Pig production: the big picture.

By Norman Nyunya

A pig farm needs boars and sows for breeding purposes. These should be of good quality. Inferior and inadequate breeding stock result in inefficient utilization of feed, space and breeding resources as well as small and poor performing litters. Generally, a farmer will need one boar for 10 to 20 sows depending on breed. Each sow should be able to produce an average of 10 piglets per farrowing although some breeds have been reported to produce up to 16 piglets per farrowing. The output of a unit can be limited by quality and size of the breeding stock.


Feed is the major cost component in pig production, contributing at least 70% of all production costs. As a rule pigs should be provided with the correct type and quantities of feed to ensure efficient growth, reproduction and good quality meat. A stock man should check on feeding behaviour of the pigs, this will allow him to see if there are any abnormalities such as signs of illness.

Always check for health during feeding time of the pigs, in the morning and in the afternoon. The stock man should keep a close eye for any signs of illness all the time. Illnesses manifest themselves through the following:

Behaviour: When an animal is sick there is change from normal behaviour. A sick animal will be passive and it will isolate itself from others. Its movement will not be free and easy.

Appetite: During feeding check to see whether the animal is feeding. A sick animal normally goes off feed. A pig will lose weight if it’s not feeding for a long time.


A pig farm should have easy access to a large quantity of good quality water. Demand for water depends on the weather and physiological status of the animal. Lactating sows need a lot of water for milk production. Always replace dirty water with clean water every morning during feeding and in the afternoon.

Pig Housing

Good housing is essential for in pig production. Ideal housing should provide a warm environment to the growing piglets and cool environment to lactating sows whilst ensuring a comfortable working environment for the stockman to perform duties, e.g heat detection, weighing and moving pigs from one pen to another or to the loading bay.

Ensure adequate ventilation by providing enough openings. Floors should be of hard concrete; not too smooth (rough finish); and sloping to facilitate easy cleaning of the pens as well as easy drainage of water. The outside drainage channel should be at least 30 cm wide. The walls should be plastered and be free of sharp objects. Each pen should have a feeding trough and water trough. 

Breeding the animal

A farmer must be able to manage the breeding process to ensure maximum sow/gilt productivity.

Heat detection

Heat is the period when the sow/gilt is receptive to the boar. It is during this period that the sow, if mated, can conceive and become pregnant. The normal heat period lasts 3-5 days.

This means that sow is fertile for only a few days out of the 21 days. During heat period the sow /gilt will exhibit the following signs:

Early heat signs:

  • Vulva becomes less red and swollen
  • White discharge from the vulva
  • Tendency to mount and be mounted by others
  • The sow or Gilt will stand still if pressure applied to her back (can accept the mans weight sitting on her. Thus the right stage to send her to the boar.

In subsequent instalments, we will discuss in more detail about feed and feeding, breeds, and health. Keep reading, and give us feedback! Follow the blog to get automatic updates.

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