce, maternal performance or the ability to nurse the piglets to weaning age, meat production which is measured by the rate of weight gain and the longevity of the breeders.

The lifespan of a pig farmed in confinement is five to 10 years depending on the quality of management and the swine’s genetic composition.

As a cardinal rule, a farmer should always select breeding animals from farms or herds that are well managed and have high levels of cleanliness.

The most common and preferred pig breeds in Kenya are the Land race and the Large white. Both have good breeding, mothering and meat production qualities.

When selecting the breeding pig stock, these are the specific characteristics a farmer should be interested in.

When selecting the breeding pig stock, these are the specific features that a farmer should be interested in. PHOTO | COURTESY

Due to the pigs’ white colour and cross-breeding, many people are not able to differentiate them.

The Land race is a large white pig with a depressed or dished nose while the Large white has a straight nose. The Land race has large straight ears while those of the Large white tend to droop forward.

The Land race has a long body and longer legs than other pigs.

The Hampshire and Duroc breeds are also available in Kenya. Hampshires are black and white pigs while the Durocs are brown.

Black spots or bands seen in white pigs are due to cross-breeding of the Large white and Land race with Hampshire pigs.

Some white pigs have brown hairs that are attributed to crossing of the white pigs with the Duroc breed. The white pigs fetch the best prices in Kenya and hence they are preferable.

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