- Make sure that you keep breeds that are good farrowers (able to give birth prolifically) and fast-maturing.
- The sows should be properly fed and kept in good health to ensure they come to heat soon after farrowing. Equally important is that boars should be well-fed and be healthy for proper serving and preventing spreading of diseases.
- Use of services of qualified personnel is also key to success
- Encourages more people to venture into the farming given the rising consumption of pork and other pig products in the country.
American author and businessman Clement Stone coined the now famous quote: “When life hands you a lemon, squeeze it and make lemonade.”
This dictum rings true to Michael Wanyoike, 66, to whom the 2007/2008 post-election violence handed a lemon. He did not sulk or curse after the 12 beef cattle he was rearing at his 50-acre Kongoni Farm in Isinya, Kajiado County, were stolen by people who took advantage of the chaos to disinherit others. He lost Sh300,000 in the theft.
After the chaos, he picked up the pieces and eight years later, he has risen to be the best Farmer’s Choice bacon producer in Kenya for three consecutive years in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“I bought the farm in 2003 but did not know how to utilise it to make money. In early 2007, I was advised by a friend that Isinya was very ideal for beef cattle. I took the advice and bought 12 mature animals at Njiru market in Nairobi.
There was a lot of fodder on my farm and in six months, the animals were fat enough for the market. But as I was readying to sell them, thugs, who were taking advantage of the 2007 chaos took away all the 12,” narrates Wanyoike.
Despite the setback, Wanyoike did not abandon his quest to put the land in the semi-arid region into good use. In 2009, with no previous experience, he ventured into pig farming.
“I realised that cattle keeping in the area is prone to rustling. It was at that moment that I decided to get into pig farming since the animals are rarely stolen.”
Having held a white collar job all his working life, the father of four did not know where to start to actualise his new dream. But Farmer’s Choice extension services came in handy in actualising the former BAT Kenya human resources director’s dream.
“They gave me the basic information on pig farming. But what was more important is that they recommended me to some accomplished farmers in Nairobi and Murang’a, who I visited. These visits gave me the inspiration and confidence to implement my plans. Since then I have been learning new things every now and then.”
After the learning experience, he was ready for the toil, which he started by purchasing his first stock of six pregnant sows at Sh30,000 each from Farmer’s Choice.
From that moment, he has never looked back and listening to him now talk about pig farming, and what it takes to produce the best bacon in the country, you could easily take Wanyoike who has 550 pigs at any moment for a university professor with a PhD in animal husbandry.
Wanyoike, whose pig farming knowledge is from practical experience right from the onset, attributes his success to pig management practices that he adheres to.
“I make sure that I keep breeds that are good farrowers (giving birth prolifically) and fast-maturing,” he says. On his farm, Wanyoike keeps three breeds for various reasons.
These are Landrace, Large White and Duroc. Landrace are long, big, farrow more and are very good mothers. On the other hand, Large White are big and strong while Duroc grows very fast, puts on weight fast and are heavy.
“Farrowing should be at least twice a year. I make sure that the sows are properly fed and kept in good health to ensure they come to heat soon after farrowing. Equally important is that boars should be well-fed and be healthy for proper serving and prevent spreading of diseases.”
He is excited about the recent introduction of artificial insemination services for pigs that enhance the chances of achieving two farrows a year.
“In the last two months, we have been using AI on our sows. This is a milestone as it guarantees quality breeds while reducing the risk of disease infections through mating. We purchase semen a dose at Sh1,500 from Farmer’s Choice and do the serving ourselves on the farm".
For optimal returns on investment in pig farming, Wanyoike focuses on ensuring that each farrow has at least 10 piglets a litter.
GOOD SELECTION OF BREEDERS
“The number can be up to 15 but on my farm the average is 12. Anything less than 10 is not good business. To achieve a good litter, you have to do good selection of the breeders, ensure they are healthy and stress-free.”
Another factor that he considers is to make sure that his piglets weigh at least a kilo each.