JIS News

Pig farmers are poised to ‘take home the bacon’ as they seek to fill the high demand for pig meat on the local and overseas market. And with the opening up of new markets through the CARICOM Single Market Economy, farmers are seeking more ingenious ways of breeding and rearing the product in order to remain competitive. Delroy Manya, President of the three year-old Pig Farmers Association informs JIS News that there is a high demand for pig meat at the moment. “We are supplying just about 85 per cent of our domestic demand so we have a 23 per cent that we are actually importing. There is room for development within the industry,” he says.
“The Pig Farmers Association has a link with the Pork Association of the Caribbean and with the implementation of the CSME now we can expand our industry to meet any demand that the CARICOM market will be asking,” he informs.
He further notes that currently Trinidad supplies approximately seven per cent of that country’s local demand while Barbados provides some six per cent of its local demand. “So if we put things in place and get our standard and our quality up then definitely there is prospect for the widening and development of the pig business in Jamaica,” he says.
Jamaica currently imports very little pig meat except for the intestines which are used to make sausage as well as a some choice cuts which are used by the hotels and some processors at the moment.
To supply the markets pig farmers have found that some specially imported pigs from Canada are more cost effective to breed and rear. As such some 250 pigs were brought in from Canada, two years ago through a $1.3 million pig-breeding programme, which was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
This was also about the time that the Association was formed to address issues that would arise. “The Association came about three years when there was the need for a voice for the pig farmers and we realized that there was a necessity for an improved genetic material in the system and it was not possible for Bodles at the time to supply all the necessary genetic material and so the Government of Jamaica, and Jim Donaldson’s International and New Port Mills invested in a project to bring some new genetic into the island,” Mr. Manya explains.
Under this project, farmers are able to access semen which can be used to breed local pigs thus resulting in an improved genetic quality.
The 250 specially imported pigs, Mr. Manya explains, are of a special genetic breeding stock from Canada. “They came in as young pigs and they are maturing now and from the mature pigs semen is available. By the end of the year farmers will be able to buy from this project replacement stocks for their herd and this is actually a herd development thing,” he says.
He further explains that there are a lot of advantages to rearing these pigs as they are better converter of feed, faster growing animals and they can be weaned at an earlier weaning. “Presently we are weaning our local pigs at about 7-8 weeks while these pigs can be weaned at 4-6 weeks so the mothers can go back into production faster,” he explains.
Compared to local pigs, Mr. Manya says they are better converters as they will convert less feed into more meat and as such will be ready for market at a shorter market time. “Our present pigs will be ready anywhere between six to seven months. These will be ready in five to five and a half months depending on what market rate you are looking,” he says.
The high cost of feed, which is usually one of the deterring factor in pig rearing is said to account for about 65 per cent of cost of production. However, Mr. Manya explains that while the local pigs use up 10 bags to reach maturity, these pigs will only use six to seven bags of feed from weaning to finish. “So it will be using less feed to mature at a faster rate and so it will decrease the cost of production to the farmer, thus increasing profit margin,” he says.
The cost of this pig semen to farmers who wish to breed this stock of pigs is $2,000 per service. Mr. Manya further explains that the project managers are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to see how the Ministry can utilize their veterinary personnel and animal health technician in the field to offset some of the cost to the farmers.
“Nothing is worked out specifically on this yet but I know the project managers and the Ministry are in dialogue. The Association supports this very well and we are looking forward to something very meaningful out of this,” he says.
There are critics who have said these pigs are usually much smaller than those conceived naturally. Mr. Manya says this is not true. “When there was the use of frozen semen it was said that the litter size is usually smaller than natural service. But now this project is utilizing fresh semen which can be processed and kept for about four to five days,” he says, adding that the average litter size is between 12 and 13. “I certainly wouldn’t say that is small,” he says.
One of these special breed pigs when mature can fetch a high cost of between $25,000 and $30,000 at some of the major farms. And this is just one of the many areas the Association will be lobbying to see change in. “This is private investment but we will try as best as possible to see how we can lobby these farms and centres so that we can get pigs for farmers at a cheap rate, relative to what is happening now,” Mr. Manya informs.
Currently the Association is working with the research station at Bodles to develop some standards, which will require farmers to implement some on-farm technology. This, according to Mr. Manya, will require them to have proper feeding areas or bins, automatic watering system so the animals have access to fresh clean water throughout the day and for proper sanitation to be put in place.
The Association also in collaboration with Bodles has partnered with Farmer to Farmer Partners of America, which will see them sending volunteers to Jamaica to assist in training farmers in these new technological areas. “It doesn’t really make sense to have these high bred pigs to put in the same old conditions. You will have to definitely improve the situation for them to perform efficiently,” Mr. Manya points out.
Another main issue to be addressed by the Association is that of the high cost of pig feed. According to the Association’s head, dialogue is currently underway with feed companies to see how best the cost can be reduced to farmers. “We realize what they are facing in terms of the price of grain, the sliding dollar and the shipping cost and so we are organizing our farmers to do bulk buying to see how we can get it at a cheaper rate and these are some of the initiatives that definitely the Association will have to work on this year to see how best we can bring these benefits to the farmers,” he says.
Meanwhile the body is also examining the idea of alternate feed for pigs, but has already discovered that it could very well be even more expensive.
Initially cassava, and sweet potato were identified, but the large scale on which it would be required would not be economical to grow. “But what we are looking at is to see how we can partner with other countries like the rice farmers in Guyana because it can be used as a supplemental source for corn and soya, but it involves a lot of things,” he informs. Feed companies, he says, are also in dialogue with rice farmers in Guyana to look at alternate feed. “The variety of rice that is grown in that area for animal feed is not the ordinary table rice and that fetches a lower price than the table rice for human consumption. And so they would probably need to have a guaranteed market to produce this low price rice for the feed,” Mr. Manya explains, adding that the Association is exploring the option of setting up a committee to track the price of grains on the world market and to see how farmers can benefit when prices go down.
Outside of lobbying for changes within the industry, the Association will be instructing farmers on keeping accurate records of their businesses. “We have our first volunteer coming to Jamaica to teach us electronic management system and from here the Association will be training some farmers. From there we will be generating some simple tables for farmers who don’t have access to computer for them to be able to tally their own business,” he explains.
Currently there are some 6,500-pig farmers across the island, of which 300 are officially registered with the Association. As such, Mr. Manya explains that there will be a drive this year to recruit new members.