Dr Denis Mujibi is a senior researcher in animal science and the CEO of Usomi Agriculture Limited, a firm that provides technical services to poultry farmers. He spoke to Elizabeth Ojina on what farmers should do to get it right in poultry keeping
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. There has been an egg glut in the market that has seen prices of eggs decline to Sh200 a tray. Poultry farmers are blaming it on influx of cheap eggs from Uganda, what is your take on the situation?
The problem with our lack of competitiveness arises from production inefficiency. We don’t produce enough of the raw materials required to formulate poultry feeds affordably.
Our production costs are too high, majorly because the yield per acre is low (about 30 per cent of global average).
Uganda produces all the raw materials needed for production of livestock feeds like sunflower, maize and soya at very competitive prices.
My advice is that to be competitive, we should strive to use alternative grains such as sorghum and millet instead of maize when making poultry feeds.
Kienyeji chickens are all the rage currently but some farmers are abandoning them citing high costs yet consumers are not willing to pay premium price for products. What should one do to have a productive Kienyeji poultry farm?
Having a profitable enterprise requires that the farmer understands the basics of minimising input costs and maximising returns.
Which means there should be sufficient knowledge of what professional poultry production entails and the pitfalls there in.
Training helps one plan out their operations effectively. To increase profitability, farmers should consider a breed that grows fast and with a good feed conversion efficiency.
The improved Kienyeji breeds are not only bred to have much of the resilience and hardiness of the pure Kienyeji, but also have better feed conversion efficiency and good production potential.
Understanding the target customer will also help you choose the right breed of chicken to start with. Some people want the tough meat and yellow flesh of the pure Kienyeji, while others want the less chewy type provided by the improved Kienyeji.
Some customers want a small bird, while others want bigger birds. Understanding your customer is key to profitability. Overall, make sure that you source your chicks from authentic sources.
What are some of the mistakes poultry farmers keep making?
There are many things that farmers don’t do right. To begin with;
Sourcing of day-old chicks: There is an epidemic of poor quality improved Kienyeji chickens because everybody is hatching chicks. Most farmers do not understand the basis of a hybrid chicken, so they do not ask the right questions when buying chicks.
Poor quality feeds: A good quality feed will allow a bird to express its full potential for growth and egg production.
Most farmers buy poor quality feeds either because they are cheap or the appropriate feed is not available in their local agrovets.
In the long run, cheap is expensive. Farmers need to get a well-balanced feed ration that provides all the macro and micro nutrients needed.
Inadequate clean water: A chicken requires sufficient amounts of cool clean water to meet its daily needs. Chickens drink a lot of water. If water is unavailable, the chicken will not feed and their production will suffer.
The water must be placed in a shaded area if in a free-range environment or if housed, it should not be from a tank heated directly by the sun. If you can’t drink the water, then the chickens shouldn’t drink the water either.
What is that advice you never tire to tell the farmers you work with?
Do not cut corners: Do the right thing and do it diligently. Get information first, source for authentic breeds, buy good quality feed and observe best management practices.
Go for training: Ignorance is no defence. Arm yourself with the requisite knowledge to avoid obvious mistakes. Read a lot about poultry production to move towards precision farming.
Engage a professional: Long important journeys are not travelled alone and please know that poultry farming is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
It will take a while for everything to fall into place. Get a professional or a more experienced farmer with whom you can exchange ideas while also learning new things.
Ask when in doubt: Do not engage in guesswork, be it for managing a disease issue, or feeding or sourcing for breeds.
Ask. However, be wary of what you read on social media. A lot of the information is unfiltered and unsubstantiated. Be friends with your local agricultural officers and knowledge partners for authoritative and well-researched solutions to your problems.
What are things a farmer should know before starting a poultry farm?
House design: A well-designed house must orient along the axis of the sun such that the east and west ends, which are fully covered face where the sun rises and falls.
This prevents the sun from shining directly into the poultry house at any time of the day.
Feed and water: Water is a critical component of poultry farming. Do not restrict the amount available to the chickens. Replenish the drinkers with clean water whenever it gets warm or dirty.
Make sure you have enough feeders for your chickens. Chickens should not crowd at one feeding point.
Markets and marketing plan: Sourcing for markets should not be done after the chickens attain market wait. Make sure you have an idea of where to sale before starting.
Health management plan: All chickens, including Kienyeji ones, ought to be vaccinated against poultry diseases. This ensures that whenever there is an outbreak of disease, they have a higher chance of survival.
Biosecurity: Prevention is better than cure. Ensuring proper biosecurity means minimising chances that your chickens to come into contact with infectious agents.
Free-ranging space: Kienyeji chickens must be kept in free-ranging environment, not confined in a house.
The ability to scavenge for feed, sand bath, get access to vegetation and forages is what makes backyard chickens truly Kienyeji.