High School Teacher Daring All Odds With Pig Farming
Growing up, I thoroughly enjoyed eating pork, mostly because it could be eaten with a variety of accompaniments.
Pork is one of the sectors with higher potential to grow and provide increased economic opportunities for farmers, as it accounts for 38% of the world’s meat production.
Over the years, pig rearing has gradually risen to one of the most lucrative agribusiness farmers venture into. This is attributed to shorter gestation periods in pigs, usually between 114-122 days.
In the heart of Gatundu South, Kiambu county, I met up with Isaac Gichuna a high-school teacher and part-time farmer who ventured into commercial pig rearing as a means to supplement his income. A decision he made in 2017 and has never looked back since then.
Mr. Gichuna takes me through his pig farming journey, the highs the lows, and some of the highlights, as he shows me around the pig shed.
“I started with two gilts that cost me about Ksh.60,000 for both and another Ksh.60,000 for construction of the pig shed. Despite the high capital, I’ve been able to smoothly run my farm and earn profits as well” said Mr. Gichuna.
He says successful pig farming combines having the right breed, suitable housing, proper feeding, and disease and pest management, among other practices that must be observed.
“Doctors keep telling us we are what we eat. The same goes for the pigs. If you feed them well and properly take care of them, they grow healthy. I use commercial feeds for my pigs,” he tells me as he chuckles.
The 50-year-old boasts of one hundred and fifty pigs in total: eighty piglets, sixty growers, and ten gilts. He opted to try pig farming as it is easier in terms of work and can be monitored from a distance.
“With pig farming, I don’t have to go look for feeds from the shamba like you would while taking care of cows for example. I simply feed them twice a day and that’s it. I also have a shamba boy that takes care of them, in case I need to give instructions I simply make a phone call” he added
Within five years, he has earned some good extra money for himself through pig rearing and can cater to his family’s needs with ease. Mr. Gichuna supplies to Farmers’ Choice, local farmers, and butcheries He also offers advice and training to anyone looking to venture into the business.
The selling price of the pig depends on its age and size: a two-month-old piglet sells at Ksh.5,000, while Farmers’ Choice buying price ranges between Ksh.15,000 and Ksh.20,000, depending on the pig’s weight.
Mr. Gichuna seems to have a green hand as I notice acres of healthy, rich green tea leaves growing just behind the pigs’ shed. He tells me he is a coffee and tea farmer as well.
“Acquiring commercial fertilizers for my coffee and tea farm was becoming quite expensive. However, with the pigs in the picture, it’s like a weight was lifted. The three work simultaneously; I get manure for the shamba from the pig farm while some of the money from the farm goes into extra costs that may arise in pig rearing.”
While juggling responsibilities may at times be a long stretch, Mr. Gichuna manages to be a teacher and farmer all at once. He accredits this to the flexible schedule that being a teacher offers as well as the three young men he has employed to take care of and run the farms while he is away.
“At times the problem isn’t having too much to do, mismanagement of responsibilities, time, and money is what brings a person or a business down. I’d say, plan yourself, your resources, and your time. It assures better and more results compared to doing things haphazardly.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a national lockdown period was mandatory and all schools were closed; most businesses and establishments in turn incurred hefty losses and most people had nothing to do.
Luckily for Mr. Gichuna, he had his farm to fall back on. “I had a full year dedicated solely to my farm. While it was a devastating period for many, I was happy to be busy. I had something to do. Were there challenges, yes? But all in all, we give glory to God.”
He tells me some of the challenges brought on by the pandemic include the higher cost of feeds with lower qualities and lower buying prices within the market.
For anyone aspiring to venture into pig farming, Mr. Gichuna advises them to do their homework, research, and learn about pig farming, especially from other pig farmers.
“Do thorough research, and be willing to learn either by attending agricultural conventions or talking to that next-door pig farmer. This gives you wider insights into pig rearing in terms of feeding methods, the practices or trends in the pig farming sector, an understanding of what to expect especially in the market, and how to manage the financial aspect of pig rearing.”
“Ensure you have enough capital to start you off comfortably. Starting and running a pig farm can be quite intensive. Having enough capital that can cushion you and your farm in case anything were to happen is a factor to consider as well.”
Mr. Gichuna hopes to expand his business by starting his pork butchery and hotel. To him, seeing his pigs grow healthy radiates pride and joy within him as he sees his efforts pay off.