WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN STARTING UP A COMMERCIAL PIG FARMING BUSINESS? PART 1
For the previous weeks, I deliberately shared information about the profitability of pig industry and what should be done by both pig farmers and those aspiring to join the business to fully exploit this potential.
Starting this week, we will go through a step by step process of a setting up a commercial pig enterprise considering the three levels; Smallholding, medium-holding and Large-holding. However, this week I will only provide information to kick start us.
There are various issues to think about before setting up a commercial pig enterprise. The key is resources at hand; Land, Feeds, knowledge & skills, money, etc. I think the most important is money because it can easily be used to acquire almost everything that you will need.
The amount of money you have determines the size of farm you can setup. When money is little, thinking at that level and expanding as it increases is very important. When the budget is small, you don’t setup the farm to make money very soon but to multiply it then make money later. When you understand this earlier, the stress and misuse of available resources is avoided. It is good to be ambitious but don’t over stretch otherwise you end up in a situation similar to my friends Gerald and James. James spent almost 50% of his setup budget on farm fixed assets (Buildings, a state of art feeding and drinking system, a huge fence and many other expensive bio security provisions etc). The farm looked just beautiful! Unfortunately, James couldn’t drive the farm for more than a year! He had no money to buy feeds and as you may know, this is a daily necessity. The farm collapsed.
George invested in importing good genetics and probably never asked the genetics company some questions. The structures and general environment was terrible for the pigs to survive so couldn’t grow well. The money left to spend on feeding was very little so couldn’t even feed as recommended by the genetics source, workers had no necessary skills and this guy was very rigid. He paid my consultancy fees in-full but couldn’t listen to understand. I feel like crying whenever I remember this missed opportunity to pig genetic market. Don’t think that I am scaring you, I always want you to choose well and sharing my experiences may be very helpful for such a purpose. The Pork market needs that pig but you can only produce it sustainably when it makes you a return on investment.
Some people intending to start pig farm businesses sometimes speak hard words when I don’t recommend farm visits. I thought this was just due to ignorance, but also active pig producers get frustrated when denied a farm visit! What you need as a starter is not a farm visit but correct linkages that will enable you access right information. Also, you may need to talk to experienced farmers however you must put their information to a logical test. Don’t copy and paste whatever they tell you but try to analyze the information and pick only that matching professional advise. Therefore, never ask to meet a pig producer when in a rush!
My advise to you whenever you schedule a meeting with a pig business consultant or experienced farmer, be careful! You should know that some people may sweet talk you instead of telling the truth because you paid them. They excite you mostly about the benefits but never suggest a clear process through which you will harvest and enjoy the milk and honey. They don’t tell you what it takes so you end up investing but guided by excitement. When you find Chris talking about profitable pig farming, you tell his listeners how he is wasting their time because you tried it and failed.
Anyway back to the point, in a pig sector like ours where trial and error is still a norm of doing business collecting enough information and putting it to right use helps you design your journey to profitability easily. There is no need for you to construct a similar pig house to one of a farmer in Wakiso who seems successful. He may be working in a government department where accessing free money is easy so can’t be shocked by a loss. All he needs is to keep something that can justify his wealth. Other farmers may be depending on a budget bigger than yours and may not tell you that! Do your things right but in your own way and means.
Also, there are people with special privileges for example a head of regional police stations, School, army sections, Prisons, etc. who have access to posho and beans leftovers or even free Maize and Soy. These may have problems on the side of bio security but will of course spend less on feeds. I don’t want to include hotels, restaurants and Swill here. The left overs from these places must be strictly avoided because they are of high disease risk. Anyway, all leftovers are not a good consideration because if the donor of the food had any interaction with remains or pigs infected with African Swine Fever and didn’t disinfect well, the receiver of leftovers risk loosing all his/her pigs. However, not commenting on leftovers would be distancing myself from reality. Currently, this is how pig farming is done in Uganda.
Other privileges may include the presence of enough land to grow Soy & Maize or even sweet potatoes. Sweet potato silage reduces money spent on feeds though may be of help on small and medium scales. Research on this has been conducted already by both International Livestock Research Institute and International Potato Center. Feeding raw vines is uneconomical and the utilization by pigs is very minimal.
Farmers operating a livestock feed mill or selling livestock feed stuffs are also privileged. They can easily get necessary feeds or feedstuffs from their own feed store and save hugely.
A former Big Dutchman (Pig Equipment company) staff told me, today pig house designing is need based. There is no need of putting up an air conditioned pig house in Uganda so as to regulate temperature! Our temperatures are just fine for pigs. This is a natural privilege to save us money on housing. Therefore avoid copy cutting foreign architectural plans. Another friend from Dalein Plasboou told me that spending a lot on housing for a sow herd below 250 might take you very long to recover the investment. Therefore don’t invest hugely in housing for a few sows. Don’t just copy what other farmers do, just do what fits you at a particular time.
I hope we get my target lessons from the above message which include; Consider planning your pig business, seek knowledge and understanding before investing and invest with your brains not heart. We can now start with our journey. Like said before, the success of of any pig producer depends on the quality of genetics he keeps, quality of feeds he provides and level of husbandry knowledge. Therefore, the first step to setting up a pig farming business is gathering and understanding as much information as possible. The information on above must be included to marketing. Understanding who may be willing to pay for what you are planning to produce is very important. This helps you learn about their quality standards, quantities consumed, payment terms, frequency of purchases etc so that you plan accordingly.
You need information about successful pig farmers in your country or area. Analyze their stories and note their success drivers, they will help you later on the journey. Of course some don’t grow pigs to earn from them so analyze their stories very well because they might not tell you that.
Now on the three keys of a successful pig farm enterprise. Feeding: Seek information about available feedstuffs and their nutrient contents. Collect information about available generic formulas. These should be for reference purposes only. You surely have no idea why such a formula was designed and for the type of farm it was designed. In this changing technological environment about feeds, genetics and housing, there is no general formula for every farm in the country. Engage a commercial livestock nutritionist who has designed a successful feed formula before. Acquiring a masters in animal production/Nutrition is another thing from designing a performing feed formula. Look for people who have either designed a performing formula for other farms or someone who has worked with people who designed a performing feed formula. The formula must be profitable, must consider easily accessible feedstuffs and their costs. The advantage of acquiring an experienced nutritionist is to reduce the cost of designing a working formula. Feed formulation is commonly a trial and error process so if the trials are not minimized, the cost is very high. Experience and adequate information about new additives and changing feed technologies is key to designing a profitable feed formula.
On genetics, gather enough information and check it well. There has been a number of importation of some breed-lines into the country but some where not properly professionally guided. Also, there has been a lot of inbreeding. The frustrating situation created by the above made many farmers loose their faithfulness. They have large white if it is what you need, the same can change to Landrace, to combrough then to a cross between Landrace, Large White or any other breed depending on what you ask for. Gather enough information and educate yourself about the different commercial pig breeds available worldwide and how they can be put to efficient use. In my coming missives on genetics, I will emphasize Artificial Insemination. Gather information on this too and educate yourself about its advantages over natural insemination, how you can be trained to carry it out and it’s cost effectiveness. Listen to people’s suggestions about particular breeds but please make independent and informed decisions basing on your research. It is easy to land into hands of a gambler and he guides you to failure.
On husbandry, you need to be engaged in a serious training. It is easy to buy quality genetics and feeds but poor husbandry can fail you. It is also not good to go for a training when you know nothing about commercial pig farming. Again when you land into hands of a gambler, it will be difficult for you to realize. One source of free information about pig farming is the internet, make it your friend. I also have a number of free write ups about several topics accessible from different online publishers. Many research organizations including International Livestock Research Institute, FAO, International Potato Center have a lot of vital information about pig farming in Uganda. If you have some money to spend, my book “Farming Pigs For Money” will cover it all. Some information regarding rations, feeding at will or not, dry or wet feeding, Average Daily Gain, Feed conversation ratios, vaccination regimes, can be collected from your genetics source.
We will start from here next week.
It is good for you to acquire my book “Farming Pigs For Money”. It is available in Aristoc and Uganda Bookshop. Call: 0777979516 for delivery arrangements.