Diary of a Poultry Farmer: Reflection on highs, lows as diary hits one

Friday November 4 2016

A Nyahururu poultry farmer feeds her chicken.

A Nyahururu poultry farmer feeds her chicken. Regarding this column, you should expect an update of the free poultry handout to include other topics like recordkeeping, vaccination schedule for broilers and layers, marketing and branding, farm bio-security and brooding in the coming days. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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Today this column turns one-year-old since I started penning it and I must admit it has been a rewarding experience.

But first things first, let me wish this diary a happy birthday.

Now, during such times, people do thorough introspection. Mine will be a reflection of how the idea started, the challenges of writing it, what I have learnt and what readers should expect going forward.

This is also a good time to pay tribute to thousands of readers who have kept in touch with their feedback.

One of them stands out, and it was an indictment in a message titled, “Doc, you stand accused.”

The message began, “Dr Subiri Obwogo occupies a prominent section of Seeds of Gold every Saturday and as a fan of the magazine, I read every copy and expect that with such prominent exposure, he would be helpful to struggling farmers. However, I have tried to seek his help on getting a good quality incubator and he has completely ignored me. He is not doing your paper any good,” David Bor from Kericho wrote.

Although I make every effort to respond to all the readers’ enquiries (I get on average 30 every week), in David’s case, I was reluctant to refer him to a dealer who had disappointed me personally as I narrated on December 12, 2015 and May 21.

Now, let me take you back to where it all started. Sometime in October 2015, I received a request to start this column.

The brief was to use my “vast knowledge” in poultry to write educative weekly articles detailing my day-to-day experiences — positive and negative—in poultry farming.

ABOUT THE DIARY

The column would be titled, “Diary of poultry farmer.” I shared a few sample articles that were then reviewed before I was given the go-ahead.

The idea was to share practically useful, scientifically-based information told in a way readers could learn some lessons.

However, I came to learn that it is one thing to share ‘experiences’ and another to give advice. When sharing experiences, it is possible to rely solely on what we call practical knowledge — the sort of information that only exists in use and which cannot be imparted, taught in class or glimpsed from books.

Because you need both—practical and technical knowledge, I have had to rely heavily on experts in animal and agricultural sciences to help me to distinguish facts from opinions.

I am always reminding myself that you can’t know something about everything. I have also had to do research to ensure the information is accurate.

Then there was the matter of style — a diary is written in the first person because it should reflect actual events, places and actors, their feelings, fears and thoughts.

On style, I have had to make revisions when a story reads more like an opinion than a diary.

When I started writing this diary, I was not even aware of my own writing style until one time when I deviated.

Luckily, after two columns had been published, I started getting feedback from readers.

APPRECIATION TO READERS

Getting ideas for a story has been another point of learning. For me, when events start unfolding, I assume I have a story even if I can only write two sentences about them.

For example, I started having problems with my egg incubator, but the events didn’t unfold into a story I could tell until six months later. So, this needs a lot of patience.

Cross-writing for different sections of the newspaper has come up often. Now being a medical doctor, I can’t resist the temptation to comment on a topical medical issue of public interest, but I must say my loyalty remains to you – the fans I have built and grown together with through this diary.

Thanks to this diary, I have formed learning groups with a number of farmers, although from experience, people don’t readily share experiences unless prompted.

I have also realised that email and telephone are not very good avenues for networking. I am working on having more interactive sessions on Facebook and Twitter.

Moving forward, you should expect an update of the free poultry handout to include other topics like recordkeeping, vaccination schedule for broilers and layers, marketing and branding, farm bio-security and brooding since I have gained ample knowledge.

I also plan to include feeding for turkeys and guinea fowls.