The site of the children's home at Hoay Maw includes a facility for rearing pigs. The facility is able to house a male pig, a female pig and up to 120 piglets. Apparently, a pig project was run successfully when the home was first started. Unfortunately, the German businessman, who was initially supporting the home, became ill and was unable to continue working and supporting the home. That was the beginning of hard times for the home which they have basically never been able to overcome. In desperation they had to kill the breeding pigs to eat.
On the positive side, the pig farm facility is good. Pastor Joseph founded and oversees the home. Joseph's son, Paul has taken the initiative to become knowledgeable about pig raising and he was able to give us many details of what is involved. Definitely a learning experience for us! It is feasible for the children to manage the cleaning and feeding of the pigs. The home would also be able to manage the slaughter and preparation.
A timely factor coinciding with our visit was the visit of a gentleman (who is a friend of Paul) was visiting from China. His visit to Thailand was in association with the King's Project. He was working with community members to inform them on growing herbs and also on improved methods of rearing pigs. As a result of this connection, the children's home was able to obtain 11 piglets. Paul was also able to get better information on raising the pigs.
There are factors associated with the productivity of raising pigs. One is the quality of food that is given to the pregnant mother and to the developing pigs. The other is the quality of the breeding stock.
The varieties of pig are:
- Basic local pig (quite small)
- White farm pig (big and lean meat)
- Black Chinese pig (big and more fat)
The new piglets are of the small basic kind so better than nothing but won't produce as much pork. The home currently has a Chinese male pig which is a good asset. In order to start the pig raising project they need to acquire a female breeding pig (preferably Chinese or white). There is currently a white pig available at a local farm for the cost of 5500 Baht (£82/$155). There could probably be some negotiation to bring that down.
The types of feed are:
- Natural food i.e. peelings, waste food, etc.
- Nutrient pig food.
The male pig and piglets are currently being fed on natural food because they don't have any money to buy nutrient food. Although there is minimal food waste (because there is minimal food), and the food is of a low quality, sometimes just rice and occasionally vegetable peelings, at least this approach is free. On the negative side, the pigs don't grow as fast or as big and so less pork is produced.
It would cost about £40 to raise a pig for 4 months on nutrient food. It would grow to about 90kg i.e. 45p($.85)/kg. We bought pork for the home which cost £1.35($2.50)/kg. So raising pigs, including the cost of nutrient food is 3 times more cost effective than buying it.
If the pigs are raised on natural food then this requires minimal investment but the weight of pork produced is less.
If a good quality breeding female can be obtained, then she should produce 3 litters of about 15 in a year. This could provide nearly 1 pig per week (90kg pork - or less on natural food).
There are currently 184 children at the home so this could provide about .5kg per child per week. In the West that would be about 4 125g servings but for the children at the home, it would be a radical improvement in their overall diet. The 28kg pork that we took (150g per child) was the first meat they had had since our friend visited almost 3 months previous.
We need to work out the optimum balance between investing in nutrient food as opposed to using natural food or mixed feeding, but basically, the provision of a good quality breeding female would seem an excellent investment.
The photos show the pig farm, the new piglets and the Chinese male. We have nicknamed the male "Buster" - see photo to work out why. Apparently he has escaped a couple of times and proceeded directly to a local farm where his favourite lady pig resides. It's surprising that he's still keen as at one session, she bit his tail off! Apologies to animal lovers - animal welfare in Thailand is not a high priority. I guess when you see the condition of the children it helps keep things in perspective.