By Brenda wambui
The home of Cyrus Maina Ngumo located in Riabai; Kiambu is hardly unnoticeable. The gate to his home bears pictures of dogs accompanied by the motto Your Security My Concern. The fierce barks from the dogs aiming for any stranger barely before we access the gate is alarming. Cyrus Maina who is commonly known in this place for his affinity of dogs has been rearing various animals for a long time. He is the epitome of a modern farmer who has embraced diversification by rearing different species of animals. He started rearing dogs for sale but eventually began keeping other animals like goats for dairy milk, bantams, broiler chickens, layer chickens, Jackal bins and also pigeons which are classified in birds’ class.
The reason why Maina decided to venture into this business was because he learnt about it at a young age. “I started rearing dogs since I had passion about them and when I was in class five, I used to have my own dog in our home compound”, Cyrus points out.
Maina has been rearing over ten breeds of dogs like German shepherd, Swiss shepherd, White shepherd, St Bernard, Black Solid from Israel and Sables. He has also invested in pigeons like the short beak, porter and jackal bin which he buys from the Arab countries and Dubai.
Maina is an avid farmer and he feeds his dogs mainly on meat. “I have to make sure that they feed on a balanced diet and I give them a lot of meat. I also apply broken rice in their diet which I boil and give to my dogs so that they can maintain their good health”, he adds. As for the different species of birds he has to get sorghum for the pigeons and pellets for the, chickens.
Selection of breeds
When breeding dogs Maina points out that their health is a priority and that is why he reads a lot going by the collection of books that he has in his shelves. A quick look at some of the books affirms that the information available is on specialty of various dog breeds. He carefully asserts that you should have comprehensive knowledge when breeding dogs. “I know if I breed two different dogs then I will get one of the best breeds in my compound”, he continues. Research has proved that many scientists recommend crossbreeding in order to increase the traits of a certain breed like agility, eyesight and strength although Maina opts to keep his dogs as pure breeds owing to the preference by his customers. According to Maina, crossbreeding helps one to determine which animals will produce the best offspring.
Keeping Track of Breeds
Maina usually monitors and keeps records which help him keep a track of the health performance of the animals in his farm which according to him is essential especially in commercial animal farming. “I vaccinate my dogs yearly because I don’t want my dogs to be infected with some strange diseases like rabies and various fungal infections”, he adds.
The pigeons are also prone to the bird flu and Candidacies which is caused by a yeast or fungal infection. Since he is involved in rearing different animal species he has to make sure that he does a follow up on their health condition and by administering vaccinations.
It is worth noting that Maina has managed to run the farm successfully without any training. Rather, it is more of passion to him. “I believe it is something that I was born with and that is why I know most of the things in regard to rearing animals.” Maina continues stating that he personally trains his dogs. He however points that he usually adds one employee during the peak season when business is booming.
Though the culture of rearing dogs has not been embraced by many, his business does come across various challenges. One of them is in the event that he purchases unhealthy animals. He further warns “When you rear dogs you have to be very careful when buying a dog from another person because you can buy dogs which are not fully vaccinated and can infect your other dogs with diseases once they come into contact with them” Maina continues adding that it can be upsetting especially with direct contact and air borne diseases.
Apart from breeding dogs and various bird species, Maina has four different types of goat breeds; they include German alpine and the toggenburg which are hybrid and produces 3 liters of milk per day. According to Maina, in order to be able to reap maximum results, it is advisable to feed dairy goats with dry feeds. This as he affirms causes the dairy goats drink a lot of water which in turn ensures that they produce a lot of milk. On the other hand, green feeds causes bloating which can be fatal. By the same token, he advises you should not feed dairy goats with fresh cut Napier grass, but instead you should let it dry. It is also advisable to mix the Napier grass with hay or a mixture of millet, pollard, maize jam and wheat plain and a little water.
Maina says that when one has six goats they can eat the equivalent feeds of one cow. Goats also tend to take up a small space as opposed to rearing dairy cows. Additionally, dairy goats are more resistant to diseases. The only challenge in rearing dairy goats however is they don’t breed well in cold conditions as they are likely to contact pneumonia. It’s therefore important to consider the direction of the wind when building structures. “You also have to leave spaces on the flooring so that their dung doesn’t remain in the shed since it can reduce infections,” he adds. The other two breeds of goats he rears are the Kenyan Alpine and the saanen which is white in colour.
Apart from dairy goats, Maina also rears the bantams which are a breed of chicken mainly imported from Holland and Sweden. There’s also the Chinese bantam which are white in color, small in size and have feathers on their legs. They are mainly reared as pets. Their eggs are also smaller compared to those of normal chicken and their meat is very delicious. Apart from the Chinese bantam, Maina also rears the silk bantam. Their feathers however resemble those of the rabbits; they have different colors and are also smaller in size. A silk bantam when imported costs around Kshs 2,000. The bantams feed on special supplement such as pellets, sorghum and millet for chickens. They can only consume maize which is heavily grounded. The market for the bantams is quite large as one retails at around Kshs 2,000.
According to Maina, the chicken also requires proper structures and they have to lay in a comfortable place in order to hatch.
At Maina’s farm, he rears ordinary turkeys. Turkeys are affected by many diseases since they are a bit weak and when one wants to breed you should know the type of medicine that suits them. Instead of turkey chicks drinking plain water, milk should be mixed with it since it is good for their health. They should also eat chick mash and eggs blended into them to prevent diseases. Turkey’s are reared for various products like meat, eggs and feathers.
Maina has six different breeds of rabbits which include; the Chinchilla, New Zealand white, California white, Flemish giant, Dutch and English Angola. He rears the rabbits as pet as opposed to commercial purposes. Rabbits give birth very rapidly. To avoid this Maina advises, “You can separate the female and the male. Males should stay in a different cage from females until when you want them to breed. Normally, their gestation period is about 28 days while rabbits should be breastfed for about two months. Rabbits stay in a dry environment where they can give birth. You should avoid the intrusion of rats in their shed as they can infect them”. Rabbits mostly eat hay and pellets. In addition, one should ensure that they provided with water.
Besides rearing different animal breeds, Maina also has a kitchen garden where he plants vegetables using manure from his animals, “We don’t have to buy vegetables like onions, sukumawiki and spinach. We also have excess manure from the animals.” He says.
The business performance
Just like in any other business, animal farming does have its low seasons as well which is a big challenge. “There are times that we make good sales of dogs and the birds while in some months we don’t so you have to be patient in every project that you do. The dogs are the most profitable animals that I sell in my compound compared to the birds that I rear”, Maina emphasizes adding that the prices range on each of the species.
The dog breed that he sells at a higher price is the Caucasian Ovcharka which is also known as the Caucasian Shepherd dog, “It’s the best guard dog in the whole world and its puppy goes at a price of Kshs 150,000 while a mature dog which is well trained you can even sell it at a Kshs 250,000 to someone”, He adds.
As for the pigeon birds Maina continues “The most expensive one is the Jackal Bin and I sell it at Kshs 45,000 a pair and that is when you buy a male and a female and there are other pairs that I sell at Kshs 20,000, at 15,000 and 10,000 respectively”. The price ranges for every different pair of pigeon species.
He does not depend on the local market from his neighborhood as most of his customers who visit the farm come from different parts of the country. He also ensures that his work plan is laid out properly which helps him get more clients from Western, Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyandarua and all over the country.
Maina who believes in his work ethic confesses that he knows how to tackle his competitors by maintaining the right breed so that he has an edge and in the process attract more customers. He carefully selects the dogs which he will crossbreed in order to have the best breed although natural selection helps him maintain pure breeds. Maina has also faced ups and downs in his business but he always manages to make it through highlighting “When I implement something and I see it has become successful then that becomes my greatest moment”.
Although he has managed to accommodate and rear the different types of animals in his compound, Maina deems the space too small. In the near future he is planning to acquire a 2-acre piece of land where he will establish a small ranch so that he can rear different species of birds and other animals in the ranch and expand his business. He goes on to challenge those who aspire to get in animal farming to do it whatever it takes “You should not fear when trying to do something just do it with all your heart and you will get a reward out of it”, he concludes