Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kenya Diaries: Day 19, Part 1 - A Different Approach to Livestock

On my second to last day in Bondo, I briefly spoke with a man who keeps "grade" livestock - fancy, exotic purebred breeds instead of local varieties. He's a veterinarian who spent his career with the government, and his two sons are vets too. The next day, I was supposed to interview him, but when we arrived at his farm, he was not there. He had to go to two funerals that day - likely deaths from HIV/AIDS. But I did take photos of his animals. Here is the brief interview I did, plus the photos.

I asked about his grade animals, eager to hear what someone who prefers grade animals would say - since the others I'd met thus far opted for local breeds. Here was his reply.

I like improved livestock farming. Right now we have seven cattle, out of which four are being milked. Because of the dry season they don't produce that much, an average of six kg per day. The maximum is 10-12 per cow per day. Basically, they are 75% free range and 25% indoors. Cuz this place is so dry, you cannot isolate them, you cannot put them under total zero grazing. They have to foraging and at such a dry season, they tend to browse at the expense of grazing. Cuz by grazing it is grass eating but browsing is the broad leaved shrubs.

Then they are also easier to manage. I like them because they are easier to manage. Many say they are easier because I am a technocrat and my two sons are in the same professional line as me, livestock farming especially, specifically veterinary services. We find them easier to manage because they are controllable. You can control them within a small given area for a given period. You can also isolate them and bring in foodstuff, as opposed to the locals, which are roving. They want to keep on roving. You may bring some feedstuff in but they don't have appetite. They don't show interest in whatever you give them.

I've been with them [the grade animals] since 1988. These are the offsprings. Then, challenges, we have challenges to livestock farming here. Basically, vectors. By vectors I mean ticks, tsetse, and worms. Those are the three main vectors hindering livestock production. With the vectors, specifically ticks and tsetse, we have a variety of chemicals sold by agrovets.

He told me it's cheapest to use a compound chemical that controls both ticks and tsetse. He hand sprays his cows, he doesn't dip them. Dips are expensive, he told me. For less than 10 animals, you better hand spray.

Milk marketability - milk is a very, very scarce product which is - the market is just around us. We sell even at the farmgate. At 60 shillings a kilo. It is a liter. We also have two types of selling. You have those who pay at the end of the month, and you also have those who pay cash. There are advantages. For those who pay at the end of the month, you can pay farm wages. For those who pay cash, is for subsistence.

He employs two - one on a permanent basis and one is cash for work on and off. Then he also has family labor. His cows are Friesian and Ayrshire and crosses. He also has dairy goats - two Toggenburgs and crosses. "It is difficult to maintain breed purity because an exchange of serving bucks." That is, you don't want inbreeding so you must use different bucks, and unless there are many bucks of the same breed around, you end up just using a local buck or a buck of a different breed to do the job.

The home

Think there are some Obama fans around here?


According to the neighbors, he built a large confinement building, perhaps for broiler production. It was expensive to build but he never used it. It seems he did not quite understand how much it would cost to really go through with such a capital-intensive method of farming and when it came down to it, he couldn't afford it.

A confinement facility he built

Inside the large building

A good place for a nest

Lots more ducks, on the way.



Muscovy ducks

Another housing facility for livestock

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