The white and black pigs move inside the cages snorting loudly as owner Kinoti Mwebia feeds them spinach.
They scramble for the vegetables that Kinoti says they love much, and he offers them at least once day.
The 28-year-old is the owner of the pig farm situated few kilometres from Kibirichia market in Buuri, Meru.
The farmer keeps mainly the Large white and Saddleback breeds.
Mwebia, who holds a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Nairobi, says he ventured into the agribusiness after failing to secure a job
“I started farming in January 2014 to make myself self-reliant. I had worked at several farms on short contracts that I was tired of the uncertainty,” he says, adding he was working at an NGO when he set up the farm few months before his contract ended.
He bought two three-month-old female piglets at Sh3,500 each as he began the venture at his parents’ home.
“The money came from my savings. But even though I bought the pigs, I had then not constructed a proper shed for them.”
When the pigs hit six months, he bought a boar from a different farm in Meru to avoid inbreeding.
“The boar served the sows and some time in November, 2014, they calved to 12 piglets each, raising my stock to 26 animals. The gestation period for pigs is three months, three weeks and three days,” notes Mwebia, who by then had constructed a structure measuring 16 by 32 feet that cost him over Sh100,000.
The young farmer offers his pigs commercial feeds but supplements with agricultural waste that he purchases from nearby farms. He also offers them kitchen waste.
His stock currently consists of 40 mature sows and boars after recently slaughtering 10 pigs.
Initially, Mwebia sold his pigs to pork outlets in Meru town at a cost of Sh250 per kilo. “But I realised that I was making losses. I saved money and opened my first butchery, and then another,” he says.
He slaughters his pigs at an abattoir in Nkubu town where he pays Sh500 fee for each animal.
“My two butcheries are inspected regularly by the county public health officers, who issued me with a certificate accrediting my business. I also have a business licence from the Meru County government.”
Mwebia sells a kilo of pork at Sh400, earning gross income of Sh40,000 from a mature pig after slaughtering.
Pigs are slaughtered at six months, when weighing about 100kg.
“Last Christmas was the best moment ever in my business. I slaughtered about 10 mature pigs for the first time getting good income,” says Mwebia, noting his target is to supply his butcheries with 15 pigs per month.
Currently, he slaughters about six pigs in a month from his farm and others earning over Sh200,000.
His biggest challenge is poor quality commercial feeds that affect growth of the animals.
“Some of the manufacturers are cunning that they do not include all the nutrients needed by the pigs in the feeds making it difficult for the animals to mature on time.”
To overcome this, Mwebia started recently to prepare his own formulation from using maize bran and other materials.
Each pig consumes about 3kg of feeds per day. He feeds his stock early morning and evening, with a kilo costing about Sh20.
To maintain hygiene and prevent diseases, he regularly de-worms his stock and observes high standards of hygiene in the pigsty.
“The pigsty is cleaned every morning before feeding is done. Pigs leaving in poor hygienic conditions are always exposed to diseases.”
Kenya Methodist University’s Head of Agriculture and Technology Department Prof Ellis Njoka says that proper housing and hygiene is very important as far as disease control in pig farming is concerned.
“A pig has little hair on its body hence good housing is vital. Pigs need a clean and warm environment because they are easily affected by diseases like pneumonia when exposed to cold,” Prof Njoka says.
A pigsty, according to him, should have a concrete floor for easy cleaning and drainage to curb diseases like swine fever.
“These diseases can be controlled by always having clean environment for the animals. The symptoms are jaundice (lack of blood in the body tissues) and the eyes turn yellowish. Farmers are always advised to have a close contact with a veterinary officer for checking their pigs.”
Prof Njoka discourages farmers from feeding pigs on kitchen waste because it contains fatty foods that affect the production of quality meat.
“Kitchen waste makes the pigs too fat and discourages growth of muscles leading to slow growth. People do not like consuming pork which is fatty.”