Buti Malinga has built Vukani Piggery from a very small start – when he left a full-time job to start the business alongside his sister, Cathy, they had only nine sows. He currently runs a 120-sow unit that he plans to grow to 600 sows soon, and eventually to 2 500 sows. This go-getter speaks to Peter Mashala about his encounters with adversity and the rewards of persistence.
A humble start with a few pigs owned by his father, a farm worker, did not stop Buti Malinga from pushing through difficult obstacles to get to where he is today. Today he is a small-scale commercial pig farmer who runs Piggery, supplying up to 130 baconers and porkers to the formal market every fortnight. Buti’s vision is to become a large-scale commercial farmer in a couple of years.
“Right now we are waiting for an environmental impact assessment [EIA] to come back before we expand our capacity to 600 sows,” he says. The EIA has been undertaken for a 2 500-sow unit, but his immediate plan is to build an additional 500-sow unit, increasing their capacity to more than 600 sows.
Buti says the challenges faced by smallscale producers in their efforts to commercialise their piggery units include acquiring good genetic material and modern facilities, high feed costs and a lack of adequate biosecurity measures.
These are big hurdles to overcome, and it is no surprise that so many black pig farmers never make it to a commercial level. Buti admits that without the help he has had from his mentors, his input suppliers and the government, he never would have got to where he is today.
Vukani Piggery was named the winner of the National Carcass Competition in the Emerging Farmer Category for Pork in 2018 and one of the winners of the Best Group of Five Baconers in the same year.
Buti’s journey began in 2008 when his family acquired the 155ha farm Bronkhorstfontein, just outside Vanderbijlpark, where his parents, John and Martha Malinga, had worked for many years. “I grew up on this farm.
My mom was a housekeeper and my dad was a farm labourer. They worked for Bes Bezuidenhout, a cattle and sheep farmer,” Buti says. The farm, which falls within the boundaries of the North West province, was acquired through the help of the North West government under the Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (Plas).
This came about through an intervention by Buti’s first mentor, KC Mabelane, then the registrar at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT).
“I dropped out of school in my matric year to find work because of the financial situation at home. It was through KC Mabelane’s intervention that I managed to go back to school and then start on this farming path,” Buti explains.
He met KC in 2000 through his late sister Alina, who worked at a local Spar in Vanderbijlpark where KC was a regular. At the time, Buti was working for Checkers, at the receiving point.
“I was always complaining to my sister about the tough conditions there, so she made an appointment with KC to ask for help,” recalls Buti. He was hoping for a better job, but things didn’t quite go his way: when KC found out that Buti was only 17, he offered him an education instead.
“He looked straight at me and said: ‘At your age, I’m not going to discuss a job with you’. The only thing he was willing to talk about was an opportunity to go back to school.”
Once again things did not go quite as planned. Buti took the opportunity to study and enrolled at VUT for an N6 course. Then, while he was busy with his studies, he got a part-time job as an admin clerk in another department.
As he grew closer to KC, they discussed many things and KC took an interest in his family. “He was quite intrigued and wanted to find out if my parents knew how to farm and what they would do should they get land.” KC wanted to help Buti find his parents a piece of land where they could farm, even if it was only for subsistence.
THE BATTLE FOR LAND
“In February 2002 we wrote to the Department of Land Affairs to find out what assistance they could give my parents. This is how we found out about the Plas programme. We were advised to look for land that was for sale so that the department could purchase it for us,” explains Buti. By a fortunate coincidence, Bes was selling the farm at this very time.
“My parents called me one day after receiving an employment termination letter and notice to leave the farm,” recalls Buti. The matter ended in court, but Bes managed to sell the property anyway and the court case continued, now involving the new owner, Leon Coetze.
It was Leon Coetze who decided to call the Malingas to the table to negotiate an amicable solution. He eventually agreed to sell the farm to them, and the transaction was concluded in 2008. With a title deed in hand and 155ha of land stripped of everything except for a few cattle and pigs that roamed freely on the property, the family faced the next hurdle: how to manage the situation and generate some income from the land.
In 2010 the North West Department of Agriculture, through the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (Casp), built them a 10-sow unit housing nine sows and a boar. This was the start that Buti needed.
“I didn’t know much about pig farming, but I dug into it. I learned as much as I could about pigs and piggeries to make this work,” he explains. When a window opened in 2013 to apply for recapitalisation funding, Buti felt confident enough to scale up and applied for the recap.
“Our application for the current 120-sow unit structure was approved in 2014 and construction ended in 2017. We started operating with 50 sows and have slowly grown our numbers to the current 120 sows, which is our full capacity,” he says.
Buti uses artificial insemination (AI) to get his sows pregnant. He has two boars on hand, mostly for sow stimulation. The pigs are divided into seven groups and production is synchronised to run on a weekly basis. “Each group has 17 sows,” says Buti.
Piglets are weaned on a Thursday – the sows take about three days after weaning before their cycles start again – and insemination starts the following Monday.
“We order our semen just before we wean so that it gets to us by Monday. During this time, we use one of the boars to stimulate the sows.” After AI, before the 21-day cycle is complete, the boars are put in with the sows to see if any have come on heat, Buti explains. “The one or two that didn’t conceive would be given the boar.”
Sows are pregnant for three months, three weeks and three days (115 days). After they have farrowed, the piglets stay with their mothers for a month before they are weaned. On Day 3 of life, the piglets get an iron injection and an immune system booster.
They also get Fostera Gold PCV, a vaccination against porcine circovirus 2 (PCV2), and another shot of iron on Day 21. From then on it’s all about maintaining a good feeding programme. The animals are given ASA 1 (4kg per piglet) and ASA 2 (5kg per piglet) creep feed for 10 days after birth until their introduction to weaner feed begins.
“We introduce them to weaner feed gradually, towards the end of their ASA 2 ration. The important thing is not to change their diet or Buti took to heart the advice of a mentor who told him never to compromise on quality, and he always puts in the work to offer his clients the very best.
Vukani Piggery delivers between 120 and 130 baconers and porkers to Dreamland Piggery in Vanderbijlpark every fortnight. environment abruptly, as this will stress them and put them at risk for heart attacks or worse,” says Buti.
The pigs get the weaner ration for six weeks before they are gradually introduced to grower feed. “We wean our piglets when they weigh between 8kg and 10kg, and then we move them to the grower house to finish them,” he says. Pigletshave ad lib access to feed from farrowing to finishing.
“The one place we ration feed is in the dry sow house, where they only get 2kg of feed in the morning.” Piglets move to the grower house when they weigh at least 25kg. They are grouped according to weight so that larger pigs do not dominate smaller animals during feeding. This also ensures even growth, which is what the clients prefer, Buti says.
“We have three categories: small-framed, medium-framed and large-framed. The smaller pigs generally do not grow to the maximum and they tend to gain weight rather slowly.” He says he sells most of his pigs as baconers because it pays well.
“I sell all our baconers at around 80kg and porkers at 60kg to Dreamland Piggery, which has its own abattoir in the Vaal,” he says. After weaning, the sows go back to the dry sow house to prepare for the next insemination.
“We buy our semen from PIC, a company that is also our technical advisor. We meet them every month and they advise us according to their computerised pig management system,” Buti says.
According to Buti, a sow will naturally start preparing herself for the next litter 18 days after farrowing. “To assist with this process, we inject the pigs with Farrowsure while they are still in the farrowing house. Once the sows are in the dry sow house, we start them on flush feeding.
“During flush feeding they get 8kg of feed a day – 4kg in the morning and 4kg in the evening. We add a little glucose, as this helps them come on heat quicker.” He says feed is the most expensive of his inputs and about 70% of his revenue goes towards it.
“I have a gentleman’s agreement with pig farmer CP Kriek, who owns the Taaibosch Piggery not far from here,” he says. CP came to Buti’s rescue when he almost went under because of high feed prices and insufficient cash flow. “He lets me buy feed on account and then I pay him every two weeks, after I have sold,” explains Buti.
The implementation of a stringent biosecurity programme is imperative for every pig farmer, says Buti. He is very strict about people going into his pig houses and does not allow many visitors to the farm.
The pig houses are neatly fenced to prevent wild animals from gaining access. All entrances have a disinfectant footbath.
“When they are allowed in, visitors must wear gumboots and overalls provided by the farm,” Buti says. Diligence and the right attitude to farming have taken Buti from managing the humblest of operations to running a thriving small-scale commercial piggery. His drive and determination look set to propel him even further up the ladder of commercial success.