Some 10 kilometres from Nakuru Town along the Njoro — Molo Road, a retired athlete is shinning on the farm after hanging up his boots.
Philip Cheruiyot’s farm hosts five dairy cows kept under zero-grazing system, several chickens and crops.
The milk from the animals ends up in kitchens in neighbouring homes and hotels in Nakuru. "I opted to invest in farming because I didn’t want to become a laughing stock of the society," says Cheruiyot, whose farm is located at Taachasis village, Nakuru West.
The 35-year-old says he bought the-one-and-a-half acre farm five years ago at Sh1.5 million. This was after he made his first million in an international road race in France where he finished runners-up and pocketed Sh7.5 million.
"I used part of the prize money as seed capital to buy this farm while the rest I invested in real estate in Kericho Town," says the father of two.
But when did the farming bug first bit him? During off seasons when he was not training for races, he used to visit farmers field days and clinics. His last race was in Munich, Germany in 2008.
"I loved the farming clinics like the ones organised by Seeds of Gold. I was keen on tips the farmers were given to boost crops and milk production and from then I vowed if one day I win a race in Europe, the first thing I will do is to buy a piece of land," he says.
He followed his dream. The farmer has invested in a Sh100,000 crashing machine for making his own silage using dry maize stalks, which he mixes with dairy meal and stores in three stores that can hold about 500 bags.
Besides, he plants napier grass on a quarter-acre and Boma Rhodes grass on a leased neighbouring one-acre farm. He harvests about 400 bales in a good season which helps him during dry spells.
"During the dry spell, a 20kg bale of hay sells for Sh400 and with five cows that translates to 10 bales per day," he notes, adding that is expensive. He also plants maize and harvests 50 bags in a good season.
INVEST WHILE STILL YOUNG
His Friesian animals give him about 20 litres of milk daily each, which he sells at Sh50 per litre earning him some Sh30,000 per month. Cheruiyot also keeps over 100 free-range (Kienyeji) chicken and sells 20 in a month to hotels in Nakuru at between Sh800 and Sh1,000. "The birds also give me three trays of eggs per day and at Sh500 per tray, I get Sh45,000 a month," says Cheruiyot.
He uses the manure from the cows as organic fertiliser to plant bananas and has about 20 plants on the farm.
But his farming is not without challenges. Availability of feeds and water especially during the dry season when prices of hay shoot up are the biggest.
To mitigate the perennial water shortage, he has mounted four plastic tanks with a capacity of 20,000 litres at strategic locations on the farm where he also harvests rainwater.
"Cows eat dry matter and need a lot of water while the birds also take a lot of water during the dry spell," he says.
Foot and mouth disease is common in the area and Cheruiyot makes sure a vet inspects his cows at least once a month.
He vaccinates the chicken and de-worms them every three months to keep off infectious diseases.
"Birds are very sensitive to climatic change and are prone to diseases such as gumboro, respiratory distress, diarrhoea, nervousness and to make sure they remain healthy and productive I administer drugs as advised by the vet."
He advises athletes to save for a rainy day and make hay while the sun shines by investing while they are still young.
“The current world-beaters must have a retirement plan. Superstars are born daily in Kenya. If you don’t have a fall back plan you would be frustrated after retirement because the body has its own limits,” he says.
“Investment in farming is the best. Unlike business, the value of land keeps on appreciating.’’
To ensure such agribusiness ventures run uninterrupted, an insurance expert at Solian Insurance Brokers, Carol Kuria, advises farmers to insure their animals. “Livestock insurance is very critical in case animals die due to an outbreak of disease, internal injuries, complication during delivery, natural calamities such as lightening, snake bites or are stolen.”