Over the years, pig farming in Kenya has gradually risen to become one of the top agribusiness ventures. Pork accounts for 38% of the world’s meat production, making it a very popular meat. Domesticated pigs are called swines. Swines reproduce twice a year, their gestation period being only 114 days; three months, three weeks, and three days. Therefore, farmers rearing pigs for sale can get a lot of profit, depending on the number of pigs they raise on their farms. One such farmer is Benson Wirigi, who has a passion for pig farming.
Three years ago, Wirigi decided to try out pig farming to sustain him even after he leaves employment, and he has never looked back. Today, he is the proud owner of Gritty Pigs, an enterprise that rears and sells pigs. His farm is located in his home in Meru, offering just the best environment for his pigs.
A visit to the farm paints a picture of an oasis in the middle of a desert, only black cotton soil instead of sand. He tells us that the initial cost of setting up his farm and getting his first pig stock was approximately four hundred thousand Kenya shillings. Yet, despite the high initial cost of setting up the farm, today, he can afford a smile. “Starting out was very costly because I wanted to have the best structures and good quality pigs. But, today, I can confidently say that pig farming has been very rewarding for me. It has really helped me a lot.”
The High school Math teacher takes us through his pig farming journey as we watch his five sows play with their 30 piglets in the pigsty. “I started with five pigs which I bought somewhere in Meru. They were weaners, two months old. I reared them for about six months and sold four to a local slaughter. I preserved the remaining two as my breeding stock and bought a boar to serve them.”
At this point, Wirigi started rearing his own pigs. The Landrace, he says, were very prolific as they gave birth to 14-15 piglets, and most of them survived to maturity. He now sells piglets to farmers who are starting out on pig farming. Occasionally, he also sells to the local slaughterhouses.
During the COVID-19 crisis lockdown period, when all schools were closed, pig farming came in handy for Wirigi. “I lost my job during the lockdown period since all schools were closed. So I went fully into pig farming for an entire year, and it served me right.” In addition, he has employed one farm manager who takes care of the pigs and offers free training to any farmer willing to start pig farming.
Wirigi says successful pig farming combines having the right breed, suitable housing, proper feeding, disease and pest management, among other practices that must be observed. He advises those who want to get into pig production to observe all these for better returns. “First, get the right breed. The breed is very critical as it gives you the offspring. I am hoping to transition and get the Duroc Jersey, which happens to be a better breed. Not to say that the Landrace is a bad breed. It is also an excellent breed and has served me very well,” he says.
When it comes to feeding, he recommends commercial feeds. “Feeding is very critical. For the longest time in history, pigs have been feeding on kitchen refuse and waste from hotels. I do not say they are bad, but their performance is not the same as comparing them with commercial feeds. It is important to have a feeding regime so that even if you are using the kitchen refuse, you supplement a bit with commercial feeds. That way, you are assured of better yields,” says Wirigi.
Due to the expensive costs of feeds, he opts to make his own feeds. “I buy the raw materials and make my own feeds at home, which is cheaper and saves me some money.”
As we walk through his pigsty, we notice that it is clean and dry. This is definitely unlike what we are used to pigs, dirty and messy. Wirigi says it is essential to keep the pigsty clean and dry to prevent diseases. It should also be free from rain, sun and wind with no slippery floor. He also emphasized that an iron injection is essential for young pigs on the third day, repeating on the 21st day.
As we pick pawpaws and oranges from trees on the farm, Wirigi talks about the future. “In future, I am looking to work with Farmers Choice as they offer a reliable market. In addition, I hope the partnership with Kenya Climate Innovation Centre under the AgriBiz programme will enable me to grow my stock and increase my supplies. Adding more stock on my farm will also offer the local community members employment as casuals or farm managers.”
Pig farming is rewarding. However, just like any other business, a person looking to go into pig farming must do research to determine whether the industry will realize profit or not. Lack of research and planning may cause frustrations.