A leap into urban livestock farming

Wednesday March 18 2020
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Ken Wandeto feeds some of his 500 chicken in a farm in Elburgon. In an urban setting, a poultry house on top of a fish pond supplies the pond with fertiliser for micro-plants that fish feed on. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NMG

By JECINTA MWIRIGI

In Kenya’s urban and peri-urban settings, some 1.8 million households keep goats, sheep, pigs, poultry, rabbits and dairy cows, among other animals.

The figure is projected by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to hit six million by 2050. The change of strategy by local administrations from prohibiting to promoting urban agriculture supports the growth.

A good example is the 2014 Nairobi City County Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Bill, which is being emulated by other devolved units.

To sustainably practise livestock farming, one should consider space, waste management and other environmental nuisance, security, feed/water sources, extension services and rules, laws and regulations that might affect the business.

A recent study in an urban sub-county showed that only 17 per cent of the respondents have more than half an acre of land while the majority (33 per cent) have less than 1,000 square metres set aside for livestock farming.

Space, therefore, dictates whether one will keep a cow, a dairy goat or chickens. The space is also important in waste management and structures such as stores.

Technology that overcomes space limitations includes cage-layer system as opposed to the deep litter, zero-grazing and integrated fish/poultry or poultry/goat system where one species is reared in a structure above the other.

Layered storage structures above the animal houses also address the problem of space. Top among the list of environmental nuisance is faecal material and feed residues, odour, noise and dead animals.

Animal waste is unappealing when found in the wrong places. It can pose public health risks due to the presence of micro-organisms, pests and parasites. It is also one common source of bad smell.

Animal waste can, however, be converted into a valuable resource for sale or farm use through composting or biogas technology.

If one has money to install a biogas unit, he or she will benefit from household cooking and heating. Bio-slurry fertiliser is also a product of a biogas unit.

The bulkiness of the wet slurry can be reduced by soaking it in a pit that is partially filled with saw-dust. Odour too is reduced by composting and biogas technology.

REGULATIONS TO BE OBSERVED

Regular cleaning and disinfection of the animal houses does the trick. Noise is animal-specific or seasonal. The squawking of layers, for instance, can be irritating in a congested neighbourhood. One might then opt to keep broilers, which are less noisy, instead.

The crowing of the indigenous cock in the morning and evening can disrupt peace. The more the cockerels, the worse the situation.

Dead animals should be taken to the nearest government laboratory for confirmation of the death and control of future incidents. The lab examines the carcass and safely disposes of it at an affordable fee.

Security of the animals and neighbours can be improved through intensive production systems such as zero-grazing, as opposed to free range. Animals that attack people should be culled.

Animals compete for water with humans. In localities where water is scarce, one can enhance supply by roof harvesting or get water from far by use of bowsers. Land-size limitation poses the challenge of animal feed supply.

This can be overcome by buying feeds such as hay, leasing land in rural areas for feed production and utilising waste from markets, hospitals, schools and other institutions.

The waste includes maize cobs/sheath and vegetable for cattle feed. Hotel leftovers can be used as pig feed. Food waste can be used to feed indigenous birds.

Integrated farming, such as leaving pig waste to be colonised by worms that are then fed to chickens, is another feed security measure.

A poultry house on top of a fish pond supplies the pond with fertiliser for micro-plants that fish feed on.

Due to the number and micro nature of some of the urban farms, extension service providers might not be highly accessible.

However, local solutions to livestock health and production can be provided by input service providers such as agrovet vet shops, which by law are manned by qualified animal health personnel.

Apart from county government regulations, there are public health, veterinary and National Environment Management Authority regulations to be observed.

The law, for example, prohibits free range of pigs due to the risk of the African swine fever. If animals are a nuisance in one way or the other, those affected can complain to Nema.

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Rules

What farmers need to know

Free-range rearing of pigs is prohibited by the law due to the risk of the animals spreading diseases such as African swine fever.
Some animals can attack people. These ones should be culled immediately.

For security of the animals and the neighbourhood, practise zero-grazing and other intense production systems.

Animals produce odour. The smell can be reduced by biogas technology and compositing. The farmer should observe general cleanliness.

Faecal matter, urine and other waste can be turned into a valuable resource such as biogas. The family can use this for cooking or heating.

A dead animal should be taken to the nearest government lab for autopsy and disposal.