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Friday, September 6th, 2019

 

Mugabe’s rise and fall a big lesson to leaders

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The death of Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe marks the end of an era for one of Africa’s revered freedom fighters.

His demise two years after exit from power was fast and sudden, and contrasted sharply with the aggression and boisterousness of his heyday.

Bob, as he was fondly called by his admirers across the continent, was a mixed bag of paradox.

He was liberator and tyrant all rolled into one. He espoused Marxist-Socialist ideology that promotes communal well-being and modesty, but he led a life of extravagance and opulence that made him a capitalist par excellence.

Mugabe had the uncanny ability to arouse public emotions through unmatched eloquence and courage.

But at the same time he was an unrepentant, vindictive and vengeful person who frowned upon any form of dissent.

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That is how he eliminated his erstwhile friends and liberation compatriots such as Joshua Nkomo and Canaan Banana.

Mugabe’s role in the creation of modern-day Zimbabwe is well etched in history.

Together with compatriots Joshua Nkomo, Leopold Takawira, Ndahaningi Sithole and James Chikerema, they led the struggle to liberate then Rhodesia from the clutches of white colonial rule and he rose to become the first prime minister in 1980 before becoming President in 1987.

In the early years, he aggressively rolled out major programmes in education, agriculture and health to uplift the Africans who had lagged behind in development under a segregationist White administration.

Paradoxically, Mugabe would lead Zimbabwe down the path of destruction and ruin when in later years he embarked on reckless mission of compulsory acquisition of white settler farms and thoughtlessly gave them to the so-called war veterans, which in reality, was a bunch of his acolytes.

He pursued thoughtless policies that turned Zimbabwe into a basket case; with inflation rising beyond economic measures and attendant widespread commodity shortage that literally turned the country into a black market for products from neighbouring countries.

Zimbabwe quickly fell from a promising African state to an unmitigated failure. And democracy was thrown to the dogs.

On the international stage, Mugabe stood tall and courageously confronted the US and other western nations, routinely chastising them for exploiting Africa and patronising the rest of the world.

Indeed, his defiance against the West was comparable only to the likes of Fidel Castro, Cuba’s revolutionary leader, and Libya’s Muammar Mohammed Gaddafi.

High-handed, ruthless and despotic, Mugabe’s story represents the tragedy of Africa where leaders who rose to prominence because of liberation credentials fell on their knife and turned into incorrigible tyrants who dragged their nations to the mud.

Never again should the continent face this fate. Africa must turn the corner and rid itself of tyrannical and avaricious leaders who plunder its wealth.


Treat our athletes better

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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Sports Principal Secretary Kirimi Kaberia on Wednesday announced several changes to ensure prompt payment of allowances and other monies to national sports teams.

This follows incessant delays in payment, as was recently experienced by Team Kenya during the African Games in Rabat, Morocco.

Mr Kaberia also gave an assurance that all sports people carrying the Kenyan flag on international duty will be paid ahead of travel, and that requests for funding will be dealt with within 48 hours.

A handful of Team Kenya members received their local and overseas allowances in Rabat, while the majority returned to the country without getting a penny.

This is despite the fact that the government was furnished with the Games budget as early as January.

This was not the first time teams that had represented the country were not being paid on time.

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The Africa Under-20 athletics team had to stage a protest at their hotel in Nairobi, with the Paralympics team also doing the same to get attention.

The delays came after athletics and volleyball team for the African Games were also locked out of their hotel for failure to clear their bills.

Mr Kaberia’s assurance is not new. Our sportsmen and women have been good ambassadors but the bad treatment they have been subjected to by the government and federations must end.


Passation de charges au ministère des Affaires  sociales: Véronique Tognifodé Mewanou s’installe

Le ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Microfinance sortant  Bintou Chabi Adam Taro a passé le témoin ce vendredi 6 septembre à Cotonou  à son successeur Véronique Tognifodé Mewanou. A cette occasion, elle a témoigné sa reconnaissance au chef de l’Etat Patrice Talon qui l’a nommée à ce poste depuis le 27 octobre 2017. Selon elle, servir c’est contribuer durablement à l’amélioration des conditions de vie de la plus grande frange de la population. « C’est avec joie, enthousiasme et empressement que je  participe à cette cérémonie pour passer service à mon successeur », déclare-t-elle. A l’en croire, conformément au décret 2018 -064 du 28 février 2018, le ministère des Affaires sociales et de la  Microfinance a pour mission la définition, la mise en œuvre et le suivi évaluation de la politique de l’Etat en matière de protection sociale, de famille, de l’enfant, de solidarité nationale, de microfinance et d’égalité de chances en son axe stratégique 6 relatif  au renforcement des services sociaux de base et à la protection sociale.

Plusieurs projets du Programme d’action du gouvernement dont le projet d’Assurance pour le renforcement du capital humain (Arch) avec un package de quatre services : assurance maladie, microcrédit, formation et retraite sont devenus opérationnels. Le ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Microfinance sortant,  Bintou Chabi Adam Taro, se félicite pour les ressources déployées par le gouvernement pour accompagner les couches les plus vulnérables.

A  son tour le ministre entrant, Véronique Tognifodé Mewanou, a exprimé toute sa gratitude à l’endroit du chef de l’Etat pour la confiance placée en elle et pour l’opportunité à elle offerte pour servir le pays en qualité de ministre des Affaires sociales et de la Microfinance. Elle s’engage à s’employer avec honneur et vigueur dans ses nouvelles fonctions. « Je mettrai toute l’énergie qu’il faut pour relever les défis qui s’imposent pour le bien-être de la population », a-t-elle promis.


Agronomist notebook: All you wanted to know about tree tomatoes

ANN MACHARIABy ANN MACHARIA
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Tree tomato, also known as tamarillo, is a small, half woody plant with shallow roots. The tree grows to an average height of about 3.5-5 metres, depending on the variety.

The crop takes about nine months to mature and its peak production is usually in the first to second year.

The varieties grown in Kenya include Goldmine, Ruby Red and Solid Gold. One should choose a variety to grow in line with their ecological conditions, resistance to pests and diseases and customers’ preferences.

The tree yields 50-60 fruits per year and is eaten raw, unlike the normal tomatoes that can also be cooked.

Tree tomatoes grow well in areas that are well-drained and receive adequate sunlight. The soil should be well-aerated to allow root penetration.

Well-drained soil is important as waterlogged areas result in the death of fruits. The trees grow well in pH of about 5-8.

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The spacing is usually three-by-three metres for the inter-row and inter-crop distance. During transplanting, one should mix well-decomposed farmyard manure and 200g of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP).

They should also ensure that the crops remain healthy through continuous fertiliser application during the growing period.

Foliar organic fertilisers are essential in enhancing faster and stronger growth of crops.

After two months, farmyard manure mixed with water to form a slurry should be applied to supply nutrients to the plants.

Watering should be done at least three times per week, though the crop is mainly rain-fed in Kenya.

MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Management practices include training the crop while still young to prevent breakages and also when it reaches fruit-bearing age. The plant should be pruned after achieving a height of about 3-4 feet.

Weeding should be done since weeds harbour pests and diseases, which affect the tree. Mulching is important since it helps conserve moisture, control soil erosion and controls weed germination.

The crop is relatively resistant to diseases. However, it is affected by powdery mildew, which makes leaves whitish and eventually fall off.

Application of copper-based chemicals helps control the disease. Other diseases that affect the crop include the fusarium wilt.

Just like tomatoes, tomato trees are also affected by early blight, especially during the cold weather and when temperatures are warm. Management practices should effectively be done to prevent the occurrence of the disease.

The tree tomato is also affected by pests such as thrips, whiteflies, and aphids that suck the sap. All these pests can be controlled organically by continuous application of neem extracts, chilies and marigolds.

Consider using different active ingredients when applying pesticides.

For effective pest and disease-control, field sanitation should be observed as this acts as a hiding place and infestation areas for the diseases. With proper management practices, harvesting of the fruits can be done for five years continually.

Ripe fruits are egg-shaped, the skin colour may be deep purple, orange, bloody red or yellow. Currently, a kilo of the fruit is retailing at between Sh100 and Sh150. The fruits are also used to make juice, increasing their shelf-life.


Former OCS collects his weekly pension from French beans

CAROLINE WAMBUIBy CAROLINE WAMBUI
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Some 14 kilometres from Ngurubani town in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, one finds Jackson Karani’s farm.

The farm hosts a number of crops that include French beans and animals such as goats and cows.

A former police officer, Mr Karani served in various capacities including as an OCS, before retiring in 2007.

Today, Mr Karani who grows French beans on 10 acres, is a happy farmer, having ploughed over Sh500,000 into agribusiness.

“I harvest over a tonne of French beans per acre, up to five times a week,” says Mr Karani, noting the hot and dry climate in the region has not been a hindrance as he uses furrow irrigation.

To farm the crop, Karani hires a tractor to plough the land at Sh3,000 per acre after which he makes furrows, waters the soil a day before planting and hires mainly women to plant as they maintain a spacing of 3-4 inches from plant to plant.

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He then applies fertiliser, starting with DAP and CAN mixed in a ratio of 4:2 bags and then waters the crop. The plants germinate after five days.

“I apply crop-specific fertiliser at 14 weeks and when flowering starts, I spray every week to get rid of insects such as white flies and mites, and in about one-and-a-half month, the crop is ready for the market,” says Mr Karani, who sells the produce to Frigoken Limited.

He rotates French beans with maize, beans and tomatoes.

Away from the crops’ farm, Mr Karani rears Alpine and Toggenburg dairy goats, a project he started in 2015 with backing from Maisha Board Self-Help Group, which he belongs to.

The 15 members of the group took turns to purchase goats for each one of them at Sh16,000.

Mr Karani purchased four more goats and the number has risen since then, with the farmer selling 20-30 kids every year at Sh8,500 each when they are about four months.

PROPERLY VENTILATED

He sells a mature goat at between Sh16,000 and Sh20,000, says the farmer who attends various seminars organised by the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya (DGAK) Nyeri for lessons.

“The Alpines and the Toggenburg are the most preferred dairy goat breeds. They are also hardy and can adapt to virtually all agro-climatic conditions and produce to their maximum with good nutrition, proper breeding, good housing and good health management,” says Mr Karani.

Employees sort french beans at Mr Karani's Kirinyaga farm.Employees sort french beans at Mr Karani’s Kirinyaga farm. The farmer grows French beans on 10 acres. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG

He keeps a buck that serves the does and retains it for one-and-a-half years to avoid inbreeding, before he takes it back to DGAK in Nyeri for rotation at a cost of Sh4,000.

“A good goat shed should have separate feeding and resting areas. And it should be raised two feet from the ground, should be properly ventilated, well-lit and kept neat, clean and dry as dampness attracts pests and diseases,” says Mr Karani, who uses manure from the animals on his French beans farm.

Currently, he is milking five goats out of his 25, each producing a maximum of three litres. He sells the milk at Karira Mission Hospital in Mwea at Sh150 a litre.

Mr Ephraim Nderu, the director of livestock production in Kirinyaga County, notes that farmers should use manure from the goat pens on their farms to improve the soil structure.

“This leads to improved water infiltration and greater water-holding capacity, translating to a decrease in crop water stress, soil erosion, and increased nutrient retention that results in higher crop production,” he says.

The buck’s shed, according to Mr Nderu, should measure about six-to-eight metres and that of a doe four-by-six metres so that when the doe goes on heat, it is taken to the buck.

The farmer also rears Friesian cows the initial herd of which he purchased in 2011 at a cost of Sh120,000 each. On average, he manages 25 and 20 litres of milk from the animals, selling each at Sh60 locally.

He has five workers and hires 30 -60 casuals when need arises.

“I have learnt to be patient in farming and attend regular training to boost one’s knowledge. Farming pays when done right,” he says.


Why cows abort and other tips from Farm Clinic

BRIAN OKINDABy BRIAN OKINDA
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The morning chill did not deter enthusiastic farmers from flocking the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation’s (Kalro) station in Kandara, Murang’a County last Saturday for the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic.

Armed with a copy of the Saturday Nation, the farmers came from as far as Kisumu, Meru, Isinya and Narok and a majority from the neighbouring counties like Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga and Meru.

Ready to quench their thirst for knowledge were experts from Kalro, Egerton University, Elgon Kenya Ltd, Camco Equipment (K) Ltd, Toyota Kenya and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis).

Soon, youthful farmer Caleb Karuga, who was the emcee, set the ball rolling as farmers shot a myriad of questions, ranging from pests and diseases, farm management, transport, farm machinery and fertiliser use.

Mr John Kanyingi, a farmer from Isinya, wondered how he could successfully cultivate crops on his farm using salty water from a borehole.

Egerton University agronomist John Ng’ang’a explained that salinity often occurs in areas that experience rapid evaporation.

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“Before using water from a borehole for irrigation, test for its suitability in crop cultivation. Some water contains chemicals that interfere with intake of nutrients,” he said.

He recommended that farmers in such areas should use mulching to reduce evaporation, which affects soil moisture.

Mr John Kimuyu from Ithanga in Gatanga wanted to know how to deal with mealybugs, which have attacked his mango and pawpaw plants.

“The mealybugs have colonised a farm with shrubs near mine, making it harder to eradicate them,” said Mr Kimuyu.

Carol Mutua, a horticulturalist from Egerton University, advised the farmer to first clear the infested shrubs near his farm as they act as habitats for the pest.

“You can then spray soapy water on the crops, use neem oil, parasitic wasps, pheromone traps as well as biological pesticides to control the pests,” said Mutua.

She added that crop rotation helps in controlling mealybugs but applies only to crops that are fast-maturing.

Enthusiasts view Isuzu lorries at the farm clinic (left) while Caleb Karuga (right) the day's moderator engages the farmers who attended the event in a question-and-answer session.Enthusiasts view Isuzu lorries at the farm clinic (left) while Caleb Karuga (right) the day’s moderator engages the farmers who attended the event in a question-and-answer session. The farm clinic attracted farmers from far and wide across the country. PHOTOS | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Mr Michael Kimani, who grows tree tomatoes, said nematodes had invaded his crops and he did not know how to eradicate them.

Mr Ephraim Wachira, Mt Kenya regional officer at Kephis, informed Mr Kimani that he should in future purchase seedlings only from certified dealers to avoid ending up with nematode-infested plants.

ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

“There are beneficial and harmful nematodes. The latter can be controlled by crop rotation,” he said.

Mr Oscar Muiruri from Maragua wondered why his chickens had scales and blisters on their feet. Dr Salome Karanja, a veterinarian from Elgon Kenya Ltd, explained that the chickens were mite-infested.

Mites, she said, reside in unclean chicken houses and the birds pick them through their feet.

The scales that ensue on the birds’ feet are a sort of defence mechanism as the chickens’ immune system tries to stop the invasion.

“You can use petroleum jelly, applied on the affected parts of the birds and ensure the chicken house is clean to keep the pests away,” she said.

She added that the farmer can then use recommended medication to kill the pests, including drugs used to treat tick infestation.

The chicken house, she observed, should also be sprayed after every seven days, twice to eradicate the mites and acaricides applied in the process. “Ensure you use the correct disinfectant in the footbaths at the chicken house door.

Whatever you use in the footbath to protect the birds from microorganism infestation may not necessarily work when it comes to killing pests such as mites,” she advised.

Bosco Ruto from Isinya complained his chickens always produced a wheezing sound, which Dr Karanja said was caused by microbes and mycoplasma and the situation is usually heightened by antimicrobial resistance.

She advised the farmer to ensure that he removes cobwebs and dust from the chicken house and give the birds treatment against Newcastle and infectious bronchitis.

Joan from Murang’a asked why her neighbour’s heifers were consistently aborting.

Farmers exchange ideas as they get a feel of a motorbike at the Toyota Kenya stand (left), while Joel Masobo (right) from Egerton University shares knowledge on beekeeping with the farmersFarmers exchange ideas as they get a feel of a motorbike at the Toyota Kenya stand (left), while Joel Masobo (right) from Egerton University shares knowledge on beekeeping with the farmers during the Seeds of Gold farm clinic in Kandara. PHOTOS | EVANS HABIL | NMG

Dr James Aura, a livestock expert from Elgon Kenya Ltd, explained that the cow could be suffering from infections including foot and mouth disease, which the farmer probably had not been paying attention to.

He asked the farmer to seek treatment from a certified vet who will visit the farm, examine the animals and prescribe treatment.

Dr Aura further informed a farmer who had sought to know why some cows end up with retained placenta and collapse during milking, that the former is caused by farmers not feeding their cows on enough mineral salts and nutritive enhancements before they deliver.

HYGIENIC CONDITIONS

“It is a metabolic condition indicating that the cow did not get enough minerals during the last few weeks before it gave birth,” he said.

He added that a cow may collapse during milking because it suffers from milk fever.

The cow in this case lacks enough calcium and hence fails to assemble the little it has to sustain milking.

He advised farmers to protect their livestock from mastitis as the disease derails productivity.

“Ensure that the conditions in the milking area are hygienic and try to make the cow remain standing for a while until the teats’ pores close after milking to prevent mastitis-causing microbes from accessing the udder,” Mr Aura said.

Mr Onyango Oyange from Kisumu noted that there were so many quacks masquerading as crop and animal production experts, especially when one visits agrovets.

Dennis Mwangi from Elgon Kenya advised him to work with certified agronomists and vets as some agrovets are sometimes just out to make money.

The Kenya Veterinary Board also issues identification badges and service cards to its members, thus, a farmer should always demand to be shown the card, added Dr Aura.

Fidelis Kiage, a sales manager at Camco Equipment Kenya Ltd, said farm mechanisation is the surest way to enhance food security as it cuts human labour.

Fidelis Kiage (right) from Camco Equipment (K) Ltd explains a point on farm machinery to farmers, while Elgon Kenya's Nelson Maina speaks to the massesFidelis Kiage (right) from Camco Equipment (K) Ltd explains a point on farm machinery to farmers, while Elgon Kenya’s Nelson Maina (left) speaks to the masses who attended the Kandara Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic at Kalro. PHOTOS | BRIAN OKINDA & EVANS HABIL | NMG

Angela Mwangi, a marketing coordinator at Toyota Kenya, noted that for easier transport, farmers should invest in pickups, trucks and an agriculture utility bike that helps in moving produce from one place to another.

Eliud Leshan, a sales consultant at Isuzu, similarly advised on investing in their range of transport solutions as well as refrigerated vehicle bodies for transporting highly perishables as well as milk tankers.

The three firms have partnerships with local banks to facilitate farmers’ acquisition of their products.

Elgon Kenya’s Nelson Maina acknowledged the success of the farm clinic noting farmers are eager to learn.

“Many now realise that it is not so expensive to install irrigation kits on their farms. It is also noteworthy that youths are also seriously embracing agribusiness,” said Maina.


Paraffin incubator hatches chicks business for 70-year-old

WINNIE LELEIBy WINNIE LELEI
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Joseph Kyengo is a poultry farmer in Maekani, Machakos County, where he has been keeping chickens for the past eight years. The trade has enabled him to earn a decent income despite his advanced age of 70 years.

At the heart of his business is a simple paraffin-powered incubator, which he uses to hatch chicks. “I used to keep some 100 chickens for meat and eggs initially but I found the business costly because the birds are too demanding in terms of feeds and treatment, yet the market was not willing to pay more,” he says.

Mr Kyengo now maintains a flock of 20 Kienyeji hens and four cockerels where he gets his supply of fertilised eggs.
He acquired the paraffin incubator from the Agricultural Technology Development Centre (ATDC) in Katumani, Machakos County at Sh14,000, money that he paid in instalments. He also received training on how to use the machine for successful hatching.

“The paraffin incubator works like any other. The temperature has to be maintained at 380C and eggs turned at least three times a day for the first 14 days, then this reduces to twice a day and finally, no turning is required in the last three days,” he says.

He uses a pencil to mark the eggs so that he can track the egg-hatching process. John Masila, an agricultural engineer at ATDC, Katumani, says the ideal incubator temperature for the chicks to hatch is 380C and the humidity should be between 50 per cent and 70 per cent during the last few days.

“The turning of eggs is necessary to prevent the developing embryo from getting attached to the shell. However, this is not necessary from day 19 since the embryo is fully developed at this point,” he says.

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The machine has a capacity of 200 eggs. Once the eggs have been arranged on their drawer, the paraffin lamp is lit and connected to the machine through an iron pipe that heats the air in the compartment by conduction, explains Mr Masila.

KEEP CHECKING THE MACHINE

Two other similar pipes are also connected to the machine, which act as outlets for carbon monoxide from the paraffin lamp and carbon dioxide from the embryos in the eggs.

Below the egg drawer is another compartment where a tin of hot water is placed. The vapour from the water is important for maintaining humidity for the hatching process to take place.

Mr Masila says it is necessary to keep checking the machine to ensure it works smoothly.

“The paraffin lamp has to be attended to, ensuring the soot that collects on its chimney as well as the wick are cleaned out as this affects the distribution of heat while increasing the bad gasses,” he says.

After 21 days, the chicks begin to break out of their shells unaided. It is at this point that Mr Kyengo takes them out one by one but only after their fur has completely dried out.

“If left in the egg drawer, the hatched chicks can cause harm to those that are still struggling out of their shells. They may also start moving and drop into the tin of hot water beneath the egg chamber,” he says.

From 200 eggs, Kyengo gets 180 chicks that he sells at Sh100 each when they are day-old. Two-week-old chicks sell at Sh150.

“Some clients prefer older chicks of at least a week or more because they have fewer challenges,” says Kyengo.

The farmer says he relies on his own eggs for quality. “I can source them from neighbours or traders but you cannot be guaranteed of quality. Still, you cannot know whether the eggs are fertilised or they are less than 10 days old as recommended.”


Ten things that make dairy farming profitable

FELIX OPINYABy FELIX OPINYA
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Dairy farming has gained currency across the country, with many keeping the animals under the zero-grazing system.

However, what does it take to keep a dairy farm profitable? Here are 10 things to keep in mind.

Good cows and herd grouping

Planning for changes in a dairy herd is one of the toughest things a farmer has to face. This may involve starting with new dairy animals, keeping your current herd, replacing culled or culling without replacing unproductive ones.

This decision is important but acting without a proper plan can add huge costs to your business. To begin with, select animals with high-quality genetic merits to keep in your herd guided by records or a livestock expert.

The candidates should be evaluated based on dairy strength and udder traits. With the right herd, clearly categorise the animals into groups based on age, health or physiological status to facilitate tailored management to increase performance.

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Cow comfort

Not every dairy farmer has a cow barn but it is a good idea to invest in one. The barn should allow for future expansion, be affordable, simple but structurally sound to provide dairy animals with maximum comfort, health outcomes and safety.

The structure should also be worker-friendly. The structure should further have proper ventilation for fresh air flow, allowing enough light and adequate space for rest and access to feed and water.

Other structures to consider include a crush, a hay store and silage pits/bunkers.

Feeding and nutrition

Having the cattle grouped makes it easy to understand their nutritional requirements. Decide on the feeding regime, that is, the time of feeding and types of feeds – silage, hay or Total Mixed Ration.

Improper nutrition can lead to lower quantities and quality of milk. Thus, if possible, work closely with an animal nutrition expert to help you in planning for accurate feed projection; work with available feed resources and pasture as well as fodder establishment.

Growing own fodder helps in controlling quality and lowers cost of production. Planning will help you estimate how much land you need and what roughages to have such as maize for silage, Boma Rhodes for hay, desmodium, calliandra, lucerne, Kikuyu grass, and brachiaria grass.

During purchase or storage, remember that mouldy or contaminated feeds can transfer dangerous toxins to milk.

Quality feeds also help to prevent wastage, encourage optimal feed utilisation and conversion into growth and milk.

Minerals and water are an important part of a dairy cow’s diet. To be able to produce saliva and milk, cows need a lot of fresh and clean water. Water is the cheapest feed, so plan well for it.

Herd health

A healthy herd is a happy herd, and it makes a happy farmer. Good animal health helps the cows explore their performance to full potential.

It is prudent that you develop a disease and parasites control programme with your veterinarian, which involves routine vaccination, deworming, dipping and spraying activities. Also invest in general farm biosecurity and personal protective equipment when carrying out disease-prevention activities. It is usually less expensive to prevent than treat a disease.

Reproduction and breeding

Cull cows that have consistent records of abortions and still births and possibly replace with progeny-tested ones.

Moreover, take your time on heat detection and master the rules of thumb on optimal times to serve. For breeding, insist on selecting bulls that will add value to your herd.

Decide early on the reproductive/service technique you are going to adopt – use of bulls, artificial insemination or embryo transfer.

Young stock management

Calves and heifers are the future of any dairy enterprise, yet alongside dry cows, they are normally not given the deserved attention except on farms with breeding goals.

Weigh calves at birth and develop a culture of routine weighing to monitor weight gain in response to your management schedule.

Sound calf housing, feeding schedule and disease management enhance weight gain and encourage early weaning.

Dairy cows typically need milking two or three times a day except during drying period.

Milking should be done in a parlour that is comfortable to the animal and the milker. Noteworthy is the hygiene of milking utensils, parlour and worker, who should also be dressed in the right attire.

Have food grade/milk handling containers. In a nutshell, plan your milking regime with your sights on reducing milk buyer rejection and producing safe clean milk.

Manure management

Think of a system where manure can easily be moved from the barn, properly stored and utilised. Proper storage means manure is being turned into a meaningful resource that can be sold, used in biogas or enhancing soil fertility.

Numbers never lie. Keep accurate records that will provide information necessary to measure farm performance, troubleshoot problems, make management decisions and plan.

To effectively keep records that give a true picture of your dairy farm, first adopt an animal identification system, decide on the method of record-keeping — paper or software recording, type of records and always analyse the data collected on a consistent basis.

Animals with records attract premium prices especially when registered with the Kenya Livestock Breeders Organisation.

Also establish market for your farm products, which could be selling heifers, fresh milk or milk-value added products.

For fresh milk, think of joining a dairy co-operative or processor mobilised groups, which have extra benefits like accessing inputs and services in a check-off system and less risk of payment defaulting and bad debts.

Labour efficiency

Create a good staff organisation plan, which means helping them clearly understand their roles, encourage a learning attitude and motivate your workers.

Skills and knowledge add value, so where possible, nominate all or some of them for dairy trainings/free-to-attend field days and workshops.

Work closely with professional consultants to maintain standard operational procedures or good dairy practices towards dairy business maximisation.

The writer is based at Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


What erratic weather means for farmers

LEOPOLD OBIBy LEOPOLD OBI
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Guleid Artan is the director of the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, which is part of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (Igad).

He spoke to Leopold Obi on the region’s changing climate outlook and how farmers can overcome the emerging challenges

Farmers are increasingly blaming the weatherman for not giving accurate predictions. Has climate change made it harder to accurately predict the weather?

Most people have a hard time understanding probabilities. When we release a forecast, it comes with probabilities. If there is a 60 per cent chance of an event happening, there is still a 40 per cent chance of it not happening.

When an event that the national meteorological department had forecasted doesn’t happen, people mistrust the forecast.

Although we will never be certain with a 100 per cent probability whether a climate event will happen, taking early mitigation actions can only be beneficial.

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If the event doesn’t happen, and it was a false alarm, an early action would still help us to build long-term resilience.

What should farmers do to minimise the impact of the erratic weather?

Farmers should trust and make use of climate information and early warnings issued by their national institutions including ministries of agriculture and organisations that provide them with localised advisories on crops, farming techniques, seed varieties, post-harvest technologies or access to markets.

This can help them mitigate the impacts of climate change on their production.

What are the notable changes in the regional weather outlook?

The climate is changing and it is affecting our seasons. Temperatures are increasing everywhere in the greater Horn of Africa and this will continue in the future.

Globally, July was the hottest month since we began taking weather records. Besides, analysis of trends from 1981 to 2010 shows that the durations of the three seasons are getting shorter due to late onset and early withdrawal of the rains.

The decline in the length of the seasons has been found in observations and model simulations. The decreasing trend is larger for June-July-August-September than for October-November-December.

Climate change is already affecting every corner of our region and these trends need to be considered in any intervention.

What do these weather changes mean for farmers?

Increasing temperatures, shorter seasons, unpredictable rainfall, an increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather are directly affecting the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers and pastoralists in the region.

Our latest report in partnership with the Food Security Information Network shows that 27 million people are food insecure in the Igad region.

Among them, 11.9 million are food insecure due to climatic shocks. Climate change is likely to increase the vulnerability of small-scale farmers.

Countries and organisations need to increase investments in resilience and climate change adaptation.

What should be done to ensure smallholder farmers access early warning and climate change information?

In our case, we support member countries’ meteorological departments to improve the way they disseminate their alerts.

Special focus should now be put on working better with FM stations, the true mass communication media in our region.

Research shows that smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishermen want to receive information through radio because it is their favourite channel and the one they trust the most.

In terms of the weather, what should farmers look forward to in coming months?

The rains are going to be above average for most of the region. The seasonal forecast predicts some relief for some areas that were under drought stress in the past few months.

However, we want to remind users to update the seasonal forecast with information from their national meteorological departments.


Vet on call: On the curious case of ‘peeing’ chickens

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIABy DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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The chicken “orchestra” was in full performance when I arrived on the farm in Ruiru last week.

The layer birds appeared really happy with their situation. The harmony of their voices could have embarrassed some musical groups.

The birds confirmed the owner’s report that they were generally happy but one batch had a serious problem that had lasted about 35 days, surprisingly with very low mortality.

Bonnie, the farm manager, quickly briefed my colleague, Dr Joyce, and I on the problem. The farm had about 8,000 layer chickens of the Isa Brown breed in five different stages of production.

Two batches were in peak production, laying at about 75 and 80 per cent. The third batch, called S9 on the farm, was supposed to be hitting peak production of about 85-90 per cent at 22 weeks of age, but was currently only doing a measly 20 per cent.

The adult birds were raised on the cage system with three to four birds per cage, as recommended.

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Dr Joyce asked Bonnie to give us the full brief and we would conclude by thoroughly interrogating the problem with S9. The fourth batch comprised spent layers that were to be sold for meat within the week.

Finally, there was the fifth batch of grower chickens about 10 weeks old in a house detached from that of the adult birds.

These birds had a bit of brown stool and Bonnie informed us he had already started treating them for coccidiosis. He provided us with clean protective clothing from his stock including caps, dust coats, gumboots and latex gloves.

Chicken and pig farmers should always ensure that they have the protective clothing for visitors and their veterinary service providers.

It is part of the best practice in biosecurity procedures that ensure the visitors do not introduce diseases on the farm or transfer diseases to others.

START TREATMENT EARLY

I informed Bonnie we would first examine the growing batch from outside their house then observe the two batches in top production from inside their housing units before going into the problematic lot. We would not check the spent birds.

My suggested pattern aimed to minimise cross-contamination of the houses and chances of disease transfer between the different lots of birds.

The growing birds all appeared normal in demeanour, activity and body condition. There were only a few brown-coloured droppings and Bonnie confirmed the number of birds affected by coccidiosis had greatly reduced since he started treatment.

I reiterated to him it is always advisable to start treatment early on noticing the brown colour to maximise effectiveness of treatment and prevent mortality.

All the laying birds were housed in one large building segmented into individual units by stone walls, mesh wire and plastic sheeting.

Each unit had a separate entrance with a disinfectant bath on the outside. We waded through the disinfectant and examined the birds in the two top laying batches.

I noticed a few birds were recovering from infectious coryza and the manager confirmed treatment for the disease had been completed with good response.

I explained to Bonnie the attack by the disease could have been the cause of the drop in peak egg production. The birds would possibly further increase production once they all fully recovered.

At last, we got into the problematic S9 lot of layers. The birds generally looked happy. They had very good appetite, were active and looked bright, but there was a huge problem. The environmental sound in the house felt like heavy water jets repeatedly hitting a hard surface.

The floor was completely wet and in some areas water flowed from the sparse normal chicken droppings seen on the floor.

“Doctor, it is amazing these birds appear to be urinating and this has been happening for the last 35 days despite various treatments,” Bonnie said.

CHALLENGING OCCURENCE

I could see that the birds kept squatting and squirting almost clear fluid from their vents. The vents were all clear and once a bird completed the act and reverted to normal posture, one would not identify it. This is unlike birds with regular diarrhoea where the vent feathers are matted with soft or fluid droppings.

Bonnie explained the affected 1,800 birds had come from one supplier, separate from the other batches at 15 weeks of age. They had shown some diarrhoea a week after arrival, which then progressed to the current watery discharge. Treatment with antibiotics, electrolytes and probiotics had failed to resolve the problem.

Some birds were sacrificed for postmortem but no definitive diagnosis was made. The birds were eating the same feed as the other layers. Bonnie further said the death rate was very low at about one bird every two weeks.

The unit had three sets of cage batteries named S9A, B and C. Birds in A and B were the most affected but the problem was progressing to C.

There was almost no egg production in battery S9A. Total production in this lot was about 20 per cent and dropping. I estimated that about 80 per cent of the birds in the unit were affected by the watery diarrhoea.

Upon examining the birds, we found the majority were grossly underweight. When we held them upside down, they discharged clear mucoid fluid through the mouth. I attributed that to the large amount of water they were drinking to replace the one lost in the diarrhoea.

This was definitely a challenging occurrence that defied the diseases documented in layers. I contacted professional colleagues at the Veterinary Research Laboratories at Kabete and we took samples for laboratory investigation. We are awaiting the results.

In the meantime, I put the birds on a strong broad-spectrum antibiotic for five days and continuous administration of electrolyte and vitamins in water. I also advised Bonnie to treat the drinking water with chlorine.

Further, he would administer a suitable yeast fermentation metabolite in their feed. I am eagerly awaiting the laboratory results and will share them when they are out.