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What makes a good livestock farming plan?

By Dr Othieno Joseph

Hello,

I am an aspiring farmer with about 40 acres of land in Laikipia West, Rumuruti Ward. The area can be described as semi-arid and for this reason I intend to irrigate the farm. However, I am not sure which type of grass is most palatable and nutritious for long range grazing cows. Since I work in Nairobi with no intention of relocating to the farm, I am reluctant to adopt feedlots as this would call for close supervision of workers. Part of the farm gets waterlogged when it rains heavily but we intend to take measures to ensure the farm is drained.

Regards, Duncan

Duncan,

40 acres is sizeable land for livestock farming. When all is written and read, I believe you need to see a good farming consultant to help you draw an elaborate strategy that will make maximum use of your hacienda.  

Land

It is important to understand the ecological zone within which your farm is located and you have already hinted at it being in a semi-arid area. Most importantly you need to understand the soil type that you have and thereafter what grasses it can support at the least cost. You talk of applying irrigation but consider together with other factors like availability of water.

Type of irrigation

Since you have said part of the farm gets water logged you can think of establishing water pans to conserve the water which you can use to irrigate. Which type of irrigation you what to apply is another factor. Probably where the water is logged maybe on the lower side which rules out use of gravity in favour of electric power pumps. Nonetheless you still need to do a cost benefit analysis. Sourcing for feeds from elsewhere may look expensive on face value but may be cheaper compared to irrigation. Still the other challenge is how to prevent parasitic diseases that come with water logging.

Pasture type

There are many grasses that can do well in your zone; Switch grass, Chloris, red oat, foxtail, legumes like desmodium, calliandra can be considered but this will be determined upon physical visit to your farm. 

The choice of pasture depends on the yield, palatability, nutritive value, ease of propagation and establishment, ability to compete with weeds, pests and disease resistance, shade tolerance, ability to associate with other pasture species and adaptability with the local soils and climatic conditions.

Livestock species

If you are planning on being a “telephone farmer” i.e. operating remotely, then you are planning to fail. Every farming venture needs some time investment on the farm. You can engage the services of a livestock production consultant who can be your eye on the farm.

You have already settled on cattle but consider other livestock like sheep, goats and poultry which could do well in your hacienda.

Overall, what you need is a professional to do for you a proper livestock farming strategic plan.

(Dr Othieno Joseph was the Vet of the Year Award (VOYA) winner in 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council – KENTTEC; jothieno43@yahoo.com)  

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