Pig farming: the basics for a profitable business

Pig farming and handling: the basics for a profitable business||Pig farming and handling: the basics for a profitable business

The rearing of domestic pigs began many years ago by the nomadic communities. Pig farming is still regarded as a lucrative venture, and is trending lately.

Good husbandry practices ensure the success of running a pig farming activity.

Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, China, South Africa, and Belgium are some of the top pork producers in the world.

Today’s edition focuses on the production and handling of pigs on a farm.

Common terms in pig farming

  • Barrow: male pig castrated before puberty.
  • Stag: male pig castrated later in life (an older boar after castration).
  • Gilt: young female not yet mated, or not yet farrowed, or after only one litter.
  • Weaner: a pig that has just been weaned (no longer suckles from the sow).

Typical structures of a piggery unit

Offices and showers
Management offices and tea rooms welcome visitors prior to entry in a piggery unit, such that, all logistics and concerns are dealt with in this section. Right next to offices are shower rooms and closets for employees to change into work regalia (overalls, boots, head caps etc.). Therefore, home clothes do not pass this section, as employees are provided with all essentials.

Farrowing unit
The maternity ward is a very sensitive area, as failure to adhere to biosecurity measures may introduce diseases for sows and newly farrowed piglets. Foot baths at the entry are quite essential.

Dry sow unit
After successful natural mating or artificial insemination, sows are moved to the dry sow unit, usually individual crates in a commercial setup. This minimizes bullying among sows, which may yield deleterious losses such as low feed intake, embryo death and stress.

Weaner unit
Usually between 21-28 days of age, piglets are weaned and relocated to the weaner unit. Change of environment, bullying, stress, introduction to more solid rations may result in piglet losses under poor management. Therefore, another critical phase occurs when mixing piglets from different sows, which is uncomfortable at the beginning but, with time, piglets get familiar with the new surroundings.

Fattening unit
From the weaner house, the breeding stock/line is selected and the remaining pigs are fattened for the abattoir.

Factors to consider when running a pig farm

Given that feed costs account for approximately 70% of the entire production cost. Adequate rations must be fed to the different age groups of pigs. Carbohydrates (yellow maize, sorghum, wheat), fibre (lucerne, bran), protein (fishmeal, soya bean, sunflower) and premix (calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron).

Purchasing of fans to help moderate temperature is most suitable, especially in a commercial set up where there are many pigs. Poor regulation of temperature results in stress.

A clean source of water for pigs ought to be provided and in summer months water sprinklers help pigs cool down.

Routine practices
When carrying out frequent tasks such as tail docking, tattooing and iron supplementation, minimal stress is to avoid at all times.

Veterinary visits
Routine visits from veterinarians would help a farmer with disease handling, therefore, an essential part of management.

No contact with vermin
When setting up a piggery unit, it is important to provide good housing and fencing. This will help minimize contact with birds and wild pigs, which can be disease transmitters to the pigs.

To sum it all up, the factors described strive towards the reduction of stress which pigs succumb to more frequently. Therefore, good practices would add profit into a farmers’ pocket.


Bhat, P.N., Mohan, N.H., & Sukh, D., (2010). Pig Production. Centre for Integrated Animal Husbandry Dairy Development, Flat No. 205, Block No. F-64/C9, Sector-40, Noida 201 301. Studium Press (India) Pvt. Ltd, Pg. 214-220.

Faucitano, L., & Schaefer, A.L., (2008). Welfare of pigs: From birth to slaughter. Wageningen. Academic Publishers. Pg. 116-118.

Gillespie, J.R., (1997). Animal Science. An International Thomson Publishing Company ITP. Delmar Publishers.

Herpin, P., & Le Dividich, J., (1995). Thermo-regulation and the environment. In Varley M.A. The Neonatal Pig: Development and Survival. Wallingford (UK), CAB Int., Pg. 57-95.

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