PIG FARMING: How this Business is Changing Lives in Africa and Everything You Need to Start Your Own
Interested in the pig farming business in Africa? You’re about to learn a few things that will blow your mind.
It may surprise you to know that pork (pig meat) is the most widely consumed meat in the world, followed by poultry and beef. Surprised, right?
The value of trade in pig products around the world runs into billions of dollars every year and Africa enjoys less than 5 percent of this action. China, with a fifth of the world’s population, is both the largest producer and net importer of pig products on the planet!
As you will find out in this article, pig products have some of the most versatile uses on earth. Pigs probably have the highest profit potential of all farm animals because they cost little to feed and maintain, and produce much more meat than cattle, goats and sheep!
Did you know that a single piglet (baby pig), which costs between $30 and $50, can reach a market value of up to $400 in six to eight months?
This article looks at four very successful African pig farmers and explores the interesting business and investment opportunities in pig farming. I have also included a very detailed and FREE pig farming manual to guide you.
First, a quick dose of success stories from African pig farmers…
Although pig farming hasn’t really picked up in Africa like other parts of the world, a few entrepreneurs are already enjoying the lucrative benefits of this enterprise.
Despite cultural and religious influences in parts of our continent that limit pork production and consumption, pig farming is growing across West, East, Central and Southern Africa.
In this section, we shall share the inspiring experiences of four small-scale pig farmers in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. Let’s meet them…
- Anna Phosa – South Africa
Before hitting the limelight, Anna Phosa was an unknown entrepreneur who made a livelihood from her small vegetable farming business in Soweto. She was introduced to pig farming by a close friend and instantly developed a liking for the venture.
In 2004, Anna invested 1,000 Rand (about $100) to buy four pigs she used to start up her own small pig farm.
A little less than four years later (in 2008), Anna was contracted by Pick ‘n Pay, the South African supermarket and retail giant to supply its stores with 10 pigs per week. This quickly grew to 20 pigs per week shortly after.
In 2010, Anna signed a breathtaking contract with Pick ‘n Pay to supply 100 pigs over the next five years under a 25 million Rand deal (that’s nearly 2.5 million US Dollars!)
With a contract in hand, Anna received funding from ABSA Bank and USAID to buy a 350-hectare farm property. From just four pigs, her new farm now holds nearly 4,000 pigs at a time and supplies roughly 100 to 120 pigs a week to retailers in South Africa.
Anna currently employs about 20 staff and has become something of a celebrity pig farmer on the continent!
- Martin Gachuma – Kenya
Martin was a Manager with Standard Chartered Bank before he quit the job to pursue an entrepreneurial passion in pig farming.
Having been raised on the proceeds of pig farming as a young boy, he decided to leave the world of suits and ties to exploit the lucrative potentials of the pig business. And his bet paid off!
Martin sells about 20 pigs every month and has gradually grown his business to the current stock of 200 pigs, which he often raises to 500 when the market demand increases.
According to this Business Daily Africa article, his current total wealth – calculated from the worth of his pig stock – stands at nearly 2 million Kenyan Shillings (roughly $23,000). He plans to multiply this wealth eightfold by 2015 and believes this is possible because the demand and market for pigs are grossly undersupplied.
He received the 2011 Winner’s award from the President of Kenya during the Nairobi International Trade Fair as his country’s best pig breeder. That’s Martin Gachuma in the picture smiling with his trophy!
- Rachel Mubiru – Uganda
Rachel was a full-time housewife experiencing money troubles when she took a shot at pig farming. She already had a small poultry farm which she started with 100 broilers and expanded to a flock of 800 birds before she noticed that pig farming would be more profitable.
Starting with local pig breeds, Rachel saw the potential and advantages of foreign exotic breeds and eventually bought some from South Africa. These exotic breeds could grow up to a size of 300kg (compared to the only 100kg for local breeds) and sell for much higher prices on the market.
According to an article on the Africa-Uganda Business Travel website, Rachel says one exotic piglet sells for roughly the same price as a full-grown local breed (even after feeding the local breed for seven straight months)!
From an obscure housewife a few years ago, Rachel has become a millionaire pig farmer. She has used the proceeds of her pig business to sponsor her children’s education up to university level and was one of a few farmers visited by her country’s president during a tour for an agricultural program.
4 Reasons why entrepreneurs should consider the pig farming business in Africa
Just in case you’re not inspired enough by the amazing successes of these pig farmers, I decided to give you four interesting reasons why you need to give this venture a thought.
Some of these reasons may be already known to you while others may be totally new – however, what they all share are the facts.
#1 – Consumption of pork products is already growing across Africa!
Urbanisation and economic growth are leading to the increasing presence of international and local fast-food restaurants across our continent.
In addition to the entry of fast food brands like KFC and Dominoes, supermarket and retail giants like Walmart (Massmart in South Africa), Shoprite and SPAR are introducing a range of pork-dominated Western diets to African consumers.
Foreign tourists, workers, investors, and their families are also flocking to our shores for business and pleasure. As a result, more of the hotels and restaurants who have a large customer base of foreigners now want to serve pork delicacies. This surely means that local pig farmers will be needed to maintain a huge and regular stock of pork products to satisfy the growing demand.
In South Africa for example, pork has overtaken mutton/lamb as the more favourite meat following the 59 percent rise in pig production.
Another interesting example is Morocco, an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Moroccan pig production is increasing to cater to the demand of millions of tourists (especially Europeans) who visit the North African nation every year.
According to this article, it’s quite interesting that the major pig farmers in Morocco are Muslims and Jews (who do not consume pork for religious reasons). This interesting trend is sure to continue as Africa’s cities grow to accommodate more foreign tastes.
#2 – Pigs multiply really fast!
One of the reasons why pig farming is very lucrative is that pigs multiply really fast. One sow (mature female pig) can furrow (give birth to) between 8 and 18 piglets at a time.
The gestation (pregnancy) period for pigs is just four months and sows can furrow up to two times a year. This means that one sow, which costs about $400, can produce up to 16 – 36 piglets in a single year. These piglets which reach a market size of 70 kg in six to seven months can sell for up to $300 each!
No other farm animals, except chickens, rabbits and ostriches, can multiply this fast!
As you will learn in the detailed manuals at the bottom of this article, pigs grow to market size very fast because of their amazingly high feed-to-meat conversion ratios. This simply means that for every kilogram of food they eat, pigs produce more flesh (meat) than cattle, goats and sheep.
#3 – Pigs are highly adaptable and easy to farm
According to one of our recommended manuals, pigs have over 15,000 taste buds (humans have just about 9,000). This enables them to eat everything humans eat and other stuff like grass, forage and feed eaten by other animals.
In fact, pigs are the best and most efficient animals for converting kitchen wastes, garbage, leftover food and other non-conventional feedstuffs into the meat.
Considering the high and rising cost of grains and concentrates used to produce animal and livestock feeds, the ability of pigs to consume a wide variety of foods increases its profit potential as a business. Since they are able to recycle most materials (which they eat and convert to meat), pigs help farmers to largely reduce feeding costs and waste.
Pigs also have a high resistance to diseases (these guys hardly get sick) and adapt easily to most environments (hot or cold). This makes it possible for pigs to be raised on both a small and large scale.
Due to this adaptability, pigs make great candidates for intensified or diversified agriculture that fits a wide range of budgets. (photo credit: traditionalartsindiana.org)
It’s also important you know that pigs do not have sweat glands and have no way of cooling themselves when they get hot.
So they don’t die of heat exhaustion, pigs raised in the open often wallow in the mud as a way to cool down.
A pig’s love of mud is not for the sake of filth or dirtiness; it’s just a basic act of survival. Pigs by nature are actually very clean animals. Yeah, I was surprised too but that’s what the experts say!
#4- Pigs yield more meat…
Despite their ability to convert more feed into body weight (flesh/meat), pigs also produce more meat when they are slaughtered.
Unlike cattle, sheep and goats which produce between 50 and 55 percent meat from their bodies, pigs can yield up to 70 percent edible meat because they have a much smaller proportion of bones than meat.
In addition to its high meat yields, meat processors and marketers love pig carcasses because they’re easier to handle and package compared to other types of meat.
2 very important things to consider before starting a pig farming business in Africa
Like every other business, there are certain important factors you must consider to succeed in pig farming. These are patterns I noticed in the successes of some of the pig farmers we discussed above and will surely work for you too.
#1 – Start small but dream big…
Starting small and dreaming big is the motto I live by. Did you notice that all the successful pig farmers we looked at earlier in this article started with a small number of pigs?
Starting small allows you to expose only a small amount of your capital to the risk of failure – and yes, not all businesses will succeed. With small capital invested, it will not be the end of your world if something goes wrong.
Again, you shouldn’t ever underestimate the power of learning on a small scale. You will discover patterns, tricks, things that work and won’t work. Based on your growing experience of the business, what customers are asking for, and your small successes and failures, you can gradually increase the size of your pig farm.
Anything between three to five breeders is great for starters. Don’t worry, all of the details are covered in the manuals at the end of this article.
It’s also important that you never lose sight of your big dreams.
Nobody would have ever believed that Anna Phosa, the South African celebrity farmer, could rise from a small-scale pig farmer to become a supplier to a major retailer under a multi-million dollar contract.
That’s the power that big dreams give you. No matter how small you start, you can become as big as your dreams. You can do it too!
#2 – Starting with the right breed is the key to success!
There are different local and exotic pig breeds, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
No matter how much capital you invest, or how good you are at pig farming, the profit potential of this business will be limited by the breed of pigs you start with.
As you will learn from the training manuals in the next section, selective breeding makes it possible to reduce the time it takes for a pig to reach market size and can increase its meat production at the same time.
Now you know what it takes to succeed in the pig farming business in Africa
The impressive success stories of the African pig farmers in this article prove beyond doubt that the potentials in pig farming on our continent are huge.
Apart from the growing demand for pork, the high-profit potentials of pig farming remain possible because there are only a few pig farmers to supply a growing market. Compared to other types of livestock farming, pig farming is not yet as crowded as poultry and fish farming.
We really hope you found this article informative. If you have any experience in this area or know a little more about it, we’re sure a lot of people reading this would love to learn from you. If you are confident that pig farming will work for you, it’s important that you start taking action as soon as possible.
About the Author: John-Paul Iwuoha
John-Paul Iwuoha is a business transformation specialist and founder of Smallstarter. Through his signature training courses and private programs, he has worked with hundreds of African entrepreneurs and business owners to overcome serious challenges with starting, growing, or turning around their businesses. His work and opinions have been featured in several local and international media, including CNN, Business Day, and The Huffington Post. He was named by LinkedIn as one of the Top Global Voices on Startups & Entrepreneurship. Click here to learn more about his signature programs.
How to start your own pig farm – Detailed & Practical Manuals
The Farmer’s Hand Book on Pig Production is a colourful and simply-written manual from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. This book was developed to educate pig farmers in Nepal (a developing country in Asia). It provides a lot of information on breeding, feeding, housing pigs, detection and treatment of swine diseases.
A basic guide to pig production by the South African Department of Agriculture
A very well developed manual with good practical advice and many pictures aimed at assisting smaller scale pig farmers to manage and grow their businesses.
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