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Farmer enjoys the fruits of diversification

John Raphael urges peasants to try their hands in pig rearing since rising demand for pork products provides a ready market 

John Raphael, a farmer in Borabu sub-county, Nyamira country has discovered the secrets of farm diversification and is reaping big out of the practice. The farmer is rearing both pigs and dairy cows.

Raphael testifies that farming can be a lucrative business, noting that in a good month he takes home on average Sh100,000 in pig and milk sales.   He started by keeping five pigs in 2016, which he sourced locally at Sh40,000.

Nearly a year later, the stock began multiplying and the number of pigs in his farm doubled. “I went into pig farming because it is an enterprise with untapped potential that many farmers locally had not discovered,” says Raphael.

Feeding timetable

Under the care of his farm manager Devin Omwenga, Raphael’s farm is now widely known for pig-rearing and dairy farmin. Omwenga says customers place orders and conveniently get their supply any time as the swine farm is well-stocked.

Currently, the farmer has over 400 pigs in their various stages of growth. The stock comprises one boar (male pig), 13 females, 76 growers, 50 piglets and the rest are beckoners (stock almost ready for market).

He keeps mainly Landrace, large white and crossbreed pigs. “We sell mature pigs when they reach prime live body weight of between 70kg and 94kg. A kilo goes for Sh220 for live weight while for dead weight pig we charge Sh250,” says Omwenga.

The farm manager says in a month, they sell at least 25 pigs. However, the farm ensures it retains at least one prime boar, which fertilises the new stock.

For healthy and fast growth, the pigs are put on a feeding timetable, which is strictly adhered to. As a routine, they are fed twice a day, morning and evening, on a mixture of feeds. On average, a piglet takes about eight months to mature.

Tackling challenges

The piglets are preferably given sower and winners feeds until the age of growers when they are introduced to hard feeds. The growing stock is also fed on milk to increase their protein content and fasten their period to reach market size.

“We prefer feeding the animals with commercial foods, which are rationed in terms of nutrients. This makes it easy to keep them from disease attacks and we can calculate the growth rate of the stock,” says Omwenga.

For a reliable market, Raphael’s farm has established links with the Farmer’s Choice Limited of Nairobi. The factory known for the production of pork products such as of sausages, bacon, ham, and fresh pork).

The farm also supplies Ndumbuini Slaughterhouse in Kiambu county with mature pigs. “We also sell to the farmers breeding stock and young male pigs before they are castrated,” says Omwenga.

Despite the venture being a success, Raphael faces several challenges. The main problems include high prices of commercial feeds, inadequate market, diseases that attack the pigs and myths associated with swines. “Locally, people do not cherish eating pork based on religious beliefs and this is significantly limiting the market,” says the farmer.

Cultural beliefs

Challenges aside, he urges other farmers to try their hands in pig rearing, saying it is a venture that comes with promising gains.  Nyamira county Livestock Production Director, Alex Migika, said supplying pork to markets is one of the untapped enterprises that farmers can venture into.

The agricultural officer regrets that pig rearing in Nyamira county suffers from socio-cultural beliefs.

“Such unfounded allusions should be avoided as they negate farmers’ efforts in keeping the animals. The locals should shun misconceptions associated with pork since it is a reliable source of proteins,” he said.

The county government has rolled out capacity building programmes to attract more farmers into pig farming. “We encourage farmers to take up pig keeping because it is one of the viable avenues we can use to realise food sufficiency and generate income,” he said. 

On marketing challenges, Migika says his government is connecting a network for the farmers with reputable bacon factories. “Given that there is low demand for pigs locally, we are trying to attract established pork processing factories and butcheries to be getting supplies from here,” he explained.

Raphael also keeps dairy cattle, which also earns him a tidy income. “I began rearing dairy cows purposely for milk production. For the start, I bought three cows as part of a Sh300,000 investment in milk production that included construction of cattle sheds,” he says.

Currently, his farm has 10 cows and five heifers, of which eight are lactating. The farm earns Sh1,600 from selling 40 litres of milk daily, each litre going for Sh40 locally. Raphael plans to expand his farming venture by setting up an animal meat processing plant soon. “We want to construct a mill for processing the animals’ end products,” he adds.

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