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Caleb Siamalambo

Pig farming in Zambia

Posted by Caleb Siamalambo in ENVOYS' PROFESSIONAL WORLD on Jul 3, 2012 10:35:00 AM


Pig production is a growing source of animal protein and an important income generating activity as long as management is up to standard. ‘Quick’ income can be realized in a short period of time as compared to cattle farming.



Free-range scavenging pig keeping

  • This is a more or less extensive system that allows pigs to fend for themselves.
  • It provides an emergency fall-back fund for small scale farmers
  • There is little investment of time or money.
  • This domestic scale is typical of small farmer mixed holdings.


Semi-intensive pig keeping

  • In this system the animals are housed and more attention is paid to

their health and feeding.

  • The aims are partly the same as those of domestic pig keeping, but with modest inputs.
  • Production is higher and the pigs are also marketed.


Intensive pig keeping

  • This system aims at producing meat for the market efficiently and profitably, usually with larger numbers of pigs.
  • It requires significant inputs of time and money, with careful calculation of the costs and the resulting benefits.


Production goals

The aim of intensive systems is to provide a major source of income. The animals no longer function as a savings account but are raised to be sold. This means that regular access to a market is needed.


Potential for improvement

Improving small-scale intensive systems needs specialised know-how. Progress can be achieved particularly by paying attention to the animals’ health and housing conditions. The stability of the undertaking depends on adopting a new approach to production. The farmer has to start thinking more and more in terms of the market and higher and more efficient productivity.



To make an intensive system economically viable requires a completely different approach to keeping pigs. The animals have to be brought to the market when they have reached the desired weight. A strategy for optimum buying and selling has to be developed, which requires the presence of regular transport and dependable sales outlets. A farmer has to decide what type of pig enterprise is most suitable for his/her circumstances.

The following are the  possibilities:


  1. Keeping sows only for breeding or multiplication
  • The piglets are sold at the age of 2-3 months to fattening farmers. This is advisable in a situation where there are many smallholders who want to fatten just a few pigs. There will be good demand for piglets, which can be sold for a good price. The farmer can start to become a specialist on breeding issues.


  1. Keeping only fattening pigs
  • Piglets are bought at the age of 2-3 months, at a weight of 15-20 kg. This can be done on a very small scale, even with just one pig. Farmers can gradually gain experience and then expand their farm or start breeding as well.
  • Fatteners must be sold at the right weight. For local or crossbred pigs this may be around 50-80 kg live weight. For improved pigs this can vary from 80-110 kg.
  • It is very important to know what buyers want. Pigs sold in local markets may have more fat than pigs destined for restaurants or shops in bigger cities. Buyers may also have different wishes concerning the slaughter weight.


  1. Having a closed farm
  • This means keeping sows and fattening the piglets on the same farm. Farmers can keep control over the whole cycle: the breed used, quality of fatteners and health status of the animals.
  • Another advantage is that fewer pigs move from one farm to another, which prevents spread of disease. However, if problems (e.g. disease or accident) occur, an extra source of finance must be available to keep the unit in operation.



Improved housing is an essential factor in the conversion to commercial pig keeping. There are numerous advantages to keeping pigs inside:

  • The animals conserve energy, as they do not have to seek food and shelter.
  • Pigs are protected from sun and rain.
  • More piglets will survive if they are born in safe, warm and healthy surroundings.
  • Housing makes good hygiene maintenance easier and contributes to the health of the pigs.
  • Feeding routines can be more carefully controlled, especially when they are adjusted for different categories of pigs.
  • Weaning, heat control and service management can be done at the right time and in the right way.
  • Record keeping and management are easier.
  • Manure can be easily collected and used for fertilizing land.


Where many pigs are kept together in a small space, infectious diseases can spread rapidly and therefore hygiene must receive top priority. If living conditions are not good, a pig house can become a place of torture for the animals as disease outbreaks will be frequent and can cause high mortality.


Technical requirements for good housing

The construction of pig pens and houses depends to a certain extent on the climate and how many pigs are to be kept. Local conditions are also important when considering the construction site (waterlogged, exposed to wind, etc.), materials and skills available for building the housing.


In hot, humid or damp areas, breeze and shade are important factors. The buildings should be as open and airy as possible. The walls of the pens should be constructed so that the wind can pass freely through for good ventilation.


Important requisites for the pen:

  • It should not be draughty.
  • Bright sunshine and rain should not be able to enter.
  • Temperature inside the pen should not vary too much.
  • It should be easy to clean.
  • The floor must be sloping but not slippery.
  • Work and management should be easy.
  • Provision should be made for storing manure, litter and run-off for later use.


A pen that satisfies these requirements will make a major contribution to the good health of the herd, lower piglet mortality, and faster growth and increased feeding efficiency.

The most suitable housing for less intensive holdings in Zambia consists of a walled and roofed pen with a yard or run. Bedding material can be provided in the covered part and the run should contain a trough.



In Zambia the best orientation of the building is east-west. A group of trees can provide shade, as trees absorb and screen a good deal of heat. The pen should be near a water supply, so that water is readily available for the animals and for cleaning.


The roof

The first essential is a roof, which can be made of various materials. The most practical approach is to use a local roofing material.

Corrugated iron only is not recommended, because of its bad insulation properties (hot in warm periods and cold in low temperature periods). Moreover, it causes condensation and the drips make the floor wet.

Whatever materials are used, the roof must slope sufficiently. If possible, it should be constructed so that the longest slope faces the prevailing wind and rain direction. In most cases it is advisable to build lengthwise from east to west.

If there is an opening between the walls and the roof, make sure that the roof has enough outside overhang to prevent rain from entering.


Floors and bedding

The floor of the pen should be slightly raised above its surroundings, with a slight slope to avoid flooding in wet periods. A slope of 3 cm per metre also allows the liquid manure to run off more easily.

Build a drain at the lowest part of the run so that run-off and manure can be collected into a pit. Pig manure is a good fertiliser so it is important to collect it. The floor can be of compacted soil or loam; it should be kept hard and smooth so that it can be easily swept clean.

Wooden floors are not advisable: they are difficult to keep clean, and the pigs chew on them. Wood rots and can be very slippery.

If cement is available a concrete floor is a possibility, and for intensive farms this is advisable. It is important to make the floor at least 10 cm thick and the ratio of cement, sand and stones should be 1:2:3 (mix 1part cement with 2 parts sand and 3 parts stones).

  • The concrete should not be so rough that the animals can scratch themselves on it. But a floor that is too smooth is also dangerous, as the animals may slip and injure themselves.
  • The disadvantage of concrete is that it is a bad insulator. In hot weather the animals can take advantage of this by lying on the cold concrete to cool down, but in cold weather they will lose too much body heat.
  • For the younger animals it will be too cold, which increases the risk of diseases like pneumonia. The coldness of the concrete can be reduced by supplying bedding material in the pen.
  • For young piglets a piece of cloth or some wooden planks can be put on the floor.
  • Wet bedding material should be removed daily to keep the pen clean and to avoid any parasite build-up. Bedding mixed with dung and urine makes an excellent fertiliser for the fields, especially if it is first converted into compost


The walls

The construction of the walls depends on the climate. In the tropics they should be left as open as possible for good ventilation.

  • A low wall approximately 1 metre high will suffice, with an opening of at least 1 metre between the wall and the roof.
  • The wall in a boar’s pen should be at least 1.2 metres high. In windy areas, the roof (or ceiling) should not be too high; otherwise the pen will cool down too quickly during strong winds.
  • Completely open walls, made of wire netting for example, are not recommended, as pigs like to shelter from wind and rain. In higher and colder areas, the walls should be constructed in such a way that it is possible to close the openings under the roof completely.
  • In the daytime, when temperatures are higher, the top section of the walls can be opened, and then closed again towards evening to keep the warmth in. It should be possible to close the side exposed to the rain completely. In places where the temperature differences are not extreme, the house can be open, but you can make a small area with a warmer microclimate by covering (part of) some pens.
  • If the walls are made using traditional mud and wood techniques, a protective row of hard wooden poles should line the inside. This will prevent the pig from digging into the earthen wall.
  • Cement and brick walls are most expensive, but they are stronger and last longer. They also make it easier to maintain good hygiene, as they are easy to clean.
  • If the supply of cement is limited, priority should be given to using it for the floor.


Feeding and water troughs

The feed trough can be made of cement, iron, hardwood or plastic. The trough should be long enough for all the animals in the pen to feed from it at the same time.

  • Sows need 40-50 cm of space, while fatteners weighing 90 kg need about 30 cm. Instead of a long trough, a self feeder can be used for a group of 10 fatteners or weaners.
  • The water trough should not be too wide; otherwise the pigs may try to bathe in it. If it is large, fix an iron bar above the water trough.
  • Animals of different sizes (e.g. weaned piglets and fatteners) should not be kept in the same enclosure.
  • Weaker animals may be bitten and do not get enough to eat when feeding. The stronger animals will fatten at the expense of the others.


Size of pens and runs (dung area)

  • A pen measuring 2 × 2.5 m is adequate for a sow with a litter of piglets.
  • The run should be at least 1.5 × 2.0 m.
  • A pen for 8-10 weaners should be at least 2 × 2 m.
  • A pen for 10 fatteners should be about 3 × 3 m, depending on size and weight at slaughter. Allow roughly 1 square metre per fattener.
  • A pen of 2 × 2.5 m is big enough for 2 sows. A pen of 2.5 × 2.5 m is suitable for 3 sows.
  • For the piglets a trough in a separate corner is necessary so that they can feed on their own, away from the sow if preferred, the troughs can be placed along the walls of the run instead of in the covered area.



Housing the sow and her piglets

  • Newborn piglets must be protected from cold. Plentiful quantities of good dry bedding or a piece of cloth or wood should be available to keep the piglets warm.
  • It is also possible to cover the piglet corner with a piece of board. If this is not enough, and you have the means, a heating lamp should be installed in a separate corner of the pen for the first few weeks.
  • The piglets should, if possible, be given a secure place of their own in the sow’s pen, but close to her. This is because there is always the risk that the sow will accidentally kill her piglets by lying on them.
  • To make it impossible for the sow to crush her piglets against the walls, inside the pen a horizontal rail should be installed parallel to each wall, 20-25 cm away from the walls and at a height of 20 cm from the floor.



Housing fattening pigs

Pens used for fattening pigs are simpler. You should not keep more than 15 fattening pigs in one pen, and a simple pen with or without a run will suffice. A lying area of 1 square metre per fattener should be allowed.


Housing breeding stock

In intensive systems pigs are not usually allowed outside, although there are situations where breeding animals, especially pregnant sows, are allowed to scavenge.

If pigs do go outside, it is very important to follow a strict de-worming programme and, if possible, to have more than one enclosed outside area so that a rotation scheme can be used.


Using liquid and solid manure

Pig urine and dung are good fertilisers for crops and vegetables, so it is wise to make good use of them. Before using the dung it is best to let it decompose first by leaving it in a heap separately. Pigs enjoy chewing their litter and playing with it, so it is good to give them plenty of any kind of organic matter for this purpose. The litter and dung should be left to rot for at least a few months. Protect the heap of waste from the sun and rain, as this will improve the quality.


Pig keeping combines well with on-farm fish culture. Apart from spreading it on the land, pig manure can be used to fertilise a fishpond. The manure, or a small amount of the rich run-off from the pens, will stimulate the growth of natural fish food and water plants.