Here is soya, lucerne and sunflower market
The farmer’s move to establish the feedlot that enables him save cattle from arid and semi arid regions from dying due to drought has presented a huge opportunity for farmers in arable regions, who grow soy beans, lucerne grass (and other types of grasses) for hay production, sunflower and cotton.
“At least 14 other entrepreneurs have followed suit, and different county governments are already creating infrastructure for similar programmes, which has led to high demand for raw materials used in manufacture of the special feeds,” he says.
These products are crushed together with lucerne grass, hay, corn, wheat, barley and essential minerals to form feeds, which enable emaciated cattle put on some extra 200kg or more in just three months, depending on the frame and size of the animal.
“I’m already overwhelmed with the demand of feeds given the entry of 14 more entrepreneurs in the cattle fattening programme, and more individual farmers still want to join. And with the county governments expressing interest in the programme, we will need hundreds of thousands tonnes of raw material to manufacture sufficient feeds,” Dr Gakuo tells Seeds of Gold.
“If farmers, especially those from western and Nyanza, could form groups and start producing lucerne grass, sunflower and most importantly soy beans, we would be more than happy to enter into a business contract with them,” says Gakuo.
Through her organisation called Rural Outreach Programme (ROP), she has brought together hundreds of smallholder farmer groups to grow soy beans and other crops for nutritional purposes, an indication that the crop has huge potential in the region.
According to Gakuo, if such farmers intensified their production, it would be easier to extract oil from the beans for human nutritional purpose, and the remaining byproducts become a very good source of protein for fattening cattle.
“Soy beans are the best source of plant protein for cattle. The beans can be used as whole grain without extracting the oil to provide both protein and energy or as a byproduct after extracting the oil to provide protein only,” he says.
John Mwaniki, the Deputy Governor for Laikipia County, notes that the county is working on establishing feedlots as one of the solutions to frequent drought, which has claimed millions of livestock in the arid and semi-arid counties.
“All these livestock lost in past drought cycles could be salvaged through feedlots, where they could be fattened in the shortest time possible, and released to the beef market,” says Gakuo, noting the business benefits both crop and livestock farmers.
A recent study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UK Department for International Development, said the number of cattle in Kenya’s drought prone areas has reduced by 26 per cent in the past 39 years, meaning that county governments must come up with innovative ways of mitigating the problem.
“Our scientists have demonstrated that counties such as Turkana, Machakos and Garissa are the most affected so far, and projections show that the situation is going to worsen in the coming years,” says Joseph Muhwanga, the Climate Lead at the Kenya Markets Trust, the organisation that implemented the research project in Kenya under a programme known as Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies.
In Africa, Botswana is one of the countries where the government has invested in feedlots for intensive fattening programmes through the private sector, and as a result, despite being largely semi-arid, it is the only country in the continent that exports beef to the European market.
“Losing 3.5 million cattle in just one season is a huge loss to the entire nation. With feedlots, such losses could easily be converted into profits for pastoralists and a source of livelihood for those growing raw materials for the feeds. There is a huge opportunity,” says Gakuo.