The history of pig production begins with humans domesticating pigs from wild boars independently in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and East Asia around 9 000 years ago.
A team led by Laurent Frantz at the University of Oxford, UK, analysed the genomes of more than 600 modern pigs and wild boars. According to the research, after initial domestication in Anatolia, the ancestors of European pigs interbred with at least two different populations of wild boars that ranged between Europe and Anatolia.
Pigs from East Asia seem to have interbred with local boars too. Despite this wild mixing, domestic pig genomes show signs of positive selection at regions that include genes involved in behaviour and anatomy.
In this century, pig farming is mainly undertaken for food and skins. Preparations of pig parts into food specialties include sausage (and casings made from the intestines), bacon, gammon, ham, skin into pork crackling, feet into trotters, head into a meat jelly called head cheese (brawn), and consumption of the liver, chitterlings, and blood (blood pudding or brown pudding).
Pig skin is used for gloves, providing a nice luxury glove leather due to it being so thin. Pig suede leather is used for items like leather jackets, handbags, and gloves.
Before delving into the process of pig farming, the terms used in the pig production industry must be understood. A piglet is any immature pig. A sucker is a pig between birth and weaning. A weaner is a young pig recently separated from the sow. A runt is an unusually small and weak piglet, often one in a litter. A boar is the male pig of breeding age. A barrow is a male pig castrated before puberty. A stag is a male pig castrated later in life (an older boar after castration). A gilt is a young female not yet mated, or not yet farrowed, or after only one litter, and a sow is the breeding female, or female after first or second litter.
Pigs for slaughter are classified as follows:
- A suckling is a piglet slaughtered for its tender meat
- A feeder pig is a weaned gilt weighing between 18 and 37 kg at 6 to 8 weeks of age that is sold to be finished for slaughter
- A porker is a market pig between 30 and about 54 kg dressed weight
- A baconer is a market pig between 65 and 80 kg dressed weight. The maximum weight can vary between processors
- A grower is a pig between weaning and sale or transfer to the breeding herd, sold for slaughter or killed for rations
- A finisher is a grower pig over 70 kg live weight, and
- A backfatter is a cull breeding pig sold for meat, usually refers to a cull sow, but is sometimes used in reference to boars.
In some markets (such as Italy), the final weight of butcher pig is in the 180 kg. They tend to have hind legs suitable to produce cured ham. One of the most important factors to consider before starting any agricultural project is to understand the market to supply. Usually, the market to supply is determined in the project proposal.
Due to a myriad of factors, every location has its preferred state of demand of pig meat. Once that has been established, one can then research the costs involved in the production system and whether the capital will be raised by the farmer alone, a collective of farmers, a non-governmental organisation, a financial institution or by an investor (an individual or company) who can be dormant or active when it comes to the running/management of the project.
The factors to consider are infrastructure, space allocation, environmental permission and biosecurity, management staff, training, feed, slaughter, and the logistics for the operation.
Infrastructural needs will look at houses for production stages (mating, farrowing, weaning, growing, and finishing) biosecurity, feed warehouse, machinery warehouse, staff quarters, slaughterhouse/area (if need be) and security.
Space allocation leaves a great deal of opportunity for designs to evolve through the cooperation of the farm family, craftsmen and perhaps engineers and architects. The planning will involve careful evaluation of factors such as family/farm culture and social life, climate, government regulations, available materials, and the skills of local craftsmen.
The planning process will result in unique designs that may differ greatly from one area to another. However, only if the planning process aims at producing designs which are within a cultural and environmental context in terms of general layout, materials, construction, and details, will they contribute to develop an indigenous building tradition that pursues the native architectural heritage.
Environmental permissions have largely to do with management of farm operations in a way that protects the environment and helps maintain the economic viability of the piggery production venture.
Biosecurity will look at methods of reducing the odds of infectious diseases being carried onto the piggery farm by people, animals, equipment, vehicles, or other means.
For the selection of management staff and training, it is necessary to ensure that the recruitment process is properly executed through the identification of the job vacancy, planning for the job recruitment, publicising the job hiring, reviewing applications, and choosing the most qualified, and by finally examining the background of the most suitable applicant(s).
Feed plays one of the most crucial roles in piggery as it highly determines the state of health of the animals. Moreover, quality feed contributes to a better feed conversion ratio (FCR). Feed must possess all the nutritional requirements for different production stages (mating, farrowing, weaning, growing and finishing), and should be sourced from a reputable supplier or manufacturer.
Slaughter must be performed in an efficient and effective manner, ensuring that the quality of the pork is not compromised. Options for slaughter include the lethal injection, free-bullet firearms, captive-bolt stunning followed by bleeding or pithing, percussion stunning, electrical stunning, and carbon dioxide gas stunning.
For logistics, animals need to be moved for several reasons including marketing, slaughter, re-stocking, from drought areas to better grazing, and change of ownership. Typically, methods used to move animals are on hoof, by road motor vehicle, by rail, on ship and by air. Generally, the majority of livestock in developing countries are moved by trekking on the hoof, by road and by rail.