Hog raising is still a popular economic activity among farmers in the province of Iloilo. Rural households raise a between one to 20 heads of fattener or finisher pigs to augment income from other farming activities. Many of the families engaged in small scale hog raising say that the income they get from the pigs may be meager, but the animals also act as the proverbial piggy banks. They spend some money for the daily feed of the pigs but this investment is recovered when the pigs are sold. Part of the sales is again invested in some piglets for another round of “piggy banking”.
Common Breeds Raised:
The common breeds raised by small scale hog farmers are the Large White, Landrace, Duroc, Hampshire and Berkshire, all of which are foreign breeds imported either by government in the past or lately by the commercial hog farmers who value feed conversion efficiency as a means to improve the profit margin. However at the small farmers' level, it is seldom that the breeds are pure since they have limited access to pedigreed lines. Mostly they can only buy crossbred piglets from other small hog farmers.
The Large White as the name connotes, are white skinned and haired pigs with erect ears. They are preferred for their fast growth and efficient conversion as well as their relatively good mothering ability. Mostly, the Large White breeds available to small farmers are already crossed to other breeds but still maintain their basic features such as the white color, erect ears and other features that distinguish the breed.
The Landrace is another white breed but with drooping ears. Often, they have longer bodies than the Large White which for most farmers are preferred since they would have more prominent teats, an indication that it can nurse more piglets. Like the Large White, the Landrace is also a prolific breed and a fast grower.
The Duroc is a brown colored pig, noted also for its fast growth but is meatier or lesser fat than the white breeds. These are often used to cross breed with the white breeds so that it is easier for the farmer to record their genetics. This breed is often used as the male line, meaning they are preferred as boars where the white breeds are used as the sows or females.
The Berkshires and the Hampshires are black colored pigs but the latter has a white band across their backs near the front legs. Both breeds are also prolific, fast growers and meatier and like the Duroc are also preferred as male lines to cross with the white breeds.
There are still native strains grown in the rural areas but they are gradually being phased out in favor of the newer breeds. However these native strains have an advantage of being quite resistant to disease attack and their ability to survive and grow even when fed with low quality and indigenous feed sources. Many farmers have also crossbred the exotic strains to improve the traditional breeds in terms of feed conversion and faster growth rate but have retained their resistance to diseases as well as the ability to subsist on indigenous feed sources.
Most of the small scale farmers raising pigs build pens or houses in the simplest way possible using mostly local materials such as bamboo. However for those with more resources, they use hollow blocks and cement to build stronger and longer lasting pens. Whatever materials used, the usual practice is to allocate about 2 to 3 square meters of space per head of pig. The logic behind this is for the animals to have enough space to roam around but with limited movement so as not to waste energy which can otherwise be converted to body mass and weight. Many farmers have already adopted concrete flooring for better cleaning and maintenance but there are still farmers who don't have enough resources to spend for upgraded housing and still adopt bamboo floors for their pigs.
Many farmers are now adopting newer housing approaches even at the small scale level. They have accepted the concept of pigs as an integral part of the farm system and aside from providing food and additional income, they produce another valuable resource: their manure which is a rich source of organic matter and nutrients for plants. So now, most pens are being designed with waste disposal systems, whether basic or sophisticated, which traps the manure and waste water for use as fertilizers. For more information on how to build better pig houses, please visit: http://www.mixph.com/2010/02/hogswine-housing-construction-tips.html.
For those farmers with more resources, they also build biogas systems that uses the wastes to generate methane gas for household cooking. The basic model now being adopted nationwide use polyethylene tubing built on designs that had been found to be successful here and abroad. A complete polyethylene biogas digester and cooking system would cost about P10,000 in materials and labor. A complete design and how-to manual can be accessed at: http://www.cedecap.org.pe/uploads/biblioteca/7bib_arch.pdf which had been prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization and had been implemented successfully in Viet Nam. Another source book that can provide information on how to build biogas systems: http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/Stoddard_Thesis.pdf.
Feeds and Feeding:
Even rural households raising pigs now resort to buying commercial rations. These rations come in both mash and pellet forms and are considered complete meals for the intended age of the pigs. Piglets are given Hog Starter rations which contain 18-20 % crude protein, growers are fed with Grower Feed which contain 16-18 % protein while finishers and breeders are fed with 14-16 % crude protein. These rations are also enriched with complete vitamins and minerals needed by the pigs in their various stages of growth.
Choose brands of commercial feeds which have been known for their quality. Dubious brands of feeds may be cheap but their nutritive value is low and may cause more harm than good. They will cause stunting and even lead to diseases since the immune system of unhealthy pigs are affected with poor nutrition. Also stick to your brand of choice until harvest or market size. Shifting from one feed brand to another may cause pigs to go off as each brand uses different type of feed ingredients and flavoring. Pigs are a creature of habit and would be attracted to feeds that they are familiar with.
However there are still rural households that also feed their pigs with indigenous plants and other feed stuff like the golden apple snail (kuhol), considered a major pest of rice and wetlands. Land based pests like the African giant snails area also collected. Where available, small fishes are harvested from ponds and streams and added to the ration. These are cooked until soft and fed to the pigs.
African giant snails (Achatina fulica)is considered as one of the most destructive pests of terrestrial plants. They are hardy and can survive in extreme tropical conditions. Many studies had been conducted on its eradication and still the pest has survived. One mode of control for this pest is by consumption. In East Africa where this is indigenous, this is one source of food for people and animals. First detected in the early 1930s in Panay, this snail has become a pest but had been converted into a resource by locals who have collected them for use as feeds for pigs. Interviews with rural women in Brgy Moroboro, Dingle which is densely covered with trees and other vegetation, they usually gather Africal giant snails, locally called “taklong” in the mid morning in ingenious traps set around their gardens. Please visit this site for more info on snails: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/pest_detection/downloads/pra/afulicapra.pdf.
These simple traps are just holes dug about 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm and half filled with rotting fruits and sweet smelling vegetation. Banana, jack fruit (langka) and papaya peels are favorite trap baits. In a heavily infested area, it is normal to gather several kilograms of snaild daily until the population is greatly reduced or eradicated. Often, these women lay several traps so that they can gather enough for several days of feed. The extra snails they cannot cook for the day are placed in cages with and fed with succulent leaves so that they fatten while waiting to be queued for cooking. The usual feeding practice is to cook about a kilogram of snails per head per day. After the first boiling, the shells of the snails are removed and the meat is added to the batch of vegetables being cooked. This proportion provides adequate protein for the growing pigs.
Local plants like kangkong, Palawan, gabi, banana stalks and other edible plants are usually chopped and added to the snails and fish. Starch and carbohydrates sources are also added for flavor and as the major source of energy. This local feeding method saves on the cost of feeds. Family labor is not usually factored in as an expense. Gabi and Palawan tubers are rich in carbohydrates and the usual practice of rural women is to chop these plants finely and boil these together with the snails and other protein sources Once these are almost cooked, rice bran and broken rice is added. This provides a traditional balanced ration that had been practiced in the locality for generations. (to be continued)
SOME TIPS FOR A PROFITABLE SMALL SCALE HOG RAISING PROJECT
Having raised a few heads of pigs continuously for years, my siblings and some cousins have earned and saved money from pigs. When we were in school, we usually have a few pigs in the backyard pen ready for sale when the need for cash arose. We also had slaughter pigs for fiestas and special occasions which also saved us money where instead of buying meat or pork, we simply slaughtered a pig. We usually lay aside the meat we will need for the occasion, salt and store a few more kilograms (we had no refrigerator then) and sell the rest to neighbors for cash. Through the years, we learned a few tricks on making money from the pigs without so much monetary investment, just sweat and time equity which we had plenty then. Here are a few tips, we can offer:
- Design your pens to suit your system. We usually designed our simple pens with the purpose of harvesting the manure later for fertilizer. We once experimented on biogas but the initial investment had been high and we quit after a few years. However, a good pen design will not only make management easier but one can also earn extra income from the organic fertilizer produced by the pigs;
- The pen design should also consider the potential of adding an earthworm or vermiculture component where the quality of the manure is even improved or enhanced. A bag of 50 kilograms of vermi-cast sells for about P250.00 while the basic manure sells for only about P50.00 per;
- Identify the raiser who breeds the best pigs in the community. His piglets would usually be the most in demand and his pigs; reputation as the fastest growers will be known. While the sows are still gestating (pregnant) already approach the raiser to reserve the largest of the litter even if you have to pay the premium of a few hundred pesos more. Pay in advance if needed.
- You may also approach the owner of the boar service and offer to buy his share. The usual practice in rural communities for for somebody to offer boar services. This boar service is usually skilled in birthing, vaccination and other livestock skills. The boar service is offered the first choice of the litter and usually this is the biggest and the most prolific of the lot. Offer him a price he can't refuse;
- Clean and disinfect the pens after each round of pig raising. It is best to apply the all-in-all-out approach since this allows you to clean the pens thoroughly, harvest the manure for the farm or garden and repair the facilities that broke down during the growing cycle.
- Adopt the feeding system of the piglet source for a few weeks, gradually shifting to your own method once the piglets have adopted to your place. Find a store which supplies the same brand of feeds and consistently get your supply of feeds from it;
- If you decide to feed your pigs with indigenous ration, adopt the simplified method of supplying the complete nutritive requirements. Our rule of thumb was for about 2 scoops (liter container) of protein source (fresh weight), 2 scoops starch source and 4 to 5 scoops of fresh vegetables, cooked together until tender. Protein sources are usually the taklong and the kuhol which we gather using simple traps both on dry land and in the paddies;
- Regular feeding is a must for pigs. They usually get stressed and get noisy once it is past their mealtime. Extra movements and uneasiness as a result of hunger will stress them and make them prone to disease attacks. Provide commercial vitamin-mineral preparations but avoid antibiotic-laced products so that in the event of disease attack, antibiotics will be effective;
- Maintain records so that you can keep track of your expenses and income and the age of your finishers. The usual growing period of finishers fed on commercial rations is 100-120 days which by then they have reached a marketable weight of 85-90 kilograms. Growing the pigs longer than that will mean a loss of up to P20 per day since the pigs have grown less efficient in converting the feeds into meat. Sell your pigs whether they have reached marketable weight after your 130th day;
- If you are using indigenous ration, you may opt to sell your pigs later especially when the price is high. After all, you did not spend much on the feeds;
- Treat the backyard endeavor as a small business so that somehow your “piggy bank” earns a higher return on investment;
You may also refer to this source book: http://www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/cd3wd/AGRIC/II24LE/EN/B1087_7.HTM, for more info.