Aiming for Profitability in Pig Production

Farmer’s Review 1 September 2018

A strict selection strategy, in which only about 30% to 35% of the piglets are retained for breeding, has earned Neil Dry, owner of the Niemen Pig Stud near Magaliesburg in North West, South Africa, a reputation for superior genetics. He explains to Farmers review why, in order to be profitable, farmers should always strive to provide their customers with top-quality genetics

Neil established the Niemen Stud in 1997 with six white sows and one Landrace boar. The operation has since grown into one of the largest award winning piggeries in South Africa.

Neil notes that in order to start a commercial farming production, one has to do thorough research and learn the cons and pros of that industry.

How many piglets should you get per sow

The bottom line of any piggery is not how many pigs you sell per farm but how many kilos you sell. The more kilos you sell per farm, the more profit. Mind you, you are not getting paid per pig but you are getting paid per kilogram. Always keep that in mind.

However still, the number of piglets reared per sow per year is seen as one of the greatest effects on profitability. You must always be looking for ways to upgrade the genetic make-up of your breeding sows in order to improve the production characteristics of her offspring. the sow must have the ability to rear large, healthy litters. Always opt to use AI as it is cheaper and efficient as compared to the conventional method.

What is the most profitable pig to sell? 

The heavier, the better.But there is a cut-off point, as soon as the carcass is 100kg then there is devaluation; P7,30 ( R10)  per kilo, but if carcass weight is kept between 85kg and 95 kg then it’s safe. Also keep in mind, in Africa it’s not like in Europe. In Africa, consumers like to braai (cut chops) while in Europe they cut the whole pig in schnitzels so that way in doesn’t matter how big the pig is because when they do they can use it for any purpose they want. So Africa it’s different because you’d want to have a piece of bone with a piece of meat in it.

Which factors also contribute in piggery?

Selection based on production performance is important. Growth rate and fat composition are some of the key criteria while selecting. Know the mating period, know the right time to wean, and also have a feeding program that is suitable not to produce overweight pigs. Your pigs should be in good condition but not fat.

Feed also is not only a concern when it is in excess, imbalanced diet leads to poor growth.  Before starting piggery, make sure you can afford to vaccinate and feed them until they are market-ready. Always keep in mind that compliance to market is even more important.


Pigs are said to be strong animals if managed properly. Therefore poor housing, insufficient feed and water and severe weather will decrease productivity in a piggery. Your infrastructure will depend  on the number of animals or plan to have.

Having said that, the best solution or strategy is to a facility that can be expanded as your operation grows. if fact, funds permitting, if your plan is to eventually reach a maximum of 3000 pigs, then you should build a facility that can take 3000 right away. This way as your operation grows, you don’t have to worry about the construction of facilities.

Diseases on piggeries are mostly caused by poor management, mostly diarrhea, particularly in intensive farming systems where pigs can be  “crowded”. One thing that farmers take for granted is biosecurity. You just can’t let people to enter your breeding facilities at their pleasure, without any records or the correct attire. Therefore it goes without saying that farmers must put a strict biosecurity management strategy in place.

Market Outlook

At the moment, in Africa consumption of pork 4kg per person per year while in Europe it ranges from 68-75kg per person per year and that says we are still behind as far  as piggery is concerned. However there is definitely a change in trends as more people now consume pork than before. It is all up to enterprises to take advantage of current market transformation and start processing pork.


If one wants to start piggery it’s important that they make up their minds. You need to tell yourself I want to do this, and I will stay in there. You cannot start and along the way opt out because you feel that it’s too expensive or too much work.  Always bear in mind that, while pigs can yield good returns on investment, because of their breeding rate and feed conversion ratios, they are really sensitive animals that require top notch management.