The rapid growth of the world’s population is expected to increase the consumption of food, particularly livestock products such as meat and eggs. As a result, farmers have an opportunity to fill this gap, with the added benefit of boosting food security, which is currently under threat.
In order to meet this expanding need, more people are now turning to livestock production, especially pig and poultry farming notably in peri-urban areas, as evidenced by the numerous livestock produce businesses that are popping up all across the country.
The availability of appropriate livestock feeds, which can either be conventional (also known as commercial) or non-conventional (homemade), is a crucial requirement for success in this type of farming. Moreover, the current climate change crisis calls for the adoption of various materials to avoid the competition of food between humans and livestock.
Speaking at a farmers’ training workshop organized by Farm Kenya between Thursday, October 27 and Friday, October 28, Dr. John Mburu, a lecturer at JKUAT’s Animal Science department, explained that to rear pigs and poultry, one must understand nutrition fundamentals, with energy being the most important component – yet often overlooked.
Dr. Mburu explained that nonruminants such as pigs and poultry have the highest nutritional requirements and need to eat dense foods that are properly formulated adding that it is important to work with Animal Health experts as they can help the farmer achieve the target goals.
“It is possible for an expert to formulate the diet to help the farmer to achieve the desired weight or qualities of livestock such as organic chicken with minimal fat and averagely soft meat, or ensure the chicken grows within the desired maturation period which translates to more profits for the farmers.”
Dr. Mburu also stated that there is a gap in the market for livestock feed formulation ingredients such as vitamins and other additives, which he said are currently imported and therefore the youth could explore such opportunities. Moreover, they could set up food millers for the community or fabricate machinery for the same or for extracting groundnut oil which remains untapped.
He also added that farmers need to learn how to utilize locally available plant sources such as sunflower seeds for formulating livestock feed because animal sources like fishmeal could be carriers of disease. Further, alternative energy sources such as cassava and sorghum can supplement in dry areas where maize is not available.
Although Dr. Mburu advocates for homemade feed, which promotes local knowledge and requires a moisture-free storage area, he insists that involving experts is preferable to readily available computer software, which is frequently not programmed with local feed ingredients, making calculations with the same inaccurate.
Dr. Paul Kangethe from Farm Kenya emphasized the importance of proper farm management skills such as improving one’s skill set in order to supervise the best personnel, in addition to record keeping in order to identify and resolve problems on time.
He also cautioned the farmers not to involve relatives because this is a potential source of conflict and has a negative impact on the business, while also advising the farmers on the importance of implementing Biosecurity measures at the farm.
“The number one killer of farms is diseases which ravage the farms at a very high speed. Do not allow visitors because it could jeopardize the existence of the farm. If you must, provide spare gum boots and overalls which must be preceded by a shower,” Dr. Kangethe advised
The engaging training sessions attracted 54 farmers from across the country, and featured organizations such as Vison Fund Kenya which provides loans to farmers and Sidai Africa Limited which supplies livestock inputs.