Livestock: It is 6pm in the evening. For Norbu Wangdi, a famer in Bidung, it is time to feed his pigs. As he opens the door of the pigsty, he is welcomed with shrill squeals.

Despite the religious sentiments attached with animal slaughter for meat in the east, Norbu Wangdi has still opted to run a semi-commercial piggery for a living. He fattens piglets for meat purposes and also plans to start breeding them.

“The pigs should be fattened for at least nine months,” he says. “I need to wait for two more months before I can start selling pork from my piggery for the first time.”

In the past, Norbu Wangdi would often travel to Gelephu as a wage worker on contract. There, he saw farmers making good income through pig farming and planned to start his own someday.

“Last year, I proposed for a piggery to the Department of Livestock (DoL) in Trashigang. Then, I was sent to train at the National Piggery Development Centre (NPiDC) in Gelephu,” he says. “I availed a loan of Nu 350,000 and with assistance from DoL, I could set up my piggery around October.”

DoL provided materials like cement, CGI sheets and wood planks to build the pigsty. He purchased 20 piglets from Lingmithang while another 15 piglets were provided by DoL.

“Before I set up the piggery, I had already cultivated maize on six acres of land to feed the pigs. Moreover, DoL also granted 40 bags of feed,” he says. “For now, the focus is on fattening the pigs.”

Apart from fattening, the piggery will also start breeding the pigs. But to breed, the “sow” or an adult female pig must weigh about 90kg, says Norbu.

“Breeding will take more time because the pigs might weigh only about 60kg today. In future, I have plans to distribute piglets to farmers in the east from my piggery,” he says.

Going by the demand in the meat shops, Norbu Wangdi says the demand for pork is very high in the region. He also hopes to sell tonnes of meat during festivals and feasts.

“However, there is this social stigma attached with animal slaughter. But if I don’t do this business, it would be difficult to make a living in today’s world,” he says.

Dzongkhag livestock officer, NS Tamang said that there are only two semi-commercial piggeries in the dzongkhag. Most farmers practice backyard pig farming with three to five pigs.

“But in the last two years, we are seeing more farmers willing to take up commercial pig farming in the dzongkhag,” he said. “These piggeries would help the dzongkhag in achieving the pork production target set in the annual performance agreement.”

Tshering Wangdi | Trashigang