How to Start a Pig Farming Business

Updated on 13 May 2022

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Pig farming remains one of the most popular agricultural trends in South Africa. There is a large demand for pork in South Africa, and pig farming is a lower-cost/higher-yield option compared to many other types of livestock farming. This makes it a popular option for first-time livestock farmers.  

While pig farming can be a highly profitable venture, starting a pig farm is still expensive and complicated. It’s important that any new pig farmers understand all of the costs and requirements involved in getting started. We’ll break this all down below. 

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Pig Farm in South Africa? 

The South African Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO) recommends new pig farmers start with a herd of 250 sows in order to cover their overhead costs and make a profit. For a 250-sow pig farm, start-up costs are estimated at around R 25 million. This excludes operational costs.  

This estimation is based on allocating 0,5 ha per sow, meaning the farm would require 125 ha. There is also a lot of infrastructure required for a pig farm. This includes houses for all stages of production in pig farming. Namely, mating, farrowing, weaning, growing and finishing. A pig farm also needs biosecurity facilities and a slurry dam. In pig farming, a larger portion of the land is required for waste disposal. 

Which Breed of Pig is Most Profitable in South Africa? 

There are over 50 breeds of pigs farmed in South Africa for their meat. The most popular breeds are Landrace, Large White, and Duroc. 

New pig farmers generally prefer Large White and Landrace breeds, as these pigs breed quickly and have large numbers of offspring. Duroc pigs are known for their excellent meat quality and large growth.  

Most commercial pig farmers in South Africa make the most of the characteristics of each pig breed by using generation one cross (F1). F1 is what commercial pig production in South Africa is based on, and it is what helps create the most profitable pigs. 

Pig farmers could also opt for more specialist pig breeds if they can find the right market for them. However, these pig breeds, such as the Large Black or Red Wattle Hog, tend to produce less meat at a higher cost, making them less profitable. 

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How Much Does a Pig Cost in South Africa? 

Pig farmers are looking at a rough total cost of R 1640 per 80 kg pig. This is broken down by feed costs being R 16,50/kg of pork produced and overheads at around R 4/kg. This cost increases if the farmer sells fewer, lighter pigs. The average pork price is R 28,51/kg. 

How Do I Start a Pig Farm in South Africa? 

While pig farming may be cheaper and easier to start compared to other livestock farming options, pig farming is still an expensive and complicated business. The first important thing is that pig farmers will need enough land and infrastructure to produce the pigs.   

Environmental permission needs to be granted for the land, with an EIA being conducted on the farm before the piggery is constructed. An environmental practitioner needs to be used to arrange this.  

It’s also important to consider transportation costs and logistics. Ideally, a pig farm should be located no more than 200 km from its market. The land will also need to be distanced from residential land.   

Once the right land is found and acquired, there are a few important considerations for running a successful pig farm. This includes securing a market for the pigs, finding the right genetic breeding stock, finding a supplier for quality feed, implementing the necessary biosecurity measures, and ensuring necessary health measures are in place to prevent disease. Pig farms also require staff, and of course, substantial infrastructure.   

Before starting a pig farm, it’s important to understand other types of agricultural business options that exist. For example, rabbit farming is another popular option with cost-effective production costs. 

With the right land and market, pig farming can be a lucrative venture in South Africa. Production costs remain relatively low compared to other agriculture options, and pig farms don’t require as much space compared to their production output. There is also a large and stable demand for pork products in South Africa.  

Of course, it is still an expensive business to start and operate. However, if the pig farm is well-planned and managed, it can be an incredibly rewarding business.  

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