The clinic: Experts give insights on addressing crop and livestock issues

Thursday December 12 2019
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A strawberry farmer gathers the crop's mature fruits. Since strawberries are highly perishable, it's essential to always have a ready market for them. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA | GROUP




Kindly brief me on the best farming methods for strawberry because I want to start a project in Nyahururu once I get funds.

George Njihia

Strawberries can be grown both in an open field or in greenhouses. The crop does well in slightly acidic, well-drained soils, with a pH of 5.5-6.5.

In poorly drained soils, the beds can be raised to enhance the drainage system, which also makes the field management practices easier.


Strawberries can be planted from seeds but are mostly propagated from splits. The splits are locally available, however, one should get them from certified/licensed propagators whose products are free of pests and diseases.

Avoid planting strawberries in areas where members of the Solanaceae family (tomatoes, pepper) had been planted.

Prepare the land to a fine to tilth and add well-rotten manure.

Ensure the fertiliser is well-incorporated in the soil and proceed to plant the strawberries in a spacing of 30 by 30cm.

The strawberries can also be grown in containers in areas where land is scarce. Since strawberries are highly perishable, it's essential to have a ready market for them.

If possible, go for contract farming with a reputable company.

Applying manure on strawberry plants

I would like to know the amount of manure that I should apply on a strawberry bed.

The quantity of manure depends on the nutrients and organic matter available in the soil. In this case, it’s essential to conduct a soil test analysis to understand the availability of the nutrients.

The general recommendation, however, is 2-5kg per metre squared. The manure should be fully decomposed.



I am an agronomist from Nyeri County, but working in the Coast region. Where can I get biological products to control thrips?

Michael Muraguri Maina

Amblyseius swirskii, which is a predatory mite, is the leading natural enemy of thrips. Also, Mycotal bio-insecticide Lecanicillium muscarium and blue sticky traps can be used to control thrips.

The products are available at Koppert Kenya or Kenya Biological system.



I have a greenhouse, and I would like to start planting capsicum and French beans, but my biggest problem is market. Can I be linked to companies where I can grow the crops on contract?

It is always advisable to research on the market even before planting to minimise the chances of losses. By doing a market survey, you can identify the target buyers for capsicum.

You can also apply for contracts in schools, restaurants and hospitals.

For French beans, they are mainly grown for export, thus you can search online and identify an exporting company you can approach.



My passion fruits have been invaded by fruit flies. I have placed pheromone traps with little success. What other ways can I use to control them?

During the passion fruits’ flowering stage, it is essential to use repellent chemicals to keep away pests. While using pheromone traps, install adequate an number on the farm.

You can also use attractants such as a torch, basin and water at night. Normally, the pest is attracted to the light, which makes them land in the water suspension and then die.



I would like to know where I can get pure pishori rice. The version available in the shops and in Mwea has been mixed with other varieties.

Lorna Kariuki

You can look for small-scale farmers who grow pure rice or reputable companies that provide pure pishori. There are several around.



I would like to know where I can get canola seeds since I want to plant the crop after reading from Seeds of Gold.
Tr Jen O Mbati

Moi's bridge

Canola seeds can be sourced from any agrovets or the East African Seed Company.



I am interested in farming pumpkins. Kindly advise on the market and the type of seeds to plant.

Felix Oreyo, Siaya County

Kindly do a market survey in your locality to understand supply and demand trends. Demand for pumpkins is usually high from December to January. There are local and hybrid varieties such as Safari, Egyptian and Israel.



I am Anthony Alexander Nguchu, a permanent resident of Narumoru, Nyeri County. I am interested in growing passion fruits on 30 acres.

The biggest challenge is that I have not been able to secure seed capital for the project. Kindly advise on where I can get capital, with favourable repayment terms.

You can get capital from various lenders such as local banks, Agricultural Finance Corporation and microfinance institutions.

However, you need to prepare a business plan indicating your investment, production and marketing costs, as this would help in securing the capital.

You can also opt to partner with someone who would provide capital and they become a shareholder in your project. But have a written contract or an agreement.



I would like to have some information on snail rearing, training, and market.
Emmy Ngetich

Training is offered at JKUAT in Juja, among other private companies such as Amiyo Farms in Migori County. Owing to the fact that Kenyans have not fully embraced snails as part of their diet, available market often targets foreigners in the country.

However, some companies export their products. In Kenya, a ready market is available in some hotels and supermarkets in Nairobi.

Before venturing into snail rearing business, one must get a no- objection letter from the National Museum of Kenya and then look for a rearing permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Snail farming is a lucrative business as it requires little space to start, has low operating cost, needs small capital and the creatures have a high rate of multiplication.

Snail rearing can be done in plastic tunnels and outdoor pens, among other places that are secure and easy to maintain low temperatures.

A humid soil should be put in the pens. Too sandy soil tend to desiccate their bodies while heavy soils make it hard for them to dig out.

Adding limestone in the soil is also recommended since it supplies calcium. The soil also provides a breeding ground for the snails where they lay their eggs.

Some of the materials that are put in the pens include humidifiers and sprinklers, which modify the climatic conditions of the pens making it conducive for the snails to thrive.

Snails feed on vegetables, fruits, and water is also provided for them to drink. Their population should also be regulated to minimise instances of pests and disease attacks.

They usually reach sexual maturity in one or two years, depending on the variety.

Answered by agronomist Ann Macharia.



I am a young farmer seeking to venture into small-scale pig farming and would really appreciate it if you could guide me.

Brian Manda

I want to keep pigs on a medium scale, please share any information for beginners including on record-keeping, houses, breeds and feeds. Is there a book you can recommend or a class I can enrol for?
Ben Gichohi

Pig farming has gained currency due to the big switch to white meat. A beginner in pig farming needs to know about housing, breeds/breeding, record-keeping and feeds/feeding, among others.

Pigs like to sleep in a dark area but excrete where there is light. Make a 10ftx15ft cubicle divided into the two sections of 10ftx10ft for the sleeping area and a 10ft x 5ft for the excretion space.

The bigger section should be roofed and have a feeding trough running across the front while the door to the cubicle should be at the excreta area for ease of cleaning the room without disturbing feeding/sleeping animals. The space requirement is 1.7 square feet for piglets and 8ft for adults.

The breeds that do well locally include Large white (white with upright ears); Landrace (white with drooping ears); Duroc (brown in colour); Pietrain (black spots); and Hampshire (black and white shoulders).

Select breeding females that have many teats (14-16) as they are likely to produce more offspring each farrowing occasion. A minimum investment should have 10 females and one male.

For record-keeping, keep sow record with its ID number, birth date, breed, plus breeding details including date of service, boar, and farrowing date, number of piglets born alive or dead, weaning date and weight at weaning of piglets, among others.

Home-made rations are affordable as they make use of locally available materials, some of which could be waste from other farm enterprises like poultry.

To select as many ingredients as possible, download the “feed calculator” from Google playstore and use it to produce starter, grower and finisher feeds for pigs. Porky-Porcine Agency Ltd 0725902400 offer individual and group pig rearing training in addition to offering simplified production manuals.


Bees have lived inside my ceiling for two years. Please help me remove them, they are risky and I don't need them. I am in Kiamunyi, Nakuru.
Grace Wangare

Beekeeping is a promising agricultural enterprise. However, when they turn out to be a nuisance, they become pests, especially when in an enclosed place like a ceiling where it is difficult to trap them. You can contact Paul of Rentokil, Nakuru, on 0748593772 for help.



I would like to be connected to some firms that offer broiler chicken contract farming at a capacity of around 2,000 birds per month. I am ready to start by Jan 1, 2020. Please advise.
Jacob Omwange

Transport of agricultural produce to the market is expensive and therefore it is advisable to get the market as close to the product source as possible.

Since your locality is not provided, you can scan the popular poultry meat outlets in your area and negotiate for a contract. The said joints include hotels, supermarkets, institutions like schools, and so on.



I am interested in rearing mealworms (black beetles larvae). Kindly share contacts where I can get them to start a colony. I have tried many places including Icipe and University of Nairobi Chiromo Campus in vain.
Dan Ogaro

Mealworms and black soldier fly larvae are similar but from different Beatles. Therefore, it is also a good idea to try the black soldier fly larvae, which have qualities similar to those of mealworms in terms of possible uses and high multiplication rate. Kindly try Ecochicks Poultry Limited on 0720087285.



Kindly advise me on how to make layers’ feed at home, and the ingredients to use.

Elizabeth Mwihaki

Recipes for layers’ feeds can be classified into those for smallholder farmers (maximum 200 birds), standard group and high layers feeds for large-scale farmers.

The difference is the increase in metabolic energy (ME), which is the minimum energy content of the feed and also crude protein (CP) per kilo of feeds, which increases with increased production.

Within each category, there is also a variation of the two ingredients along the chain starting with the starter, then grower and finally layers’ stage whereby the CP decreases while ME remains almost constant. Premixes of various micronutrients are also required.

To make homemade rations for layers, one requires a computer application (app) that can assist in production of high quality feeds at affordable costs.

Some apps are downloaded free of charge from Google play store. One such a good app is the feed calculator (Single Spark).

The app is free for smallholder farmers. To download it, go to Google play store and search for “feed calculator”.

There is a long list but the one whose logo is a leaf is the (Single Spark). The app will allow you to use locally available ingredients to come up with your desired feed.

It will also estimate the costs of production as you select the different ingredients. For the ingredients, check the Seeds of Gold article “the A-Z of making your own quality chicken feed at home to cut costs” available online.



Where can I get Boer goats in Nyeri or within the Mount Kenya region?

Nicholas Murithi

There are Boer goat breeders spread across the country. For Mount Kenya region, you can get in touch with Ngaru of Embu on 0721214709, In Naivasha, there is Marula Farm, reach them on 0724908998 and in Nyeri, try Sangare Conservancy on 0733299592.



I am from Bhutan, South Asia, and I’m planning to start a rabbit farm so that I can collect the urine and turn it into fertiliser. Please guide me on the process and the types of equipment used.

Pema Tsering

Rabbit urine is high in ammonia (NH3), thus a good foliar feed fertiliser due to its liquid form. It requires minimal processing like fermenting for 2-3 weeks.

This enhances its quality through decomposition. Fermentation is enhanced through addition of commercial or organic microbial decomposers and research has shown that both are equally potent.

The organic decomposers can be of plant origin like the banana root or animal origin like cow dung. Other ingredients include sugar, which acts as a source of energy for the micro-organisms lime for pH control and Effective Microorganisms (EM) bio-activators.

The rabbit house should have a slanting corrugated floor to facilitate collection of urine. Gutters and a drain pipe plus a collection tank should also be in place.

Urine can be mixed with water at a ratio of 1:5 and applied to crops by use of a sprayer but if fermented, the dilution rate is 1:20.



When is a farmer required to give dairy meal to a lactating animal? At milking time or hours before and in what quantities?


Experiments to determine the effect of feeding before milking (FBM); feeding during milking (FDM) or feeding after milking (FAM) have been carried out by many researchers.

The results indicate that FDM does not only lead to higher milk production but also better quality due to higher yields of protein and lactose.

The research findings were attributed to secretion of the pituitary hormones oxytocin and prolactin, and the gastrointestinal hormone somatostatin when animals feed during milking.

Prolactin is a hormone for lactation while oxytocin is for milk let-down. FDM is therefore a good agricultural practice. The amount of concentrate given to a cow depends on its potential milk production.

For a cow that produces 7kg of milk per day, no concentrate supplementation is required but for every 1.5kg increase in milk from 7kg, add 1kg of concentrate.

To know the potential milk production of a cow, challenge feed by gradually adding more concentrate until it does not add more milk.

Answered by Dr Jecinta Mwirigi, livestock specialist.