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Home / Smart Harvest

5 critical care practices for every pig enterprise

Farmhands clip a piglet’s teeth at a pig farm in Meru County. The procedure helps to discourage the piglets from biting each other’s tails. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

Greetings daktari.  I wish to venture into large scale pig farming and want to know routine management practices... [Peter Kweyu]

Thank you Kweyu for reading the pullout. Here are key routine management practices in pig farming:

Piglet care

At birth, cut the umbilical cord to around 5 centimetres in length to avoid inflammation and tetanus. Make sure the piglets suckle on the first day and assist weak ones to get colostrum which is important for their immunity.

Piglets are born with little iron; subsequent supplementation is required. The best way is to apply it on the teats of the sow so that it can be ingested during suckling.

Sometimes piglets may be abandoned by their mother or she may not have enough milk. Goat or cow milk can be given as a substitute or alternatively a foster sow that gave birth around the same time should be considered.

Option B requires disguising of the piglets by applying diluted kerol or used engine oil to mask the scent and hence avoid rejection of the piglets by new mum.

Piglets are born with pointed (needle) teeth which should be trimmed to avoid injuries to the mother’s udder during suckling. Trimming is done using a teeth trimmer and should be done carefully. If possible, let a veterinary doctor do it.

Castration and tail cutting

Castration of male piglets is done to avoid the pork from having boar smell upon slaughter.

It should be done within the first two weeks of life and only on healthy piglets; lest it introduce stress and subsequently lower immunity. Tail cutting involves nipping of the tail to avoid tail biting in future.

Selection of Gilts and Boars 

When selecting breeding stock take the following into consideration. The gilt should have nicely spaced 12 teats. They should not be inverted.

Avoid any gilts with supernumerary teats. These are bad genetic traits. Select a gilt from a sow that had 9-12 piglets per litter. A breeding gilt should have a fast growth rate and be served at 8 months.

A boar for breeding should have strong legs, well formed sexual organs and with 12 rudimentary teats and should be from an equally good sow.


Culling is the deliberate removal of pigs from the farm to improve profitability.

Some reasons for culling are lameness, diseases, poor conception (difficult in pigs), old age, small litter sizes, poor mothering abilities, low libido in boars and abortions. 

Reasons for not conceiving among sows include fatness, first heat cycle, when a farmer is using a young soar or when the soar is overworked – mated more than five times a week. Boars should be culled after 36 months of age. 

Record keeping

Records help in assessing the profitability of your business and identifying the gaps. You can keep records on reproduction/breeding, feeding and health of the pigs.

[ The writer is Vet of the Year Award winner and works in the Division of Communication and Vet Advisory Services within Directorate of Veterinary Services; [email protected]]

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