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Pork and Pig Farming

There is much ignorance about pigs, and so we open this page with some basics.

  • Many people think pigs like to be in dirty pens with only mud to stand in. Pigs roll in mud to protect themselves against the sun and extreme temperatures and against parasites such as flies. It is not necessary for pigs to have mud if they have shelter and their pens are kept clean to limit the number of flies and other parasites. This wrong idea may result in the pigs becoming sick because they are kept in unhealthy conditions.
  • Pigs must always have clean, fresh water to drink. One pig needs at least 5 to 10 litres of water every day. When they are feeding young, sows need to drink more water because they have to produce milk.
  • Pigs are single-stomach animals and require two or three meals a day. Divide the food into two portions; feed the pigs half in the morning and the rest in the evening. Do not feed your pigs only once a day because once they had their fill they will only play with the rest of the food, stand in it and soil it. This food is going to waste and the pigs will be left hungry.
  • Do not only feed one vegetable (such as cabbage), because pigs need a varied diet to stay healthy. Even cutting grass (especially green grass) and feeding this in small quantities will help supplement the pigs’ diet.
  • It is important that small or weak pigs should be fed separately from the bigger ones, because these stronger pigs will eat all the food. If you have more than four adult pigs, then food should be divided into two containers, so that every animal can have a share.
  • Many pigs are pink and when kept in the sun their skins turn red and get sunburn. Pigs do not have much hair on their bodies to protect them from the cold or insulate them against heat. Pigs suffer if they get too cold or too hot and should not be kept in too cold or hot conditions. Many pigs die from pneumonia if left in the cold, wind or rain. Pigs can also die from heatstroke after being left in the sun with no shelter or water. Even if the pigs do not die, they will not be as healthy and strong as they should be.
  • Pigs must have a warm, dry sleeping area. Pigs must be able to lie in the shade out of the sun. Part of the pen must have a roof to provide enough shade for all the pigs. (Some experts advise that the whole pen be covered). If the roof is made of metal, it must be covered with grass or branches to keep it cool.
  • It is important that the floor of the pen should slope so that excess water can run off allowing the pen to stay dry. If water does collect in the pen, it is important to dig a drainage furrow or ditch, leading out of the pen.
  • Pigs always dung in the same place. Make sure that this mess is cleaned out at least twice a week, to lessen the risk of disease.
  • Food and water containers must be cleaned thoroughly at least twice a week.
Source: The Pig Care info Pak (booklet) – see "Websites and publications" heading

International business environment

China is the biggest role player, accounting for more than 50% of production and trade in this sector. Other major producers are the EU, USA followed by Brazil and Russia (USDA, 2023).

The EU is the largest exporter of pig meat in the world, followed by the US, Brazil, and Canada (USDA, 2023). The top importers are China, Japan, Mexico, UK and South Korea (USDA, 2023).




South Africa: imports and exports

  • Find the monthly export and import statistics at
  • Although it’s from a small base among the meat types, the expected rate of growth is fastest for pork products, at 23% for the ten-year period to 2032. And the share of net pork imports is projected to decline from 4% to 1% in that period (BFAP, 2023).

Local business environment

Being on the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) mailing list for the weekly electronic newsletter is a very useful way to stay in touch with what is happening in this sector. Find contact details under the “Associations involved” heading further down the page.

The total South African pig population is about 1 332 000 (DALRRD, 2023). The Limpopo and North-West provinces have the highest pig populations, 24% and 20% respectively (DALRRD, 2023). There are an estimated 156 commercial farmers, 19 stud farmers and 365 smallholder farmers (DALRRD, 2021).

The pork sector is one of the sectors which has already exceeded the growth that the National Development Plan was targeting for 2030. Between 2012 and 2019, production grew at an average rate of 4%; from 2020 to 2022, growth was 9%. Over the next decade, growth is projected slow down to 2% (BFAP, 2023).

Commercial producers

Commercial producers, however, compete well with European counterparts (BFAP, 2023, 2017). Commercial pig producers are distributed across all nine provinces of South Africa. Climate (summer rainfall) and the regional concentration (access to top quality abattoirs and the monetary spending potential of consumers) play an important role in where the largest concentrations are located. As elsewhere in the world, pig production in South Africa is also mostly practiced near the maize, wheat, sunflower and soybean production areas and also very close to the urban market, normally within 100 – 200 km.

South Africa’s commercial pig farmers use the SAPPO compartmentalisation system, in which pigs are quarantined at all times from any disease that may break out elsewhere. In 2023, 126 sow units and their 95 868 sows in South Africa were participating in this compartmentalised system (SAPPO, 2023).

The all-out production system on farms means that each week a set number of animals are slaughtered and moved to the market. Pork production on a commercial farm cannot be put on hold. An interruption like listeria or lockdown forces the price right down and the farmer (a price-taker) must make do.

Small-scale producers

The total number of pigs kept in the informal herd is estimated to be around 893 000. The sector supports thousands of livelihoods and provides affordable protein to consumers in rural areas.

Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baselines 2023-2032, 2021-2030, 2020-2029, 2018-2027 and 2017-2026; Dr D P Visser, Tel: 082 809 7488;;; Modern Pig Production (see the “Websites and publications” heading)

Further reference:


As up to date information is crucial for the successful production of pork, the South African Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO) provides its members with the latest market information on a continuous and regular basis. Visit for the latest industry information.



Find the BFAP study “Quantification of the South African Pork Value Chain : Phase 1” (June 2021) at



Find the latest Pork market value chain profile on DALRRD’s Directorate Marketing web pages at



Consult the annual BFAP Baseline at

The Synchronised Group Management System (Sygma System)

The ideal in pig farming is to have a strict hygienic control with an all-in all-out system. This is achieved by keeping the same age groups, or production groups in the same houses. This is impossible for the small farmer if he does not use group farrowing.

Since a synchronised sow group moves all together to the next accommodation, each housing is totally emptied – all-in, all-out. The farms that use the Sygma system leave the accommodation to stand empty for a week after cleaning. This is called hygienic emptying. The resulting reduction in disease level usually leads to an improvement in the fertility of the sows and in the growth of the piglets.

Farms that use the Sygma system provide a healthier environment by the policy of all-in, all-out combined with hygienic emptying. Therefore, they use less medication and the production cost per piglet is reduced. The outlay for animal health on the average farm is R120.00 per sow per year. By using the Sygma system with strict all-in all-out and hygienic emptying, the same average farm will save R30.00 per sow per year on veterinary costs.

The sows are divided into 7 groups of sows that are at the same stage of production. This grouping of the sows enables the three main activities of insemination, farrowing and weaning to be planned into a schedule, which gives the pig breeder many advantages. They also achieve higher performance results with their animals. The farmer will only have one manger task per week e.g. weaning, insemination and farrowing. In a conventional weekly farrowing program these tasks are repeated weekly and occupy the farmer daily.

Small farmers cannot afford to employ a pig manager and normally do these tasks themselves. This limits the time available for other enterprises on the farm. With the 3 week farrowing the farmer will wean on a Thursday, inseminate the following Tuesday and his next group sows will farrow the following Tuesday.

The advantages for the pig farmer are numerous.

  • healthy pigs
  • better health status
  • larger litter size
  • more litters per sow per year and larger litter size
  • labour savings up to 25 per cent
  • increased profits
  • less work, more income
  • more time for the animals
  • sell larger batches of weaners at better prices
  • reduced AI costs
Source: Joos Solms, Plantkor.

For the newcomer


  1. Make sure you can finance all the expenses until your first pigs are ready to sell.
  2. There are regional advantages to some farmers e.g. in Gauteng maize is plentiful and there is easy market access.
  3. Do not farm with pigs in the swine fever area – this has market limitations and one could lose all your stock.
  4. Ensure that you know which permits you need to have in your area.
  5. New Farmers should fist visit two or three successful commercial farmers to obtain advice and join a study group in their area.


  1. Make sure there is someone who is going to buy your pigs and pay for them.
  2. Decide which type of pig you are going to sell: (1) Weaners, (2) Porkers, or (3) Baconers
  3. Consider starting farming by first buying weaners and growing them out to baconers (phase 1). If this is successful, move on to breeding. (In Europe, many farmers are specialist “growers”. They do no breeding).
  4. Records are important.
  5. Tattoos are compulsory.


  1. Decide what type of pig will suit your farm best.
  2. Don’t buy other people’s problems.
  3. Plan a programme that is going to fit your resources. This will include (1) Cash (2) Feed (3) Housing
  4. Breeds to think about: Large White, SA Landrace, Duroc, Kolbrook


  1. Pigs must be kept warm in winter and cool in summer. Basic protection against sun and cold does not have to be expensive.
  2. You will need to choose: indoors or outdoors or both.
  3. Well-insulated buildings should be erected; concrete floors are a must, for health and hygiene.
  4. Effluent disposal must be planned, good drainage is needed. Contamination of streams or rivers is not allowed.
  5. Remember: mothers and babies are special and need extra care


  1. Pigs in pens are entirely dependent on their care givers for all their needs.
  2. Pigs must be protected against thirst, hunger, pain, fear, extreme heat and cold, and diseases.

Health and disease

Three common problems:

  1. Malnutrition – food is too little, too watery, rotten or toxic
  2. Scours (diarrhoea) in young pigs
  3. Mange: itchy diseased skin – pigs of all ages


  1. Diseases are spread mainly by pigs, people, bad food, vehicles, workers. Control access to the pigs.
  2. Protect your pigs with:
  • pig-proof fence (good fences pay!)
  • locked gate
  • healthy replacement stock
  • no speculators on site
  1. Disinfection must be well done.
  2. Transport vehicles must be clean.
  3. Never feed swill from restaurants or harbours or food that contains animal tissues.
  4. Use the help that is available from veterinarians, nutritionists, animal scientists.
Source: adapted from notes by Peter Mockford and a SAPPO 2011 presentation about the "Golden rules" for pig farming. Find additional notes on the SAPPO website.

Emerging farmer information

Find information about and for Emerging Farmers at

  • SAPPO co-ordinates developing farmer projects. Assistance is given with drawing up business plans, the establishing of pig projects and pig study groups etc.
  • Find contact details for ARC-Animal Production under the “Training & research” heading. Extension work done with emerging farmers on basic management skills and nutrition.

Training remains focus of emerging farmers

Training continues to be the focus of the portfolio committee for emerging farmers. Train-the-trainer courses are presented to government officials in co-operation with provincial departments of agriculture. Small scale and developing farmers are also trained at workshops, farmer days and study groups in co-operation with government extension officers and animal health technicians. SAPPO runs mentorship programmes in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Western Cape and the Free State. Contact SAPPO’s Business Development Division (find contact details at

National strategy and government contact

Find contact details and information about directorates of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) under the “Branches” option at

National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)  The NAMC administrates the statutory levy for pigs.


Animal welfare


National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA)


Refer to the “Animal husbandry” page for Standards which apply when transporting livestock. The South African National Standard, Pig Welfare standardises the pork industry, thereby promoting the welfare of pigs.


The current sow/gestation crates are being phased out in South Africa. Standard practice has been to keep sows in restrictive stalls for the entire16-week pregnancy period. Sow stalls allow the pregnant sows to stand up and lie down, but not to turn around. The change is towards keeping pregnant sows in group housing where they will have the freedom to move around and socialise.


Find the NSPCA educational resources which include Take care of your pigs, and Transport your pigs correctly at 

Role players


Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

 Representative Bodies
 Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
 Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers

Further reference:

  • The South African Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO) is responsible for communications and promotion of the pork industry, and for commissioning research, serological and residue tests. Their electronic newsletter will keep you updated on the latest news in the pig industry. Find details of regional pig study groups on the website.
  • Find the SAPPO biosecurity pages at
  • Find a list of accredited producers and abattoirs at
  • Find details of 4Mix InternationalAddcon AfricaAdvit Animal NutritionAllied NutritionAlltechBiomin Animal NutritionCoprexMeadow Feeds and Nutribase on the “Animal feeds” page.
  • At the Pig Study Groups (PSG), feedback is given on national (i.e. SAPPO) meetings, and domestic matters are discussed. The role of these groups is also to expose members to the latest technology and developments in the industry. This is usually done by guest speakers who are invited to address the group. Find details of PSGs at
  • The Research Committee of SAPPO is responsible for addressing the pig industry’s research needs. Research is done through the ARC, the universities or other institutions approved by the committee. Research report summaries are available on For complete reports, contact SAPPO.
  • The pig unit at ARC-Animal Production (ARC-AP) offers excellent training opportunities to students from tertiary institutions and those wanting to start pig farming. The ARC-AP pig production unit also offers expertise, animals and facilities for applied and generic research in management, nutrition and production related health and reproduction.
  • The Agricultural Colleges to provide training on Pig Production. Find their details on the “Agricultural education and training” page. Basic training includes: (1) Planning the pig production unit; (2) Housing pigs; (3) Pig care in various stadia; (4) Nutrition; and (5) Breeding and selection of pigs.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed under the earlier headings.

The website provides information on SAPPO, its structures and functions, and gives an orientation to the pork industry. Find details of the SAPPO Training DVDs here. SAPPO puts out 6 copies of Porcus – published for the pork industry – per year. The latest copy can be downloaded from their website. A newsletter by email is also available.

The Pork Best Farming Practice website,, include guidelines on biosecurity, environmental stewardship and traceability., the World of Pork (WoP) is an exclusive platform for South African pork producers.

SAPPO’s Promotions Committee compiled a publication, The complete guide to South African pork, which provides information on the nutritional content of pork, buying tips, preparation and handling tips and recipe ideas.

Pigs for profit, by Drs Jim Robinson and Mary-Louise Penrith, is a comprehensive, full-colour manual dealing with all aspects of pig production. It can be ordered from SAPPO.

Excellent presentations can be downloaded from the SAPPO website.

The Pig Breeders Society have a CD on the pig breeds of South Africa which contains relevant and updated information on the origin of the pig breeds, their history in South Africa and their breed standards. Photographs and/or artwork depict each breed, and functional efficiency is also discussed. The CD is interactive, and can be ordered from the Pig Breeders Society in Bloemfontein. Call 051 410 0900 or write to pigs [at]

Kejafa Knowledge Works has publications in both English and Afrikaans on pigs, including Modern Pig Production by Dr Danie Visser, the handbook for the pig industry. They also have a DVD on successful pig production. Visit

Farming with pigs and Guide to Small-Scale Pig Farming, by EH Kemm, are available from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. See

Pig Production Problems – John Gadd’s Guide To Their Solutions, published by Nottingham University, covers 32 major pig problems. The book is intensively practical, and is firmly aligned to the bottom line. It is available from Exclusive Books.

Call 012 672 9153 for the Pig Production Manual, available from ARC-AP in Irene.

The following ARC-Agricultural Engineering (AE) publications can be obtained by calling 012 842 4017 or by emailing iaeinfo [at]

  • Manual on housing for pigs (also available in Afrikaans)
  • Extensive pig housing (also available in Afrikaans)

A compliance guideline for the South African pig producers is available from the Premier Pork Producers (PPP) association. Contact Guzette Strydom at 012 100 3035, or email info [at] – for recipes and cooking ideas

The latest Pork Market Value Chain can be read on, website of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). Find “Annual publications” on the Directorate Marketing’s pages.

Included among the Info Paks available at are the following:

  1. Are my pigs healthy?
  2. Basic care of your pigs
  3. Boer met varke
  4. Care of sow and piglets
  5. Guide to small-scale pig farming

Section 2 of Red Meat Marketing, one of the series of Agricultural Extension Training Papers at looks at pig marketing.

Find the brochures and posters on African Swine Fever at

Sebothoma P & Wepener M. nd. Climate-Smart Agriculture – Training Manual. Module 10: Pig Production. Available at

Find the “Pigs” option at

Visit the useful which has notes and videos.

Follow the life of a pig in the intensive farming system –


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