Livestock Research for Rural Development 16 (2) 2004

Citation of this paper

Piglet Enterprise Assessment and Improvement in Cat Que Commune, Vietnam

Dai Peters, Nguyen Tuan Son*, Nguyen Ba Mui* and Pham Ngoc Thach*

International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), 67 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi, Vietnam,
*Hanoi Agriculture University


The mainstay of economic activity in Cat Que Commune, Hoai Duc District of Ha Tay Province in Vietnam is got raising, which is the production of piglets between 8 to 30 kg, filling a gap between the sow/piglet and meat pig productions. A cluster of associated enterprises have developed around this got-based enterprise which include the got raisers, piglet suppliers, feed and medicine suppliers, veterinarian services, got collectors, and manure collectors. The relationships with these associated enterprises form the basis of the complex enterprise strategies of the got raisers, which strive to balance a complex set of issues of feed, growth, season, disease control, labour, credit, and marketing in order to ensure the profitability and sustainability of the enterprise.

The got are fed a rice-based diet, with occasional protein concentrate to speed up growth for seasons when got prices are high; while inferior feed is given when there is a glut in the market. Disease control is as much related to management as it is to marketing strategy and labour requirements. To sell the whole lot of got yields lower profit and leads to uneven labour requirements, but it provides the opportunity for thorough cleaning of the pig pens and a break in disease; both contribute to better health condition. Selling got on credit fosters relationships with the collectors, but also creates a cash flow problem which in turn is passed on to the feed suppliers who then must sell feed to got raisers on credit. The in-depth analysis of this complex set of interrelated issues provides the basis for elaborating an enterprise plan to improve the system. One research activity that has been completed is a trial on maize substitution for rice and the results showed significant improvement in growth rate (372 vs. 332 g/day of daily weight gain), reduced feed cost (6,013 vs. 7,654 vnd/kg weight gain - USD 1 = 15,400 vnd -), and higher profit (78,611 vs. 51,032 vnd per got). The disease survey also identified the management areas that affect the frequencies of illnesses, including pig pen design and flooring, living space, cleanliness (e.g., bathing frequency and thorough disinfection of pig pens), and drinking water source.

Keywords: Clusters, disease, enterprise, enterprise strategies, feed, marketing, piglets, Vietnam

Background and introduction

Backyard pig raising is a common enterprise among nearly all Vietnamese peri-urban and urban households. Traditionally, the numbers are kept within two to six pigs due to limited feed, labour, and markets. Some areas specialize in sow/piglet production; some specialize in meat pig production, while the combination of one or two sows with two to four meat pigs is also not uncommon.

Cat Que, located only 20 km west of Hanoi, used to be a typical farming commune and each household raised a small number of pigs for income supplement, fertilizer, and as a "piggy bank."  With the Doi Moi economic policy changes introduced in 1986, Hanoi began to prosper and increase its meat consumption. Specialized chains of meat supply began to appear to effectively satisfy the increasing demand. In these specialized chains of production, there are two types of piglets: newborn up to 8 kg piglets are considered giong (seed) and 8-30 kg piglets are considered got. Giong belong to the sow/piglet production system, and got fill the gap between sow/piglet and meat pig production. Cat Que responded to market demand for 25-30 kg got in the mid-80s, and began to fill the got production niche. In short, Cat Que farmers buy giong from sow/piglet raisers at 7 or 8 kg and raise them as got until they reach approximately 25-27 kg and then sell them to meat pig raisers. Each cycle takes 56-60 days depending on the quality and growth potential of giong, diet, health, and management.

Got raising was soon adopted by almost all of the 2,600 households in Cat Que and the traditional meat pig raising all but disappeared from the commune as the specialized trade proved more profitable with lower investment. The meat pigs now constitute only 10-20% of pig production in Cat Que; even lower when the selling price is low or feed cost is high (i.e., profit is low). The meat pig collectors of Cat Que in fact purchase most of their piglets from outside of Hoai Duc district. It is common for each household to raise 500-1,000 got, up to 5,000, each year, and the farmers continue to increase the number of got raised per cycle and the number of cycles per year through greater efficiency. Rice, rice bran, rice alcohol residue, and sweet potato vines constitute the bulk of the got feed for almost all of the raisers, but with varying proportions amongst them. Commercial feed is fed sparingly and strategically in order to maintain the already thin profit margin. Over 90% of sweet potato vine is produced in the garden and harvested daily; therefore, the purchased feed is basically limited to rice. Rice is both fed to pigs directly and processed into liquor the latter produces little profit but some residue for pig feed.

Associated enterprises, such as got collectors, feed and veterinarian medicine suppliers, veterinarian services, and manure collectors, provide service to, and profit from, the central got enterprise. Most households are engaged in more than one type of got-based enterprise; for example, a got-raising household can also draw minor income from manure collection, or feed suppliers in Cat Que may also raise got or meat pigs or collect got. In less than 20 years, got and associated enterprises have come to define Cat Que's household economy and become the central focus of their livelihood. The relationships between these associated enterprises form the basis of complex enterprise strategies, which attempt to balance feed, growth, disease control, labour, and market fluctuation to maximize profit.


An exploratory study was conducted in March 2002 in order to develop a work plan for implementing an assessment. During the study, six households in Cat Que were interviewed extensively on innovation process, technology development, connection to livelihood, enterprise strategy, credit and loans, information exchange and cooperation, and constraints and opportunities. Based on the results of these qualitative interviews, a semi-structured interview guide covering these topics for the commune was developed to direct further systematic interviews with all the associated enterprise clusters identified during the exploratory study. Sampling was stratified based on an estimate of the quantity of each type of enterprise; therefore, the greatest number of enterprises interviewed was the piglet producers in Cat Que. A total number of 55 households in each location were to be interviewed. Due to some overlapping enterprises in certain households, only 46 households were interviewed in Cat Que while all 55 enterprises were interviewed. These interviews were conducted during the month of April, followed by analysis of the data in order to plan for stakeholders' meetings in each commune in May. During these meetings the results of interviews were presented, with special emphasis on their concerns and constraints of the enterprises. The presentations were followed by identification and discussion of research needs to address some of the major concerns in order to improve enterprise efficiency and livelihood. Disease surveys and feeding trials were designed to address these needs and the results of these surveys and the first feeding trials are reported in this paper along with the initial assessment.

Enterprise Clusters

Various enterprises cluster together in Cat Que, each providing services to, and making profits from the associated enterprises, with got raisers as the central pivot point (Figure 1). The most important suppliers to the got raisers are the sow/piglet (giong) raisers, who are also specialised entrepreneurs located in other communes. Finding quality "giong" with the best growth potential is of the greatest importance because it seriously affects the profitability and marketability of the got later because the meat-pig raisers, too, look for quality got with the best growth potential. Both the got raisers and meat-pig raisers are willing to pay higher prices for good quality piglets. The got raisers try to buy seed piglets from the same reputable sows to ensure uniform quality. Searching for good seed-piglets is often aided by an agent who helps locate them and keeps them "reserved" until they reach 7-8 kg when they can be transferred to the got raiser.

Credit: continued line
Cash:   dot line
Cash and credit: dot and dash line

Figure 1.
Got-raising based enterprise clustered in Cat Que

Another important supply connection is the feed agents who often carry crop feedstuffs, such as rice, rice bran, maize, as well as commercial supplements produced by New Hope or Cargill, and also veterinarian medicines, as raisers mostly (67%) treat common ailments on their own. The fact that these suppliers emerged only since the mid-90s (100% of interviewed suppliers began in the mid-90s) suggests that got production in Cat Que, even though beginning in the mid-80s, did not reach commercialized scale until the mid-90s.

To minimize feed loss due to mould or rotting, the feed suppliers also raise some got, but mainly meat pigs, in order to transform the spoiled and unmarketable feed supply into income. One problem that plagues both got raisers and the feed suppliers is the highly fluctuating prices of various feedstuffs. In this case, the strategy of feed suppliers to minimize cost is to buy and store feed when the prices are low and avoid buying when prices are high. This, however, can only be applied to rice, not rice bran which does not store well. The suppliers pay extra attention to the quality of bran precisely because of the delicate nature of this feed source. This characteristic of rice bran poses a similar constraint on the got raisers who also cannot buy in bulk or when prices are low to lower the feed cost.

While the got raisers used to learn about vaccinations and veterinarian medicine from the commune cooperatives before Doi Moi, now the main sources of information are TV, newspapers, and product adverts. Visits to a veterinarian are reserved for grave illnesses, which according to the local veterinarians may result in serious disease outbreaks. While presence of local veterinarians is not perceived by the got raisers as a real advantage, the got raisers all have an intense interest in learning about disease prevention, identification, and treatment.

The got are sold to collectors, 70% of who are from Cat Que, who usually purchase on credit and pay back once they have acquired cash from selling the got to meat pig raisers. Quality of the got is of the greatest concern because the meat pig raisers look for quality piglets that demonstrate good health and growth potential. Usually the collector has to combine the got from various got-raising households in order to put together a marketable cohort of got to satisfy the quality requested by the meat pig raisers. In addition, got are sold to meat-pig raisers with a warranty for a certain period of time and it is the got collector's responsibility to treat or even replace the sick got during this warranty period. Usually, a good got collector will check on the health condition of the got several days after they have been sold to the meat-pig raisers. In addition to the risk of having to treat or replace the sick got, a got collector also must be careful in selecting the meat-pig raisers, who buy on credit and may take a long time to clear the credit. The got collectors must maintain a good reputation amongst both the got raisers (i.e., pay back credit on time) and the meat-pig raisers (i.e., provide quality piglets) in order to stay in business.

The associated enterprises, such as feed, supplements, medicines, seed-piglet supplies, and piglet collection are demand-driven, and their prosperity depends on the success of got raising in Cat Que. Therefore, it is in their best interest to see increased volume of got production so that producers would need more of their services.

The only by-product of got production is manure which currently is in abundant supply with limited market opportunity. There are three types of manure collectors—those with handcarts, buffalo carts, or tractor carts. The latter only appeared in the last couple of years, indicating a growing profit in this area. There are greater numbers of the former two types of collectors because they require little investment, but their daily volume collected is lower than that of the tractor collectors, who can collect greater volumes each day (Table 1). The manure is sold to flower and vegetable growers outside of Cat Que Commune as fertilizer, as well as fish feed. The demands are seasonal-Jan-March and Sept-Nov are the flower and vegetable season, while April-Dec is the fish season. The season and demand for fish are more stable; nonetheless, the demand and price of manure are, so far, both low, making this by-product a low-value commodity.

Table 1. The profit and investment of various types of manure collectors in Cat Que

Types of collector

Since when

Investment, vnd

Buying price, vnd/cart

Selling price, vnd/cart

Income, vnd/day*







Buffalo cart







Before 1997





*Handcarts can only deliver one cart per day while the other two can deliver 2 per day

Financial Constraints: Credit and Loans

In their relationship with the suppliers (i.e., giong, feed, medicine, and veterinarian), the got raisers must pay cash for the seed piglet, which constitutes the major expense of their enterprise. This poses a major cash flow constraint because, while buying the raw material in cash, they must sell the final product—the got—on credit, regardless of whether the got collectors are from inside or outside the commune. Even though the price of got sold on credit is higher, the increase is only 2-3.3% (Table 2). The advantage of this increase is often offset by the cash flow problem caused by delayed repayment. The suppliers of feed, supplements and medicines experience the same constraint as they also sell their products, particularly rice, on credit. In this case, the increased profit is even lower (Table 2), and if they experience delayed repayment, this causes cash flow problems for the supplier as well. The got collectors, in turn, sell got to meat-pig raisers on credit and do not have the cash to repay the got raisers until they have first received payment (see Figure 1).

Table 2. Cash and credit prices of got and rice in Cat Que


Sell by cash, vnd/kg

Increase on credit, vnd/kg

% of increase




2 – 3.3




1.1 – 1.5

In this credit relationship, the two most important factors are size of operation and credit reputation. The feed suppliers state that they always investigate the size of production (i.e., number of pigs) and reputation of credit payback in order to evaluate whether and how much credit to extend to any particular raiser. Priority is always given to buyers of large volume and those with good reputation. Nevertheless, having to provide credit to raisers is considered a constraint for the suppliers to expand their enterprise because considerable capital is tied up in the delayed credit repayment. In fact, one feed supplier claimed that his operation was down to 1/3 of its original size due to delayed credit repayment. The collector's reputation is also a serious consideration for the raisers when they sell the got on credit and the raisers do not sell got on credit to collectors who have previously defaulted on repayment. The got collectors in turn have the same concern about the meat-pig raisers. One got collector claimed that he had an outstanding debt of 250-300 million vnd (USD 1 = 15,400 vnd) from his buyers, which caused him to maintain a bad debt of 40 million to the got raisers.

Thus, the credit and loan issue is one that affects suppliers, raisers, and collectors. Almost all the got raisers interviewed have been trying to increase production in order to increase their income, and access to cash is a major obstacle to expansion. By the same token, the scale of supply operations has sometimes been reduced because of long-standing debts, which has further reduced access to cash. Collectors buy got or pigs on credit and cannot pay back until their debt has been cleared and this creates a cash flow problem for the raisers. Thus, the vicious cycle begins again. The feed suppliers stated that they would like to see increased demand from the got- and meat-pig raisers, but preferred cash payment from bank loans instead of selling on credit.

Of the 46 households interviewed, 25 (53.2%) had bank loans, 16 of which were "low income" households and 9 had higher average income (Table 3), with the average annual income of all 46 households being 43.73 million vnd. It appears that low-income households are more likely to apply for bank loans, but the amount is too small and the repayment terms too short (most of them are for 9-11 months at an interest rate of 0.95%/month) to overcome the cash flow problem. Some of the respondents stated that it is difficult for them to access loans because of lack of collateral and they expressed the need to access loans, or bigger loans, in order to expand their operations. As a result of lack of access to bank loans, the got raisers sometimes suffer loss by selling small got (during rapid growth period) due to a cash flow problem. All nine of the high-income borrowers were engaged in feed and medicine supplying in which a large sum of capital is necessary for purchasing the commodities in bulk. It appears that the bottleneck in cash flow can be resolved more easily at the level of the suppliers and collectors who have better access to credit due to higher household economic assets.

Table 3. The households with high and low income that take out bank loans in Cat Que


Low income

High income

# households



Average income level, million vnd



Bank loan, million vnd

< 10

20 – 100 (30-40 most common)

Enterprise Strategies

There seems to be little variation among the got raisers in Cat Que in general practices of their enterprises which would suggest a free flow and exchange of information. This was indicated in their feeding method (i.e., twice a day consisting of rice, rice bran, rice-liquor residue, and sweet potato vines cooked together), in their disease prevention and treatment (i.e., self-diagnosis and treatment with medicine while seeking veterinarian services only on serious occasions), and in their marketing practices (i.e., buying seed piglets with agents’ assistance at 8 kg and selling got to collectors at about 27 kg).

Under this overt cooperation lies the inevitable competition, both of which are characteristic of geographically-clustered enterprises. While the feed components are largely the same, as they were introduced and promoted by the feed suppliers, among the raisers the proportions of each component vary. Little information on this has been provided or disseminated from either formal (research or development institutions) or informal (traders and suppliers) channels. Each raiser experiments on his/her own without sharing their successes and failures in fear of competition from their neighbours. Therefore, the feed components have not fully evolved, the feeding method (cooking, which requires much labour and fuel) has not consistently improved, and the most efficient feeding proportions have yet to be identified. Therefore, 90% of the interviewed got raisers expressed the need to update their knowledge on pig diet as one of two major constraints to their enterprise development.

The other major constraint identified was lack of knowledge about health and care for the got. While 100% of the respondents self-administered vaccination and medicine treatment based on what they learned from various sources of media, none of them had ever discussed disease prevention with their neighbours, even though it is a serious concern due to possible outbreaks. Competitive cooperation keeps them from sharing knowledge of the effective methods of disease prevention because it is perceived as providing their neighbours with the competitive edge.

At the core of competition is quality; as stated by a got raiser, "competition to sell is high, so the quality is of great importance." As mentioned early, quality and reputation are of the greatest importance for seed piglet, feed, and got enterprise maintenance and success. In addition to selecting quality seed piglets, two other factors affecting quality are diet and health; thus, these are two areas of great concern to got raisers in their competition for the market. Such competition may increase as most raisers continue to increase their production, though it may also be offset by increased demand.

Likewise, the marketing strategies vary greatly among households, as this is the venue through which profitability is determined. As one of the respondents pointed out, "one little variation in the marketing strategy will seriously affect profitability while the savings from feed and medicine can only make a small difference, so marketing determines whether we make a profit and how much of it." Marketing strategies, however, cannot be manoeuvred in isolation of feed and health, and these two components must be taken into consideration in analysing the marketing strategies. Marketing strategies, thus, in fact are enterprise strategies, which strive to balance marketing with season, timing, feed, labour and health in order to achieve the greatest economic return in a sustainable manner. For example, the relative prices of got are generally high between February and April because most of the meat pigs have been slaughtered during the Lunar New Year festival (Tet), which often occurs at the end of January or early February (Figure 2).

Figure 2
. Seasonal fluctuation of got and seed piglet prices.

After the festival most pig raisers are in need of buying got to raise for the next cycle. The got raisers need to raise their got to 25-27 kg between February and April in order to get the highest profit, while not exceeding 30 kg, because the unit price of got declines after 27 kg (Figure 3). The closer the got is to the optimal weight of 25-27 kg, the higher the price. Beyond 30 kg, however, the piglet can no longer be sold as a got and must be raised by the owner as a meat pig and sold as a finished pig in the future.

Figure 3.
Prices fluctuation according to got weight

Just as the unit price per weight of got increases as it becomes heavier, to a point, so too with the meat pigs; therefore, a got weighing 25-27 kg may fetch the highest unit price, and a meat pig sold at 31 kg may obtain the lowest market value. To speed up growth to take advantage of the higher prices at the end of the cycle, a got raiser (90% of the respondents) will resort to commercial feed. If the got still has not reached the optimal weight by April, the raisers will still try to sell the under-weight got to take advantage of the high price—better to sell sub-optimal got when the market price is high than to sell optimal got when the market is down. The raisers usually buy seed piglets 45-60 days before the March-April season so that the got will be ready for the market during the period of peak prices. This, however, again depends on the prices of seed piglets and feed because they also can be expensive at this time of year due to increased demand (Figure 2).

By the same token, the got raiser calculates when s/he should purchase a cycle of giong in order to avoid having them reach the optimal weight right in the middle of the June-August flooding season when the prices are at their lowest because the risk of illness and pig loss keep the meat-pig production low during this period. Or s/he may feed lower quality feed to keep the cost down because stunted growth and a prolonged growing period is not a disadvantage at this period. Nevertheless, the raisers still prefer to sell at low prices in July rather than keep the got until August in fear of the got exceeding 30 kg, thus rendering it unmarketable (Table 4). Each got raiser has a particular strategy for coping with the seasonal fluctuation of prices in relation to pig growth and weight, but there is no exchange of information on these strategies because the raisers are again competing with each other in marketing their products. Neither is it clear whether their strategy yields the maximum profitability.

Table 4. Got raisers’ strategy in balancing the got weight and seasonal fluctuation of prices

Seasonal fluctuation

Got weight, kg

Up to 25



Feb-April (high)

If got not yet optimal, will not sell below 25 kg because got grows fast up to 25 kg.


During high price, the got seldom get beyond optimal weight.

May-July (low)

Would prefer to keep the pig at this weight so that they can be sold in August when prices are high

If the pigs have reached this weight, may sell or may wait.

May raise till this weight to wait for price to pick up, but if not, must sell by now.

Moreover, marketing strategy must also balance with health, risk, and labour. While 71% sell the got by the lot, only 18% likes to sell one cohort of got at a time and another 11% sell only the individual optimal got, and each of these marketing systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Selling all at a time can ensure sales of all got and low health risk while selling selected optimal ones leads to high profit on individual got but high uncertainty with poor quality ones and high health risk; selling the cohort is the middle way of balancing profit and health risk (Table 5).

Table 5. The advantages and disadvantages of various marketing strategies employed by got raisers in Cat Que


Sell whole lot

Sell the cohort

Sell optimal ones

% respondents





May clean up all the pens after each sales, most clean and health, and least risk
All the got, including the poor ones, are sold.

Clean up the pens from one cohort and replace it with another. 
Moderate profit.

Highest profit on the selected ones because the high unit prices.


The average price may be low due to the gross uneven sizes of the got.

Moderately clean and risk-free and moderate profit.

Disease can pass on from one cohort to the next.  Pigs from different cohort may fight or even kill each other.  And, poor quality got may not be sold.

The factors producers take into consideration are labour, risk, and balanced cash flow. The strategy of selling and replacing cohorts has the advantage of spreading out labour demand—there is always an even amount of large and small pigs to balance out labour requirements. Selling the whole lot results in uneven labour requirements—the labour requirement is low for a lot of small seed piglets but the requirement increases as they grow. The same principle also applies to risk and cash flow.

Finally, the got raisers need to haggle with the collectors who also aim to maximize their profit, an objective which is in direct conflict with that of the former. While the sellers like to unload entire lots all at the same time to ensure that all got can be sold out, even if the price may not be optimal for some of the high quality ones, the buyers (90%) prefer to purchase individual desirable ones to ensure high quality and good prices when they re-sell them to meat-pig raisers. Moreover, while the raisers try to sell the highest quality got first in order to set a high price for the rest of the cohort, the buyers on the other hand try to buy the poorest ones at the lowest price to set a low price precedent. Both groups are counting on the information about this high or low price to be disseminated and exchanged at the market or some other local gatherings, such as weddings and funerals. Generally, the buyer and seller settle on an average price based on the average sizes and quality of all the got in the cohort or pens.

The got raisers minimize their cost by self-administering vaccination shots and medicines, but 100% of the interviewed collectors expressed concern that the got are not properly vaccinated and could carry diseases. This in turn could cause potential financial loss to the collectors, as they are responsible for the health and survival of the got during the warranty period. The veterinarians also expressed the same concern that the got raisers tend to wait until it is too late to contact the veterinarian in order to minimize their cost. Such practices could result in dangerous outbreaks due to the dense population of pigs in Cat Que. It is important to note, however, that cost savings may not be the only reason that the pig raisers tend to self-administer medical treatments. Few rural veterinarians are formally trained with professional expertise and the pig raisers are not inclined to visit them unless they feel desperate; the same way people tend to seek personal medical treatments that they do not normally believe in when they are desperate. For this reason, both of the local veterinarians said that the most important factor for their success is "to maintain their prestige and respectability in showing them we can help them raise their pigs."

Enterprise clusters and livelihood

The got-based enterprise clusters in Cat Que consist of got raisers, feed and medicine suppliers, veterinarians, got collectors, and manure collectors. The structure of clusters is not complex; it is the geographic concentration of the same enterprises that defines their characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. The original demand for got created this geographic concentration, and in turn such concentration of enterprises recreates increasing demand. All the got raisers agree that the biggest advantage of clustering together is the market they collectively create. The same applies to all other associated enterprises—they collectively create markets for each other as they are driven by demand from the got raisers' needs.  All the other advantages (e.g., information exchange) and disadvantages (e.g., competition) are quite secondary compared to the collective access to the market. Information is exchanged insofar as it produces mutual benefits; and competition, the flipside of the advantage of collective access to markets, keeps these exchanges in check.  By the same token, the clusters collectively create the biggest problem in the community: environmental waste management and disposal.

These geographically concentrated enterprises have become the basis of the household economy and livelihood of Cat Que residents (Table 6). Seldom does a household specialize in one trade to the exclusion of others; while many got raisers do not engage in other associated enterprises, no got collectors, feed suppliers, manure collectors, or veterinarians specialize in only these trades to the exclusion of other enterprises. Exactly 80% of the total income in the commune comes from pig-raising related activities, while the other 20% comes from agricultural products, mainly rice, fruit and rice alcohol production (which is closely related to pig production), and other sources, include sales of alcohol and fruits, labour and construction wages, salaries as local officials, and income from small businesses. Cat Que residents are also farmers and each household has a small plot of agricultural land on which they also allocate labour and from which they generate some income, though fairly insignificant (3.5%) compared to that from pig-related activities. Rice production, which only contributes < 3% of household income, requires more labour than is allocated for pig production in many households. For this reason, got raisers have been expanding their pig production in order to fully absorb/employ family labour since the return on investment and labour is much greater.

Table 6.  Household income of the 46 interviewed respondents


Pig collectors

Sell supply

Pig raising

Sell Manure



Agricultural product

Rice alcohol

Other income





# HH












% HH
























% total income












% total income



The average annual income of these 46 households is 43 million vnd which is significant in the rural economy of Vietnam. Of the 46 households, 18 are pig raisers who are not engaged in feed and medicine supply or collection, and their average income is by far lower than the average and only 74.8% of their income comes from pig-related activities (Table 7). Of the 8 people who are involved in got trading, three are also got raisers, and the average total income of these eight households approximates the average of all 46 households. Of the three pig collectors, one is also a feed and medicine supplier whose total income is 127.8 million vnd. Excluding this household, the average total income of the other two pig collectors is below average at 37 million vnd, but it still constitutes 96.2% of their total income. Feed and medicine supply is most profitable, with an average total income of 76.24 million vnd and 88% of the household income. The high income from feed and medicine supply may be one of the explanatory factors accounting for the number of suppliers that have emerged since the mid-90s.

Table 7.  Number of households engaged in various enterprises, their total household income, income from pigs, and the percentage from pigs


Pig raisers

Got collectors

Pig collectors


# HH





total income, million vnd





from pigs, million vnd





% of total income from pigs





The feed suppliers are also the only households (12 out of 15 suppliers) that employ hired labour, while the rest of the 34 households manage the enterprises with only household labour. In fact, one attractive aspect of pig raising is that it is not labour-intensive and labour is not in direct proportion with the size of the operation. For this reason, most of them would like to increase production since the labour efficiency increases with the size of operation.

Research planning to strengthen enterprises

The Doi Moi policies created new market enterprises in the urban and peri-urban areas of Hanoi, one of which was got raising and marketing. Cat Que residents saw the market opportunity and shifted from the traditional small-scale meat-pig enterprise to specialize in got raising. The concentration of got enterprises established Cat Que as a major piglet-supplying market for meat-pig raisers. Even though this new enterprise and the associated ones have provided the residents of Cat Que significant economic advantage over traditional farming or livestock raising, they would like to explore the possibilities of further improving profitability and resolving the problem of waste and environmental contamination. The following research priorities were identified from the assessment analysis and the stakeholders' meeting at the end of the assessment.

Ways to Improve profitability

Profitability of the got raisers can be improved through feed, management, disease control, and marketing.

Feed improvement

Feed improvement, resulting in optimal growth potential and economic efficiency, can be examined through the following promising experimental avenues:

Sweet potato varietal improvement. The only feedstuff that is cultivated locally is sweet potato vines in the garden area of the farming household. Selected advance varieties with increased vine production (specifically, the protein production of the vines) would contribute to better pig diet nutrition.

Disease control

Effective disease control must be based on a thorough understanding of the disease situation, including the existing diseases, the seasonal occurrence of diseases, the conditions that foster the diseases, the manners and vectors by which they spread, and the methods of prevention and treatment. Currently the common diseases identified by the raisers and veterinarians are persistent coughing and congestion, diarrhoea, E. coli, and typhoid, but more specific and scientific diagnostic information is needed. This objective, leading to better pig health and reduced morbidity and mortality, can be pursued down three distinct yet related avenues:

Literature review. Once the diseases and contextual information have been clearly identified and correlated, a thorough literature review could be helpful and ultimately essential for designing appropriate interventions based on past experience elsewhere to provide treatments for illnesses and to prevent possible outbreaks of epidemics.

Marketing strategy

Marketing strategy is clearly an aspect that has determinant implications for profitability. The farmers have been remarkably astute in their attempts to maximize profits by balancing feed, production and marketing season, price, health, and risk, but the following economic analyses and modelling may further assist their ability to increase profits.

Individual vs. cohort vs. whole-lot marketing strategies. Economic modelling that takes into consideration various prices for selling (1) individual piglets of the optimal weight of 26-27 kg, (2) a cohort of pigs of similar weight, and (3) a whole lot of pigs of different weights, along with the corresponding levels of disease risk, could provide indications on the optimal marketing strategy for balanced profit and disease control.

Ways to Resolve Problems with Waste and Environment

There are two promising joint approaches to resolving problems associated with waste and environmental contamination: resolving constraints and identifying opportunities.

Opportunities. Pig manure is an excellent fertilizer, especially with proper processing and management. Currently, the manure collectors have seized this opportunity and generated some profit from it, but problems include limited markets and low value of the commodity, both highly interrelated. However, if the manure could be processed into a higher-quality and -value fertilizer, the market would also open up. It is, therefore, possible to experiment with small-scale manure processing, but most likely would need to involve larger-scale processing. Between the manure and processing waste generated in Cat Que, and the large volume of processing waste generated in nearby Duong Lieu commune, there are enough raw materials for fertilizer and feed processing on a large scale. This, however, would require major investment that must be provided either by the government or private investors. To attract such an investment from either sector, rigorous feasibility analyses would have to be performed to demonstrate the extent of economic and environmental benefits.

Enterprise Improvement

Feed Improvement

Responding to the feed improvement avenues identified above, a series of trials was planned (Table 8). The trials start by identifying the most efficient basal feed composition in Trial 1; based on the results of that, Trial 2 will use the same basal feed to examine the effects of replacing commercial protein concentrate with fish and soy meal as a protein supplement. Trials 3 & 4 are planned to be conducted concurrently after the first two trials have identified the optimal feed ingredients and compositions to further test the effects of different proportions of feed composition and differentiated feeding regimes during two stages of got development on piglet growth.

Table 8. Four trials that were designed to identify ways to improve got feeding efficiency


Trial 1

Trial 2

Trial 3

Trial 4


Replace rice with Maize

Replace concentrate with fish & soy

Identify the best proportion of the feed composition

Differentiated feed during two stages of got





100% rice (cooked)
50% rice + 50% maize (cooked)
100 maize (uncooked)


Fish and soy + lysine and methionin
Fish and soy


0-45 days same diet

0-20 one diet

21-45 one diet


To be conducted first

To be conducted after Trial 1 and use the results to formulate the basal feed

Can be conducted concurrently based on the basal feed and protein supplement identified in the first 2 trials.

Length of trial, days




No of participating HH





No pigs/HH





The objective of Trial 1, already completed, was to test the hypothesis that replacing part or all of the rice in the traditional diet with maize will improve feeding and economic efficiency. The proportion of each feedstuff in the trial is based on the local practice (e.g., 10% concentrate, and 50:50 rice bran and rice (of the remaining 90%), supplemented by 3 kg of sweet potato vines and 3 kg of alcohol residue each day) (Table 9). This hypothesis is based on three facts: 1) maize is cheaper than rice, 2) maize has higher crude protein content than rice, and 3) maize-based diet does not need to be cooked.

Table 9. Diet compositions of the three treatments of the trial

Feed ingredients

100% rice

50% rice
50% maize (cooked)

100% maize (uncooked)

Rice bran, %




Rice, %




Maize, %




Concentrates, %




Net Energy, Kcal/kg




Crude protein, %




Crude fat, %




Crude ash, %




Both treatments 1 and 2 have to be cooked because of the presence of rice; treatment 3, on the other hand, does not have to be cooked as it goes through a fermentation process. This process, however, differs from the normal fermentation process which transforms starch to acid during a relatively lengthy period of time under anaerobic conditions. This process transforms starch to sugar under aerobic conditions as it is prepared in the following manner:

The process takes half a day longer if no "culture" is used. The culture is usually used by local farmers in rice alcohol production. The quality of culture used in such production is higher, and so is the price. A lower quality culture was developed by various companies for processed pig feed, but is normally used by meat-pig producers only. Cat Que farmers had previously thought that got feed must be cooked; thus, they had not previously entertained the idea of processing such feed. This process is done each day because the "fermentation" begins to rot after the second day in the summer.

After 45 days of trial, treatment 3 pigs showed significantly higher total weight gain and daily weight gain than the pigs from the other two treatments (Table 10). They also had the lowest feed conversion ratio (kg feed/kg weight gain) and feed cost (vnd/kg weight gain) (Table 10). All three treatments showed that raising got is profitable as the got collecting price at this time was 12-13,000 vnd/kg which yielded 4,500 - 7,000 vnd/kg of profit, with treatment 3 yielding the highest profit per kilo of weight gain. This is considerably higher than growing meat pigs which, even with improved technology, can only yield 2-3,000 vnd/kg of profit due to higher feed cost and lower collecting prices (Peters et al. 2001; Peters et al. 2002).

Table 10. Weight gain, feed conversion ratio and feed cost of piglets fed different diets


100% rice

50% rice
50% maize (cooked)

100% maize (uncooked)

No of pigs




Initial weight, kg

9.91 ± 0.25

9.99 ± 0.31

10.11 ± 0.22

Final weight, kg

24.98bc ± 0.53

25.45ab ± 0.64

26.82a ± 0.66

Daily weight gain, g/day

332b ± 14

343b ± 16

370a ± 22

Total weight gain, kg/pig/period

14.99bc ± 0.48

15.48ab ± 0.52

16.71a ±  0.62

Feed conversion ratio, kg feed/kg wt




Feed cost, VND/kg WG




*Different letters, a, b, c, indicate statistically significant difference (p<0.05)

The analysis of cost/benefits of got production shows that seed piglet purchase comprises about 52-54% of the total production cost while feed constitutes 34-38% of the cost (Table 11). Note that the feed cost of T3 is 2-4% lower than the other two treatments; in addition, T3 does not have the fuel cost that the traditional feeding method requires which also constitutes another approximately 4% of savings. Consequently, the profit per pig of T3 (78,611 vnd) is 54% higher than T1 (51,032 vnd) and 32% higher than T2 (59,729 vnd), even before considering the labour aspect of savings. The cooking of feed is mostly done by coal which is not costly but labour-intensive.

Table 11. Analysis of costs and income generated of got production


100% rice

50% rice
50% maize (cooked)

100% maize (uncooked)

Piglet cost, vnd




% of production cost




Feed cost, vnd




% of production cost




“Culture” cost, vnd




Fuel cost, vnd




% of production cost




Total input cost, vnd




Pig sales income, vnd




Gross profit, vnd




Profit per pig, vnd/pig




In addition to the enhanced profit, the maize-based diet also led to a nice pink skin colour which was very much favoured by both the middlemen and the meat-pig raisers. Though the collecting price remained the same, the middlemen, instead of buying on credit, actually advanced funds as deposit to purchase these got before they were ready to be collected. This is a considerable advantage as it resolves the cash flow problem for the got raiser as well as the feed supplier from whom the got raisers usually purchase feed on credit because the collectors collect got on credit.

Despite the success of the feeding trial, the farmers were found to continue feeding rice most of the time for three reasons. The first reason is related to the instability of maize supply. Maize in Vietnam is harvested twice a year, once around Tet (the Lunar New Year, which fluctuates between the middle of January and the middle of February) and once in October. The Tet season is a small harvest of sweet maize mainly for human consumption while the major harvest in October is used as animal feed. Therefore there is really only one harvest season of maize a year for pig feed and it is not possible for farmers to procure enough after the harvest, without credit, for the entire year. For example, an above average raiser would need 20 tons of maize a year for his/her got production which would cost a substantial amount (about 50 million vnd or approximately USD 3,000) of upfront investment. In addition, s/he believes that only flash-dried maize can be stored and will not buy sun-dried maize for storage.

The second reason is highly related to the first one. As the supply is instable, the prices charged by the feed suppliers also vary greatly. Thus, again, it is important to procure large quantities of supply when the prices are affordable and available. Lack of access to credit makes it impossible for this strategy. Lastly, the maize suppliers, unlike the rice suppliers who sell on credit, do not sell on credit. So, even when the prices are reasonable, the got raisers do not necessarily have the cash to buy maize. Though the got raisers acknowledged the distinct advantages of the maize-based uncooked diet tested in the trial, most of the time they have to resort back to feeding cooked rice.

Thus, a visit to the Institute of Maize Research to learn about the production system of maize in Vietnam was undertaken to ascertain information about production areas and producers, seasons, prices, and low-input processing methods for storage. After that, a cross visit can be arranged for some of the got raisers from Cat Que to visit the maize producers to negotiate direct maize procurement.

In addition, the got raisers asked to learn about substituting crop feeds for commercial protein concentrate. As shown in Table 8, that was what had been planned, based on the previous stakeholders' workshop for the next feeding trial—replacing commercial concentrate with fish and soy meal. Protein concentrate costs 7,000-8,000 vnd/kg and contains a high concentration of maize which costs only 2,500 vnd/kg. Fish and soy meal cost up to 5,000 vnd/kg, but the amount needed should be less. Previous trials with meat pigs have shown that fish and soy meal are much more economically efficient than commercial concentrates (Peters et al. 2001; and Peters et al. 2002).

Disease Survey

In addition to the feeding trials, a disease survey was also conducted to assess the health and disease situation; 63 got raisers were interviewed and their management practices were observed to correlate with health conditions of the got. The major causes of death were respiratory infections and stomach diseases, mainly diarrhoea. Pigs often showed symptoms of fever, loss of appetite, reddish or purplish skin, laborious breathing, and coughing. About 2/3 of the farmers administer their own vaccinations for prevention of hog cholera and salmonellosis, and also administer treatments for parasites. Unfortunately, 94% of the respondents do not isolate sick got from the healthy ones, neither are they given different feed or additional water. This could contribute to wider spread of disease.

The correlation of illness with management practices shows that got are more susceptible to illnesses when placed in poorly ventilated pens with cold cement floors, and in tight spaces (Table 12). Cleanliness has a positive effect on illness prevention, while daily baths for the got, thorough cleansing of the pig pens after the got have been sold, and clean sources of water all contribute to reducing illness (Table 12).

Table 12. Illness correlation with housing, cleanliness, and water sources in Cat Que, %.


% of farmers that were observed with sick pigs

Pig pen structure


                Good structure, well ventilated


                Poor structure, not well ventilated




                Brick floor, not cold


                Cement floor, cold


Living space per pig


                >0.8 m2/pig, more spacious


                0.5-0.8 m2/pig, tight space


Frequency got were bathed


                Daily, keep pigs clean


                Seldom, pigs not kept clean


Time spent on cleaning out pigpens after sales


                >7 days, more thorough cleaning


                <7 days, not thorough cleaning


Water sources


                Deep well, cleaner source of water


                Small pond, unclean source of water


These findings provide a basis for designing training workshops to inform the got raisers of best management practices in addition to providing training on general disease prevention, identification and proper treatment since they are accustomed to administering vaccines and other medicines on their own. After the survey had been conducted, the got raisers identified the following areas they would like to be included in the training workshop:

Disease identification, prevention, and treatment. As reported in the survey, the most common problem is respiratory infection and coughing, and November-December is the dreaded season of diseases. The got raisers would like to learn what medicines to use and how much to administer, as they suspect that the veterinarians deliberately mislead them to purchase excessive amounts of expensive drugs.


Though the farmers are accustomed to administering their own vaccinations, they do not actually know exactly when they should vaccinate the piglets, how much medicine is needed and how to distinguish the quality of the vaccine.

General management can help improve pig health. Numerous variables that are related to illnesses were identified in the survey and these were presented and discussed in order to improve management practices to reduce disease.  Only 25-30 people were invited to each training session, as small groups were more conducive to learning. Sundays were preferred so that they can borrow the school building to hold these sessions.



Peters D, Tinh N T and Thach P N 2002Sweetpotato Root Silage for Efficient and Labor-saving Pig Raising in Vietnam. AGGRIPA. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

Peters D, Tinh N T and Thuy T T 2001 Fermented Sweetpotato Vines for More Efficient Pig Raising in Vietnam. AGGRIPA. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.

Received 10 October 2003; Accepted 1 January 2004

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