Inside Politics

Siaya farmers find fortune in efficiently run poultry farm

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 00:00 |
A worker collects eggs from the battery cages at Obwombe Enterprise. Photo/PD/NOVEN OWITI

A dusty one-kilometre stretch murram road, off the Kisumu-Busia highway, leads to Obwombe Enterprise Limited poultry farm, in Mutumbu area in Gem, Siaya county.

Farmers in the area and the larger North Gem location own small parcels of land and rely on subsistence farming to earn a living, but a group eight like-minded individuals chose a different path that landed them in commercial poultry keeping, leading to the birth of the enterprise.

They settled on poultry farming because of advantages such as, it requires a small piece of land to set up and has a shorter duration for one to recoup their investments.

“You are able to keep the birds in a small space and get more income in the shortest time compared to other agricultural practices,” states Habil Okech, the group’s secretary.

He says the idea of starting poultry keeping was hatched in February 2019, also with a view of improving the local economy and food security.

“Locally, farming has over the years been viewed as a subsistence way of living, not as a business.

The group thought that the idea can be turned into a viable agribusiness for economic prosperity,” recalls Okech.

Driven by a rallying call to boost local eggs supply to minimise the product imports to the county, the entrepreneurs started the business with an initial capital of Sh3 million, which was members contribution.

Some of the officials feeding chicken at the poultry farm. PD/NOVEN OWITI

“The money catered for the purchase of 5,000 first stock of day-old chicks, chicken feeds, setting up poultry structures and the balance was spent on workers salary and other business-related bills,” he recounts.

Available market 

However, they were onto a slow start due to lack of experience and some of their chicks died, leaving 4,800 chicks. Six months later, the layers were full-grown and they started laying eggs.

Subsequently, the group’s desire to tap into the available market for poultry products eventually begun paying off. 

A few months later, the business broke even and this became a motivating factor for them.

From the proceeds of egg sales, they added the second stock of 2,500 birds and the venture continued to grow.

“We developed a system where the farm must have eggs at all times so that we don’t disappoint our clients.

We agreed to always replace the old birds before they stopped laying,” explains the farmer.

Inspired by good returns, the group set up battery cages in May last year as part of the plan to rake in more fortunes.

The cages were installed jointly with funding from a commercial bank loan and the venture proceeds at the cost of Sh1.1 million.

The bank paid 60 per cent while the group cleared the 40 per cent deficit.

In May 2020, they added another 5,000 chicks to their stock. Currently, the farm’s overall birds stock stands at 8,200, comprising 5,000 grower layers and the remaining 3,200 is a growing stock yet to start laying.

Consequently, he says they are keen on working with the local community to create a reliable source of income from the poultry value chain.

Today, the enterprise produces between 120 and 170 trays of eggs every day, which translates to an average income of Sh1.5 million monthly.

A tray of eggs retails at between Sh260 and Sh300 at the farm, and the price is dictated by the production cost and cost of feed. “Our goal is to keep 20,000 birds in order to maximise on the profits. 

Therefore, we have kept on ploughing back much of the money generated from selling eggs into the business,” says Samson Digolo, the farm’s operations and marketing manager.

Digolo notes that a proper feeding time table is important for attaining better productivity. Besides, plenty of water is necessary for keeping the birds healthy.

Keen farmer

The birds are routinely fed twice a day. They are also frequently vaccinated against major poultry diseases, such as gumboro, Newcastle, fowl typhoid and Marek’s at the start of their growth.

“The most important thing is keeping the birds healthy; water supply must be consistent and clean. Routine vaccination, which starts right from the time they are bought to the farm is also strictly observed,” explains Digolo

He emphasises that high standards of hygiene must be observed to keep related diseases at bay.

The feeding troughs must be kept clean and strangers restricted from accessing the birds without following laid down farm rules.

The farm is subdivided into various segments: battery cages, deep litter structures, growers yard, feed stores, sick pen (a room for sick birds) and staff quarters.

“As a farmer, you must be keen to detect any symptoms of diseases, and isolate them to avoid disease spread in the stock,” the manager advises, adding that debeaking is also necessary as it prevents cannibalism (causing injuries to each other) and eggs pecking.

The birds actively lay eggs for 12 months before the old ones are curled. The farm began curling the first lot of birds in August 2020.

“When a greater percentage of birds are not laying it is advisable that you replace them to ensure the business runs effectively with better yields,” he advises.

The venture has insured its stock of birds to take care of unprecedented calamities.

Obwombe farm has created direct and indirect employment locally. Ten workers are engaged to do the farm’s routine duties ranging from feeding, cleaning, birds vaccination, curling and eggs collection.

Similarly, the agribusiness has involved a chain of eggs distributors.“The broader objective was to create a large force that is working on poultry to produce eggs,” says Digolo.

Going forward, the farm intends to establish a hatchery for kienyeji (indigenous) birds in the next six months where local farmers can access fertilised eggs.

“We want to create a sound market network with the farmers so that consumers can have a reliable supply of poultry products,” says Okech.

He points out disease outbreaks, fluctuating feed prices and market competition as key challenges they encounter.

From lessons picked up from Covid-19 effects, the farmers caution against overreliance on imports, saying local production is key in times of such crises.

More on Inside Politics