Pigsties are associated with pungent odour due to a mixture of decomposing leftover foodstuff and animal faecal matter strewn on the enclosures’ floors, creating a highly repelling atmosphere.
However, a farm in Machakos is now the site of a revolutionary project which promises to “clean up” pig husbandry by getting rid of the bad smell and help farmers to significantly cut electricity and water costs.
Nondi Solution, which is being piloted on Dorcas Mbalanya’s 40-acre farm, uses dry biomass — maize stalks, rice straws, husks or palm fronds — floor in the pig pens as opposed to concrete found in most pigsties.
One of the project implementers — Dr Leonard Kawule, a veterinary doctor from Uganda — says the biomass is stacked two feet deep in the enclosure and topped with a layer of wood chips and shavings.
The Nondi Solution becomes a reality by mixing the biomass with 150 litres of starch solution which is the lightly sprayed over the material a week before the pigs are introduced into the pen.
“This allows the microbes in Nondi Solution to inhabit the biomass. They will then act on urine and faecal material produced by the animals,” Dr Kawule told Enterprise in an interview.
He says temperature in the biomass rises to about 60 degrees centigrade and slowly, the biological matter is decomposed into much fine manure after between six and nine months.
This, Dr Kawule says, is the secret behind the odourless pigsties.
With biomass flooring, the animals benefit greatly from the comfort of a soft surface. They are also not limited in exercising their natural traits such as foraging, burrowing and nesting.
High temperature from the decaying biomass also helps keep piglets warm and alive, saving farmers the high cost normally incurred by installing heating lamps in the enclosures.
The pigsties are not cleaned using water, cutting expenses for farmers.
Dr Kawule further notes that the technology also benefits the pigs because cement floors lead to wearing of the livestock’s hooves, and occasional injuries.
The veterinary doctor adds that when the sow’s udder comes into contact with the dirty and wet floors, there is a high mortality rate among piglets because the female pigs contract infections on their nipples, leading to death of their young ones.
This farming project is being pioneered in Kenya in partnership with Vetline Services, a Ugandan company represented by Dr Kawule, Ms Mbalanya and Isaac Otiato, a Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology-trained architect who designed the pigsties.
Conceptualisation of the pig farming project started in April 2015. The first batch of 30 pigs were introduced in August. The project team first conducted several farm visits in Uganda and Kenya in a bid to tailor the system to fit both small and large-scale farmers in the region.
“A lot of time was spent in getting the concept right and harmonising all aspects involved in it,” said Mr Otiato, who also is the project director, adding that many farmers lack vital information on pig husbandry.
The farm intends to sell pigs for slaughter as well as raise their stock density using superior genetics that they are importing from Europe.
Beginning next month, the team will conduct training sessions at the farm. Individuals making impromptu visits will part with Sh2,000 for a whole day of training. Those booking seminars will pay Sh4,000 per module.
The training programme will touch on several aspects of animal husbandry.