Like many other towns in Kenya, Eldoret is usually lukewarm on Sundays, with residents keeping off the central business district.
Driving through the town, therefore, is easy on the day as the number of hawkers, boda boda riders, matatus and pedestrians, who clog the roads stay away.
We have an easy time in the town on this Sunday when we visit farmer Simon Bulut of Segutek Farm located about 10km along the Eldoret-Item Road.
Bulut, a former ambassador, mainly keeps dairy cows and grows different crops on 30 of his 65 acres.
Dressed in a beige trouser, a matching shirt and black gumboots, we find the farmer standing next to his zero-grazing unit.
After pleasantries, he takes us on a tour of his farm, starting at the store where he keeps different machines.
“I bought this tractor in 1992, and though I have new ones, I keep it here for good memories,” he says as he moves on. “This I use to spread fertiliser on my Bhoma Rhodes plantation, napier grass and sweet potatoes, which I grow for my animals,” adds Bulut, who is fondly known as Balozi in the area.
His store hosts newly harvested maize, part of which he uses as animal feeds and the rest for sale.
“I plant maize on 20 acres, six for cows and the rest for sale. Each year I sell about 400 90kg bags of maize to millers, mostly in April when there is a shortage.”
Besides maize, other crops he grows are mangoes and trees on 10 acres.
However, his 40 Ayrshire dairy cows are his first love and Bulut plans for them to the last detail, particularly when it comes to feeds.
“I always plan to ensure my cows have feeds that can last them for about two years,” says the farmer, who feeds his animals on maize cobs, oat, molasses and cotton and sunflower seeds.”
Part of the planning starts with growing the fodder at different intervals. He grows oat on 10-12 acres, Boma Rhodes on about 12 acres, napier grass 10 acres and sweet potato vines occupy 3 acres.
“I use the vines mostly during the dry season, mixed with silage to ‘cheat’ the cows that they are consuming green matter,” Bulut says.
He plants the Boma Rhodes once every four years, with fertilsier being applied after every harvest. After four years, he rotates with a different crop and plants in another area
After harvesting, he turns the fodder into hay by cutting and drying it. The hay is stored in a place that is moisture free and with ample air circulation.
Other feed ingredients such as sunflower seeds he stores them in gunny bags, and piles them in different spots in brick-walled and roofed stores. Maize cobs are heaped in a different store. The already mixed feed is stored separately from the ‘raw’ ingredients.
However, rats, he says are a great threat especially with the maize grains.
But it is not only feeds that Bulut meticulously plans for. He buys up to two-year’s farm inputs that include pesticides and seeds.
“I learnt this from a friend called Fr Muhoho after returning from London. He always kept enough feeds for his dairy cattle to last up to three years.”
Of his 40 Ayrshire animals, 31 are mature while the rest are heifers.
“I get about 200 litres from my 20 lactating cows, which produce an average of 15-18 litres daily.”
While the animals may not be producing a lot of milk as compared to Friesians, Bulut says he keeps them because of quality milk.
“If we start selling milk depending on quality, then Ayrshires would be the most popular cow,” reckons Bulut, who served in United Arab Emirates, France and London, before returning home and starting dairy farming with eight cows, which have grown to the current number.
He disposes off male calves as soon as they are born for an average of Sh6,000.
Away from the dairy farm, Bulut grows the eucalyptus trees on about 10 acres. He sells an average of 100 trees every year to pole manufacturers at an average of Sh5,000 each.
“Why can’t everyone plant his own trees for commercial and domestic purposes? They are the easiest plants to grow and need little maintenance, but people don’t just plant trees,” says the farmer who has been a victim of theft, with people cutting down his trees.
He has installed CCTV camera to ensure he reviews what happens when he is away, but he ensures he supervises the feed-making, particularly silage.
Prof Paul Kimurto, an agro-expert from Egerton University, says growing own fodder comes with immense benefits that include one being guaranteed of the quality of his animal feed.
“Farmers must always plan for the business to stay afloat. It is time people run their farms like companies, have strategic plans and annual budgets,” he says, adding, “Last-minute rush when buying feeds or farm inputs is expensive and stressful.”