Diary of a Poultry Farmer: Hey, your car is not for farm use, the police say

Friday January 20 2017

Joseph Mureithi sells eggs from the boot of his car in Ol-kalou, Nyandarua County.

Joseph Mureithi sells eggs from the boot of his car in Ol-kalou, Nyandarua County. He sources the eggs from Thika at Sh240 per crate and sells at Sh300 each. PHOTO | JOSEPH MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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“Dad, are we under arrest?” my son Baraka, 5, asked when a traffic police officer flagged us down the other day.

I did not answer him as I disembarked from my 4.2 litre diesel-fired six-cylinder 1991 dark-green Nissan Patrol station wagon, which doubles as my official car and transport vehicle for farm materials.

I guess the last time you heard about the car, it was due for 10-year engine overhaul. Luckily, sometime around December last year, just before embarking on end-year festivities, Wanyoike my long-time mechanic did the job.

For a fact, overhauling an engine of that size is a herculean job. It took him two days but I am happy with the results so far.

The black smoke from the exhaust has ceased completely and the engine power is back.

To check how good it is, I travelled over 3,000km during Christmas from Nairobi to Busia, and back, and then all the way to Watamu at the Coast.

I also noticed the fuel consumption had improved as it was gobbling up a litre per every 9 to 10km.

If you are a farmer who has to transport farm produce or inputs, you will understand why this vehicle I consider a work-horse is so dear to me.

I use it to transport sawdust, light building materials and ingredients for making poultry feeds. Once a month, I ferry around a tonne worth of feed ingredients from Thika town to my farm in Njiru, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

I have even used it to transport chicken all the way from Nairobi to my other farm in Busia (Seeds of Gold, December 19, 2015).

LISTED MY OFFENCES

On this day, as I was coming back from Thika town, I was flagged down by the officer as I branched off the Southern bypass into Kangundo Road.

“What are you carrying on top of your car?” he blasted out.

Without hesitating, I said, “These are raw materials for making my poultry feeds.” I was carrying about 600kg of maize germ, 100kg of sunflower cake, soya, wheat bran and lime.

“Okay sir,” he said unsatisfied, “Can I have your driving licence?” After examining it meticulously, he crossed to the left side of the car to check if the insurance cover was valid.

After a while, he returned to my side and announced, “You are under arrest!”

Before I could even ask him the offence I was being charged for, my four-year-old daughter Amani interjected, “Are we going to jail?” He smiled back at the little girl and this gave me some confidence.

As directed, I drove the car to the police station where the officer listed my offences: erecting a front bulbar, dangerous loading, employing a carrier without an inspection certificate, failure to maintain vehicle body parts and asking too many questions.

At this point, I requested the policeman to give me some time to consult. Immediately, I called Evans Wanga, my insurance broker to clarify to me the regulations on using personal vehicles to ferry goods.

“For commercial hauling vehicles like small or big trucks and lorries, an inspection certificate and licence are mandatory,” he observed. “However, personal vehicles carrying goods are exempted from this rule.” At this point I was a bit relieved.

LAW ON MY SIDE

He then added, “When a trailer or semi-trailer is attached to a personal vehicle for transporting goods, it requires a special licence and number plate.”

I then asked him what constitutes dangerous loading. He said this depends on whether one has exceeded the maximum recommended weight and how the vehicle is loaded.

“The axle weight is used to determine the maximum weight that a vehicle can carry and there are specific guidelines on this.” At least my vehicle had been weighed at the factory in Thika and I had proof that I was within limit.

He intimated that another way of determining dangerous loading is to ensure the maximum height and width of the load is not exceeded and it does not protrude beyond the vehicle’s body.

“Keep the load safe from blowing, drifting, falling, leaking, or escaping from the vehicle”. In addition, he told me that the load must also be contained and secured in such a way as to prevent any shifting that could affect the vehicle’s stability.

When I discovered that the law was on my side on most of the issues the policeman had raised, I remained firm and I was ready to get a bond and proceed to court.

After an hour or so of haggling as I defended myself using the law, the policeman let me go. For now, I am a worried small farmer since I don’t know what will happen the next time I am carrying animal feeds.

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Your Questions Answered

John Oloo:Please provide me with details of where I can buy nature identical carotenoids added to commercial feeds to make the egg yolk yellow.

The carotenoids are sold under the trade name ‘egg-colour’ and can be found in most agrovets. The price ranges between Sh300 and Sh1,200 a kilo.

Augustine Mwongera:Please send me a handout for poultry beginners.

Please send me an email for a free copy.

Mbugua Kangethe: My two months old chicks have swellings on the ears and are oozing white pus. I suspect fowl pox.

Please get in touch with Dr Mugachia of Gardenvet in Nairobi on 0721386871.

Aggrey Mwenesi, Kakamega: Please advise on using Ochonga, a tiny fish found in Lake Victoria, as an alternative to omena for formulating poultry feeds?

Fish meal (omena) is a high quality protein feed ingredient rich in all the essential amino acids, Vitamin B12 and choline.

Frank Amuiri:I would like to attend your next feed formulation training.

The next training will be on January 28 and February 4. Please send me an email to book.

Ayub Onyango:I enjoy reading your articles although my interest is in rabbits.

Thank you and keep reading.

David Kamande:Please share ideas on how to raise money to start a poultry project.

Team up with other farmers and develop a joint business plan. A business plan is a powerful tool for seeking funding.