In about nine years since venturing into pig farming, Safika Piggery is now in the cut throat business of meat processing. Located in Siphofaneni area in the Lubombo Region, the company produces pork sausages and pork cuts for various local markets such as supermarkets, butcheries and individuals.
The 2ha piggery farm started operating in 2007 with a handful of weaners bought from local pig farmers. “The idea was to grow the weaners until they were four months and then sell them,” says Mhlonishwa Gamedze, the director of Safika Piggery. He says they soon realized that there was more to the business than just pig farming. “We then diversified our business model.”
The business started with market research where they realized that only Simunye Pork offered processed meat for the local market. Other processed meat came from South African brands.
The company started with a direct marketing strategy where they sold to consumers after receiving orders. The processing was undertaken after receiving orders from consumers. They were soon to face challenges as a result of a huge demand and limited supply. The expansion into meat processing meant that they needed a constant and reliable supply of quality pigs. It was then that they decided to increase production by getting ten sows, thereby getting into the breeding and rearing processes all at the same time. Through funding from FINCORP, the company also procured an additional five sows from a local pig farmer who had quality breeds from South Africa.
The farm now keeps 30 sows with a boar under an intensive pig farming method. The pigs are raised in close proximity of each other according to their group stages. A three-stage feeding system is followed according to the seasons and stages of the pig. The feeding programme is categorised according to whether the piglet is raised for pork sausages or pork cuts. The quality of pork is not just based on the feeding programme but mainly on breed selection.
Each sow produces an average two litters per year with between 11 to 12 piglets at a time. The piglets are dewormed at weaning then grouped according to their size and sex. “We are beginning to increase the number of sows because we have seen farmers having a better understanding of genetics, feed management and also to market our pigs,” says Gamedze.
The breeding boar is kept in a separate pen while pregnant sows have their own enclosures. This is done to reduce feeding competition.
Strict hygiene and quality meat processing standards are followed to the letter. This includes regular visitations by inspectors from the Ministry of Health. The abattoir follows strict guidelines and quality standards with the assistance of the government officials. The processed meat is therefore certified and fit for public consumption.
Over the past decade since he started the piggery farm, Gamedze has horned his farming skills through various trainings and educational visits in Swaziland and South Africa. He has received training in artificial insemination and pig production in South Africa. He was attached for two weeks at Dalien Plusboy Piggery in Pretoria. The South African company continues to offer him technical support at his farm,. “They are involved from farrowing, mating, pig management including understanding pig genetics,” he says.
The Siphofaneni farm has become a model for aspiring pig farmers who visit on a regular basis. The visits have recently increased as a result of trainings the business conducts in partnership with Lulute Training Institute in Manzini.
Gamedze emphasizes that efficient pig production and the desire for increased income should not compromise quality standards. He says the best quality product, standards and good breeds are pivotal to a thriving pig business. A farmer also needs to be consistent.
Safika Piggery incorporated a proper fit in infrastructure in order to breed quality stock. “Our housing structure can accommodate about 50 sows or more,” he says. “It was built to ensure a full cycle of pig production to match broader market needs.”
Safika Piggery sells its pigs at four months old with a carcass weighing an average 60kg. The company currently slaughters about 100 to 110 pigs per month. The processed meat and sausages are branded and packed in small packs of 1kg or 2kg.
Like all farming projects, Safika Piggery has also been affected by the current drought situation which has resulted in high pig costs from the suppliers.