While there is consensus that poultry farming is profitable it is also a fat that serious challenges abound. Many young farmers fear engaging in the business because of the high operational costs and disease challenges, while some believe that farming belongs to old rural folks. In my article today I want to debunk some myths and dispel these conceptions, and propose the next steps for poultry farmers and organisations.
Poultry farmers have always been spoken of as a monolithic group of household subsistence farmers, a concept that obscures diversity within the industry.
What’s more, advancement in farming technology has shifted the caliber of most poultry farmers, meaning there are poultry farms that are so advanced, and all farmers cannot be placed in one basket.
About 80 per cent of poultry industry players will rank high feed input cost as the number one risk to profitability. Maize and soya prices have been volatile, going up and coming down and so has been the cost of fertiliser, natural gas and energy. This phenomenon is not only restricted to poultry industry but also other production and manufacturing companies. On top of this, ongoing supply chain constraints continue to limit the movement of goods like fertiliser to developing countries like ours. Interestingly, the recent action by this government to allow the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in agricultural farming may lead to drop in cost of animal feed.
Poultry farming requires resilience and flexibility. The reason why our older citizens are more into this trade than the centennials is because of these two qualities. In addition, poultry farmers must be optimists and should believe in our Kenyan ingenuity and our ability to compete, not just as a food producer but as a people. Try to be a bit capitalist as this drive’s innovation and entrepreneurship, if it doesn’t work, change gear.
Before venturing into poultry farming, do a thorough soul searching and be convinced that this is what you want to do. Set your targets clearly from the word go, by setting quantitative goals and be prepared to measure your progress and being accountable.
You can write such goals, "In three years I will be able to produce 3,000 table eggs/day and sell to markets in Nairobi." This helps ensure that you not only live your values, but also continue to improve your operational environment.
We live in a poultry world full of uncertainty; feed prices will change, chicken or egg demands may not be the same as when you started your farming journey, you will therefore need a right mind-set of resilience and determination to thrive. In times like these, the importance of courage cannot be ignored, courage to act, to make decisions without perfect information and courage to change course as things get clearer.
A mentor in this context will be a poultry farmer or an industry expert who is vast in farming experience, knowledge, and problem-solving qualities. The mentor must be one who understands your goals and therefore choosing a strong mentor is critical. Gaining knowledge from a successful farmer can accelerate your growth.
Whereas chicken is the most consumed meat in many countries, it is the least consumed in Kenya. Chicken is considered as aspirational diet and those who consume it do so only on weekends or on special occasions. The dwindling margins on both meat and eggs makes the venture a high capital-intensive operation with a prolonged return on investment. It is wise to seek for arrangement with charitable organisation, chamas, to support financially or through the supply of products.
[Dr Watson Messo Odwako [email protected]]