In the fight against soaring animal feed prices, frustrated famers are starting to resort to unconventional feeding methods. Farmers, set against watching their animals starve to death, say they are forced to feed their animals what they can with some going as far as feeding animals kitchen waste.
Especially pig farmers have been hard hit by the scarcity of high-quality feed and high prices. Across the country agribusiness are reporting a decline in their operating profit.
Ipeleng Kwadi, a pig farmer in North West, agrees that expensive feed has brought her and others a lot of frustrations.
“Bags of pig grower, dry sog and lactating sow feeds are becoming more expensive,” she says.
In 2019 lactating sow feeds cost around R290 and in 2021 it totals about R384, while pig grower would set a farmer back R260, it now costs about R315.
“When a farmer weans piglets, he or she needs to introduce these piglets to this feed before they eat pig grower as it has more protein. The fact that they are stressed after weaning – the higher proteins help them to grow fast and relaxed,” Kwadi says.
According to Kwadi the market price of feed is leaving farmers in the lurch. Many she says they want to quit the industry because they are not coping and fail to produce good quality meat.
“The market is too expensive. We are barely coping. For alternative feeding, I buy concentrates and chop mix them. Sometimes I get the first grade of lucerne and then mix them so that my pigs can have some protein,” she explains.
It is reported that some farmers are feeding their pigs with kitchen waste.
“I would urge farmers to avoid using kitchen waste to feed pigs as they will not do any justice to the market weight,” Kwadi advises.
Giving advice to pig farmers, Kwadi says the most important thing is to manage spillage and for farmers not to waste their feed. She adds that some farmers are using yellow maize and soya beans to manage.
Pigs at the risk of getting diseases
Dr Justice Masilela, a veterinarian, shares Kwadi’s sentiments cautioning farmers against the use of the kitchen waste as feed for pigs.
“When it comes to pigs there’s one disease that comes to mind such as the African swine fever. This disease breaks out in many provinces of the country, and it is very dangerous.
“When epidemiologists traced its origins, it was strongly linked to alternative feeds, whereby farmers are feeding their pigs kitchen leftovers which are mixed with meat products and many other things,” Masilela explains.
Using alternative feeds weakens the farmer’s biosecurity because they do not have a track record of the food; whether it is healthy or not for the animal.
He said this lack of knowledge creates a danger of diseases being transmitted through kitchen waste.
“With alternative feed, people are running the risk of not only endangering their pigs but also threatening the safety of people that consume this meat. It is of utmost importance that farmers invest in feed additives and mix their own feed as a measure to save cost,” Masilela says.
His advice to farmers with available space on their land is to plant their own produce and mix it for feed. Masilela says this is a cheaper option which will also minimise the risks of diseases.
‘No voice in the markets’
But for small-scale pig farmer Xolisani Booi in George, Western Cape, it is a matter of not having a choice. He refuses to watch his animals starve to death and feed the animals what he can.
“As if the Covid-19 pandemic was not enough, now they have really put a nail on the coffin by raising the feed prices. Our pigs are dying. We can’t afford to feed them. We have knocked on every possible door that you can think of, but instead we are fed a whole lot of bureaucratic jargon and red tape,” says Booi.
It is not just pig feed that Booi is struggling with. He’s also lost about 13 sheep due to the unavailability of feed and grassing land. He believes that as small-scale farmers, they are being overlooked.
“Government has failed us as small farmers by not being our voice in the markets,” he says.
“We just came from a difficult pandemic. One would have thought at least government will negotiate with the markets to reduce the price of feed. A pig eats every day. A 50kg bag of feed is only enough for four pigs in four days, and good quality feed can cost you anything to R500. Imagine buying this feed every week. It costs a fortune.”
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.