Question: I’m serious about my pig farming operation, even though it’s small. I need to keep track of what’s happening on my farm so that I can work out costs and identify problems. Please give me some hints about how to keep records and the kind of things I should be writing down.
Farm records are important because they help you identify problems and deal with them immediately, or get help and advice from a vet, animal health technician or extension officer.
They will also show you whether you’re making a profit or a loss, and if it looks like a loss the records will probably show you why that is happening.
Regulations in South Africa, for instance, make it compulsory to identify pigs by an ear tattoo, so make sure your animals are properly identified. It will make it easy to keep records.
You can get printed boar and sow cards for record-keeping purposes from feed suppliers, millers and co-ops. If you can’t find them, use an exercise book, preferably one that has a hard cover and is bound with wire, so that it will stay open at the place you need.
Breeding records are the most important. For sows, these will consist of the date/s of service, identification of the serving boar (even if you have only one boar – you might get another one later), the date on which the litter is born, how many piglets were born, how many were born alive, the number of piglets weaned and the date on which they were weaned.
Boar breeding records should include identification of the sows served, the dates and number of services, the date on which the litter was born and the number of piglets born alive. These records will show you whether your breeding programme is going according to plan and whether the sow is able to wean most of the piglets born alive.
The records should also indicate the date of birth of the sow or boar, as some problems could be the result of their being too old to breed well.
Vaccinations and parasite treatments should be recorded so that you know when to repeat them, but it is useful to have a vaccination and treatment programme on your wall for quick reference.
Other useful records relate to the purchase of feed (date, quantity and price), pigs (date, number, age, price and source), sale of pigs (date, number, age, price, where sold and why), deaths (date, age of pig, cause if known), any treatment of sick pigs (date, medicine used, cause), and any visits by a vet, animal health technician or extension officer.
You also need to keep financial records, including what you spend on electricity, water and transport.
- This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.