For 26 years, Mr David Githae of Kangemi village in Nyeri has been keeping pigs, a venture he claims can be tough at times and needs patience and sacrifice for one to succeed.
Nevertheless, he says the undertaking can turn out to be lucrative .
The 65-year-old says he faced many difficulties when he first began rearing pigs, prompting him to abandon the venture several times.
“I started by keeping five pigs in 1986 in my one-acre piece of land, which proved to be so difficult especially for lack of resources to sustain them,” remembers Mr Githae.
He incurred losses following frequent death of his pigs, which he blames on infection by lung worms and other diseases. This was because he fed the animals with contaminated food such as kitchen waste from his own home and from hotels.
He says even today, some farmers rely on left-overs to feed their pigs, which has led to pig deaths as such food is harmful to the animals.
Currently, Mr Githae owns more than 100 pigs and 50 piglets. He sells his pigs to Farmer’s Choice; a 60kg-pig goes for Sh13,800 while one weighing 70kg costs Sh16,100. He also supplies local hotels and butcheries in Nyeri town with the meat.
The farmer keeps three types of pigs that are common in Kenya — the Wessex Saddleback, the Large White and the Landrace.
Other than selling pigs for pork and rearing, Mr Githae also sells manure to farmers. Manure from pigs usually is in high demand in the area as it has high levels of minerals. A wheelbarrow of manure is sold at Sh200 while a truck-full weighing 7,000-11,700kgs costs between Sh10,000 and 12,000.
Mr Githae, whose farm is situated less than three kilometres from Nyeri town, claims the business has played a big role in improving his livelihood.
“I have managed to educate my children in both secondary and university levels through the business. It also enables me fuel my car every day as well as feeding my family,” he says.
But Mr Githae say the job has its share of challenges, among them high food prices. The prices, especially for sow, weaner and pig finisher meals, vary greatly from town to town in Nyeri County.
This, according to Mr Githae, is unfair and he suggests that the price can be harmonised and reduced across the county and country.
But there is also the problem of worms and diseases.
In central Kenya, diseases commonly affecting pigs are pneumonia, diarrhoea, piglet anaemia and helminthiasis. Helminthiasis is a macro-parasitic disease of humans and animals in which a part of the body is infested with parasitic worms such as pinworms, roundworms or tapeworms.
But he says the farmers work closely with field officers to control any disease.
“Pigs are attacked by lice and it is, therefore, advisable to clean the floor and change bedding regularly. And in case of disease attack, a farmer should immediately seek the services of a veterinary officer so that the animal can be attended to before it is too late.
This should be done as soon as the animal displays any signs of a disease,” Githae advises pig farmers.
The Provincial Director of Veterinary Services Patrick Njau warns farmers to be aware of diseases and vermins that often attack pigs.
These include Swine dysentery (enteritis) — a stomach disorder common in young pigs— lice, foot rot and pneumonia.
Worms, which compete with the animal for food, are also a common menace. Some worms are carriers of harmful microorganisms like lungworms, which causes pneumonia.
Dr Njau advises farmers to take feeding seriously to ensure pigs get a balanced diet.
An average pig eats about two to three kilos of feed per day according to Mr Githae. He, however, at times feeds his pigs up to five kilos in a day, spread over two meals.
He advises farmers intending to start keeping pigs to ensure pig feed has low crude fibres and should contain all nutrients required by pigs.
Commercial feed mixtures commonly used are sow and weaner meal, which are used for all breeding animals and growing pigs from weaning to about 50kg.
Pig finishing meal is used for pigs above 50kg that are ready to sell. Creep pellets is another type of feed used for pigs from two weeks of age to weaning.
Mr Githae also advice farmers who want to venture into the business to begin learning more about pigs; they should learn about pig diseases and symptoms and the breeds and their characteristics. They should also start with an experimenting stock of about two to three pigs.
Mr Githae’s future plans are to increase the number of his pigs to more than 100.