William Koros, a farmer in Endebess, Trans Nzoia County, went into farming initially because he wanted to give his children a good education.
He realised that if anything was to happen and he loses his job, he would not be in a position to give his children the education they deserved. And so, to ensure that he had enough money for his dream and that of his children, he ventured into mixed farming 22 years ago.
Today, he runs a mixed farm which is sandwiched between Kaibei and Mubere rivers, which flow from Mt Elgon. The rivers form a water fall in his farm and the water flows for about a kilometre across his vast land, giving him a permanent source of water.
This is what he uses for irrigation during dry seasons. He also uses the water to sustain over 300 cows and 200 goats besides growing maize, beans, tomatoes and other crops.
“I trained at Egerton University where I obtained a diploma in animal health then pursued business management. I was then employed in 1988 by the Ministry of Livestock but I took an early retirement in 1995 to concentrate on farming since I saw agriculture had a way of making money,” he says.
Like many other farmers in Trans Nzoia, Koros used to rely on maize farming and keeping livestock. However, the yields from his farm were discouraging because he lacked proper knowledge of good farming practices.
All this changed last year when he planted a new variety of seed maize and harvested 52 bags per acre. Following his success, he now wants to convert his land into a model farm so that he can share his knowledge with other farmers from Trans Nzoia County and beyond.
He encourages other farmers to try mixed farming and stop relying on a single crop all-year-round because market trends are unpredictable.
“You should have little of everything at any given time,” he says.
Over time, he has learnt to plant different crops at different times of the year, doing his best to anticipate demand in the market.
For instance he says that the demand for cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes and onions increases between April and June every year, at least in Trans Nzoia.
“I normally have a competitive edge during this period because many farmers lack the produce to take to the market,” he says.
He also plants pasture on 100 acres.
“We usually bale three times in a year with an average of 200 to 500 bales per acre selling at Sh200 to Sh300 a bale.
We sell from the farm, there is a lot of demand since many people are now venturing into zero-grazing and there is a lot of demand for hay,” he says.
Koros says his Friesian and Ayrshire cows produce about 400 litres of milk per day which he sells to milk parlours and milk bars in town. He hopes to double his production within the next one year.
On crops, Koros says he obtains certified seeds from Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation.
He also does soil analysis every year before planting.
“After the soil analysis, they advise me on the kind of fertiliser to use,” he says.
According to Dr Charles Kariuki, a Kalro director, the organisation has managed to develop high-quality seeds in collaboration with other stakeholders.
Through the institution, more than 35 varieties of maize have been released to suit farmer's needs as well as to increase their yields.
Kariuki, however, encourages farmers not to replant hybrid seeds "but to go back to the merchants and buy quality seeds for the next season".
The Trans Nzoia Agriculture executive Mary Nzomo says the region has potential for farmers to produce high volumes of milk since many of them have either crosses or pure breed animals.
She says all they need to focus on genetics, feeding and vaccination.
"Genetics contributes about 20 per cent of the total production of an animal. So we advise our farmers to start with good breeds. Feeding contributes 40 per cent of an animal's productivity but this is where many farmers go wrong because they do not feed their animals well enough.
"Farmers are losing 30 per cent of what they could be getting. They need to invest in good quality feed and pasture," she said.