The soft skills you need to make it as a successful livestock farmer

Some of the livestock belonging to pastoralists communities being hosted at Mugie Conservancy located Sossian area in Laikipia County [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

Farming is not for the faint-hearted. There are many who despite the heavy capital and emotional investment, quit along the way. So what is this X factor that makes one to excel in a livestock keeping business?

Passion – You need to have a profound love for animals and be keen on their well-being. You should not just keep the animals because of the money aspect but rearing them should also give you tremendous joy. Such individuals spend every day rearing livestock without getting bored.

Patience – Indeed, it takes time and patience to rear a dairy calf to maturity. A cow carries a  pregnancy for nine months and this journey has highs and lows. From the care to the feeding requirements, you need to get everything right.

Commitment – Though common nowadays telephone farming, is a recipe for failure. To succeed, a farmer needs to spend quality time with their animals observing them, learning their behaviour and attending to their needs. For sweet fruits of success you need to put in the hard work through late nights, early mornings and working over the weekends and holidays.

Time conscious – Animals are beings of routine. Things have to be done at exactly the right time without fail. Feeding, milking, cleaning, vaccination, deworming, spraying, service, pregnancy diagnosis among others have to be consistent. Going against this can lead to inconsistency in productivity and attack by pests and diseases.

Creativity – This is often referred to as “thinking outside the box”. Livestock farming has its fair share of challenges. Being able to view a problem from multiple angles helps to generate ideas to move the business forward. Without creativity, the business will collapse within a short time.

Teamwork – This is being able to work with others to move synergistically toward a common goal.  It is being able to effectively be part of a team which includes managers, employees, and suppliers. This allows the group to work on tasks efficiently and in an enjoyable environment.

Communication - This refers to one’s ability to give and receive information.  It is prudent to be able to give information (speak) and to receive (listen) information. What you say and how you say it is important. Make sure you have a solid understanding of communication skills.

Dependability -This means you are trust-worthy and reliable. That you keep your word to your employees, suppliers, veterinarians among others. It also means you are willing to take responsibility for your work and your actions. Dependable farmers are trusted to finish tasks, honour promises and meet deadlines giving excuse. 

Leadership - You have to lead by example and show the team that works with you the direction that the farming business is headed and what to do to get there. This means you have to be hands on. If your employees fail to show up one morning, what happens? You have to continue with work as you seek their replacement. 

Avid reader – Livestock farming is the science and art of animal production. To be a successful livestock farmer, you need to be highly conversant with matters on livestock production. To achieve that, you need to read widely on modern livestock breeds, comfortable housing, quality feeding, animal welfare and pest and disease management.

You also need to research on the latest trends in record keeping, marketing and value addition. Working hand in hand with veterinarians helps a lot. 

Ready to learn - It also helps if you work closely with county officers and veteran farmers in your area of interest.

[Dr Paul Kangethe is a Veterinary Surgeon and the Resident Vet at FarmKenya [email protected]

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