One thing is for sure, pork is becoming increasingly popular in the Kenyan market. Judging from all the pork centers in the country, many more people are opting for the swine instead of the traditional beef and chicken. The price of pork now retails at Kshs 300 per kilogram and most retailers buy pork from farmers at Kshs 200 per kilo. Recently, Farmers choice, one of Kenya’s leading pork processing plants, increased the price they buy pork from farmers by 10% making the price Kshs 220. Not bad news for the farmers.
Inspite of all of this, the pig farmer is not making any money yet. The reason that sticks out most prominently is the price of feeds. It is estimated that it costs as much as Kshs 120 per day to feed a pig. This means that a farmer will spend as much as Kshs 14,000 to feed a single pig to maturity. Mind you, this is the price of feeding the pigs before the cost of were hiked by the introduction of VAT on animal feeds.
One way to dodge this problem is to find a simpler way to feed the pig. Something cheap, convenient and reliable. A mature pig is known to eat 5.5kg of fodder a day. In this case, hydroponic barley fodder. A 4ft tray in a hydroponic system produces 12kg of fodder in 6 days. This is enough to feed 2 mature pigs at a cost of 40/- per pig. A shelter holding 90 trays can feed 50 pigs comfortably all year round. The system is effective and clean as it does not need much labour to maintain.
The system may be cheap, but after continual testing at the Grandeur Africa demonstrative farm, it was noted that pigs on 100% hydroponic fodder have a delayed maturity and may take as much as 11 months to reach market weight. This may be due to the monogastric nature of pigs as they only have one stomach an may not be able to utilize all the nutrients in the fodder as compared to ruminants such as cow that have been reported to have a 10 to 21% increase in milk production after introduction of hydroponic barley fodder into their diet.
One significant benefit of hydroponic fodder in pig farming is the thin fat layer that is a result of the diet. As low as 7mm of fat has been reported unlike the 11 to 14mm of fat that is common in pigs on a commercial feed diet. Thus, pork resultant from pigs on a hydroponic fodder diet is not only cheap to produce but also of a superior quality.
Through anecdotal reports, it has been gathered that a combination of commercial feeds and hydroponic fodder yields not only high quality fodder but also shortens the maturity time as compared to pigs on hydroponic fodder alone. A diet of 70% hydroponic fodder and 30 commercial feeds was tested on pigs, but the results were not satisfying. Many more tests will have to be done to narrow down to the exact quantities the feed should be mixed with commercial feeds. Scientists at Grandeur Africa are working on this and they are optimistic that they are on to something that can make the pig farmer deposit a cheque that will make the bank teller gasp in disbelief.