By Emily B. Bordado
At this time when the hog industry is grappling with the dreadful viral disease known as African Swine Fever that has adversely affected the livelihood of thousands of backyard raisers and the businesses enterprises of commercial traders, retailers and meat processors, there are only a handful of commercial hog raisers who have managed to keep their business afloat and thriving.
One such enterprise is the Siguenza commercial swine farm which currently has 250-sows in their 2-storey all-concrete modern pig house in the town of Buhi, one of the remaining ASF-free municipalities in the province of Camarines Sur. They rear, breed and sell piglets, fatteners, breeders and boars and supply carcass – fresh or chilled pork meat to meat shops, restaurants and hotels and other establishments. It is now also operating 3 meat shops which sell premium quality meat in Naga City and in Buhi their home town.
The farm and stores are owned and managed by Maning (Mariano – his real name) and Myrna Siguenza. Perhaps their business success was brought about by the lucky charm given to them on their wedding day. A relative gifted them a piglet for fattening. Pig figurine is a popular lucky charm especially in Europe as it is associated with good luck, financial prosperity and happiness. The newly wed then thought of buying another piglet using the cash gifts they received during the wedding. Thus, when they started their life as a married couple they also started their love affair with the pigs which became their lifetime investment and source of income.
Manny who tucked an accountancy degree opted not to seek employment in any government or private office but set his mind on having his own business and enterprise no matter how small. Before settling down with her wife, Maning has already a small agricultural and poultry supply store. Myrna on the other hand was a school teacher then but has to give up teaching upon Maning’s prodding.
They started rearing hogs for fattening. But when it is time to sell them the price is usually very low. So he tried butchering some of their pigs and sell them at their store. Their customers liked the quality of their meat and they kept coming back. Asked what made their meat different from other pork meat available also in the market he said: “Ang baboy kung ano ang pinakain mo siya din ang quality ng karne nya. Kung yung mga tira-tira lang o yung swill feeding lang don’t expect na maganda ang karne. Karaniwan makapal ang taba.”
At first he did not believe in vaccinating pigs and dismissed it as just an additional expense. But when he lost about 100 pigs due to pneumonia he then reconsidered. “Animal vaccination although expensive is a necessary investment.”, he says.
They prepare their own feeds as they have a leeway in choosing which among the raw materials are most cost efficient at a particular time or season in terms of their availability and cost. He only buys biologics and other feed products or supplements which have been proven and tested because he gives premium to the quality of the pigs they produce and the meat from these pigs.
Soon their customers were not only interested in buying meat from them but were also interested in buying their piglets. So he shifted again to breeding. In 2004, he had about 100 breeders. But soon oversupply of piglets became his problem. So he started looking for possible market outside their locality.
Maning has already constructed a 2-storey full concrete piggery with a capacity of 250 sows at Barangay San Isidro of their municipality where their residence is also located. He has seven (7) regular personnel in their farm. Already they were observing bio-safety protocols such as the installation of foot baths, restriction of entry of unauthorized persons including buyers; regular spraying and disinfection and close monitoring of personnel working in the farm. He demands deep loyalty from his personnel. He cited an instance when he found out one of his workers was buying pork not from their own farm but elsewhere so he dismissed him. “Dapat they should be the first to be convinced of the product we are producing and selling and they should be loyal.”, he reasoned out.
Last year decided to establish his own meat shop. He got a loan from a commercial bank and purchased modern equipment such as chillers, meat cutters, hired trained personnel, rented a strategic location and opened his first meat shop in Naga City along the highway in Barangay Concepcion Grande. His second meat shop located near the city’s supermarket was recently opened. With the incursion and eventual spread of ASF in Bicol especially in Camarines Sur compounded by the proliferation of viajeros who buy hogs at higher price, the supply of live hogs became thin. Aside from pork meat they now also sell dressed chicken, beef and other processed deli products.
With the continuing threat of ASF and the dwindling stocks of hogs in the province the Siguenza farm is no longer selling pigs even to viajeros. According to Maning, their target is to breed 40 to 45 sows monthly or about 400 piglets to be reared monthly. His goal now is to repopulate their current stock with new and quality pig stocks or semen. But because of the still raging COVID pandemic and ASF plague, movement is still restricted so this has to wait. He hopes to avail of the repopulation program being planned by the Department of Agriculture to help the hog industry recover.
The Siguenza couple have known the best and worst of times as they try to sustain their pig business but still managed to overcome challenges. Even the current and ominous threat of the African Swine Fever have not discouraged them. They make the necessary biosafety measures to protect their stocks from being infected, they regularly clean and disinfect their farm they innovate and they diversify and they look beyond the present.
“In any business setbacks should be seen as challenges and opportunities. Ako kung noarin may problema saka ako na cha-hallenge at saka ako nakakaisip nin mga paagui. Dapat dai kita ma over whelm kan problema”, these were Manny’s parting words.