Pig breeders look at selling very high genetic potentials which guarantee better profitability.
Dr Cuthbert Tukundane, a resident veterinary officer at Kashoroza Pig Breeding Centre says shifting piglets to cow milk after one week is a desirable way to achieve three productions in a year and increasing the potential of farmers.
Presenting his findings during the launch of the multi-purpose Rukungiri Producers Cooperative Union in Rukungiri District,
Dr Tukundane said that keeping the piglets longer with the mother is not commercially viable. “If you want to disrupt the normal system of the piglet depending on the mother, you can foster the piglets on cow milk,” Tukundane said.
According to Dr Tukundane, the first requirement for successful piglet feeding is to ensure that each newborn receives an adequate supply of colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the sow; its function is to provide nutrients and other essential substances in a highly concentrated form.
In addition, colostrum helps to increase disease resistance in piglets by providing immunisation with immunoglobulins (also called antibodies). Immunoglobulins are proteins, absorbed by the newborn pig’s gut, that provide protection against disease.
He explains that this should be done at least after the first week before piglets can be weaned off to cow milk that is kept at a good temperature.
“You can let the mother be dried off. If you do that, it takes just 14 days for the mother to come back on heat and therefore, that famous idea of having a pig produce three times a year, is achievable. If you give the mother to nurse the piglets that time of nursing makes the mother delay going on heat and recovering body shape. When you take the piglets away, the mother recovers the body shape quickly,” he says. Dr Tukundane says that due to larger litter sizes and increased competition for sow milk, nutrient availability for newly-born pigs is often limited. He says that there are instances when some pigs produce more piglets than the tits they have. “That pressure can be reduced effectively with early weaning,” he says.
Dr Tukundane says newly weaned piglets often show a high incidence of diarrhoea due to reduced gut health, low immune status and high stress levels at weaning. Cow milk, therefore, facilitates the transition from sow milk to dry, vegetarian diets after weaning. That diet also contributes to the easy acceptability and palatability due to a familiar smell, taste and digestibility. Dr Tukundane explains that practically, the farmers should administer a litre of cow milk per piglet a day.
This would enable even growth while handing piglets more chances of survival. Dr Tukundane says that generally, the use of cow milk leads to improved performance, lower levels of mortality and higher profitability for the pork producer. He explains that in large litters there are more weak piglets with lower birth weights. Increasing the survival rate at weaning is thus one of the biggest challenges and, therefore, special attention should be paid to these vulnerable piglets.
“Usually as pigs suckle from the mother, some get the crashing problem as they get outcompeted. When you replace the milk requirements with dairy supplies, you get an even growth of the piglets. That competition on the tits is controlled almost 100 per cent. So that is a smart move of raising a good number of piglets on the farm,” he says. He says that providing an additional milk replacer to suckling piglets will increase nutrient intake of the piglets and, therefore, improve pre-weaning daily weight gain and weaning weights.
Essentially, this stimulates pre- and post-weaning feed intake during the first few days after weaning, as it acclimatises the piglets to solid feed before weaning and stimulates the development of the digestive system.
Kashoroza Pig Breeding Centre is a demonstration project funded by the Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) bringing together more than 4,000 farmers.
The MSC offered the initial seed capital of 780 pigs in 2020 which have multiplied to the farmers while at the breeding centre, just under 1,000 pigs are kept. The MSC staff is offering training on financial literacy and best agronomic practices to the farmers.
Piggery is increasingly becoming important in Uganda and especially Rukungiri where there is increased pressure on land.
Dr Sam Akankwasa, who pioneered the programme in Rukungiri District for poverty alleviation, says piglets are a more viable option in the area.
Using a formula of one pig producing at least 10 piglets every month, three times a year, he argues that farmers are able to raise more than 100 piglets in a year.
He says that if a farmer started with one cow, he can only have about two cows in three years because it takes nine months to produce a calf.
“Our mission is to create economic stability. By using piggery, our parents cannot fail to have school fees for their children because pigs can offer a consistent supply of income,” he says.
The outlook for pig business is promising. Although pigs are not considered among the 20 priority sub-programmes of the country’s Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP), about 17.8 per cent of all households own at least one pig in Uganda. The number of pigs increased from 0.19 million in 1980 to 3.2 million in 2008, according to the national livestock census 2018. Such stats give Dr Akankwasa confidence that investing piggery is not in vain.
Uganda’s population is roughly 85 per cent Christian, which is a big potential market for pork. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), at 3.43 kilogrammes, Uganda’s pork per capita consumption is the highest in sub- Saharan Africa.