The year started off well, with a lot of enquiries mainly on disease control, establishing agribusiness and how to make farming profitable.
For ease of discussion, I divided the questions into three categories because the basics are the same for all animal species and classes of farming.
The first group was made up of small-scale farmers with less than 20 dairy and 50 beef cattle, less than 100 sheep and goats or less than 20 breeding pigs. Those doing less than 3,000 broilers or 1,000 layers also fell in the category.
Farmers rearing animals close to these numbers continuously are able to make some profit.
The medium scale were interested in up to 100 dairy and 200 beef cattle, 500 sheep and goats or 100 breeding pigs. Those interested in up to 10,000 broilers or layers also lay in this group.
The final class was those with livestock numbers above the medium scale cut-off. I was impressed by a Kiambu farmer who has about 3,000 layers but plans to expand to 100,000 in two years. His plan is to increase to 10,000, then 40,000 in the next six months.
I have concentrated on the serious enquiries where the farmer actually explained or demonstrated a thought-out and financed idea or was already in production at one level. I have seen such enquiries transition into fully established enterprises.
The enquiries have motivated me to conclude that many Kenyans are looking for ideas and advice on profitable livestock farming.
I encourage them to follow their interests. Kenya and the world need more high quality and safe food than is available.
There was a trend in the enquiries from the three categories. Small-scale ones were concerned with home consumption and some level of profit.
This is subsistence farming. I always advise farmers to work hard and leave this category because in most cases, they lose money made in other ventures.
MULTI-DISCIPLINARY ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
The medium and large-scale enquirers were interested in making decent profits from farming. Most said-they wish to transition to large scale once they familiarised themselves with livestock farming and produce sales.
The large-scale enquiries had a unique interest – creating big enduring food enterprises and jobs. A majority of the enquirers in this category were late middle age or elderly people possibly thinking about their legacies.
Agriculture is not by accident one of President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda pillars. It is a primary productive industry, despite challenges. Good livestock agriculture is a highly multidisciplinary economic activity.
We reviewed with the owner the general technical experts that would be required in scaling his egg production from 3,000 to 40,000 birds. He appreciated the diversity of the expertise needed.
There are veterinary and environmental experts that would be required to ensure disease control and environmental protection are provided for in the project design; attained and sustained in the operation phase.
Their work would include site selection and orientation of buildings in coordination with architects and engineers who would ensure that design, construction and equipment installation are done appropriately.
The engineers would comprise those in mechatronics, civil and electrical fields because the farm would initially be semi-automated and proceed to full automation when the number of birds increases to 100,000.
Food technology specialists would be required to advise and set up egg handling and storage facilities as well as value addition.
Many farmers are not aware eggs can be converted into value-added products. The lowest level of value addition is sorting, cleaning, packaging and branding.
One does not have to produce the eggs in order to add value. However, there is more profit when one adds value to the eggs on his or her farm because costs like transport, labour and working space are reduced. Eggs can also be processed into powder, low cholesterol yolkless eggs (albumen) and shell-less eggs.
PROFITABLE LIVESTOCK VENTURE
Finally, there is the expertise for farm administration, marketing and sales. In short, discussion with this farmer brings out the vital role of a layer farm enterprise in food supply and creating employment.
By the time he expands to 100,000 layers, he will be an industry contributing to food safety and security as well as large scale employment in a number of fields.
Profitable livestock venture also promotes the growth of crop agriculture, agricultural processing and the manufacture of machines and tools.
A visit to Nakuru, Narok, Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties is evidence of the value of agriculture to the manufacture of vehicles and heavy machinery.
Large dairy and beef farms need vehicles and earth moving machines to handle the feeds, produce and manure. A beef feedlot with about 1,000 cattle per a 120-day cycle would look like a road construction camp.
Medium and large scale livestock production stimulate the feed and food manufacturing industries to process feeds for the animals and food for humans and meat-eating pets.
It is important that we look at livestock and crop agriculture as an industry that requires investment and development by the educated rather than an economic sector for the rural population.