TIME IS THE NURSE AND BREEDER OF ALL GOOD

Isaac Swaba the dog trainer at Euroskennel farm.
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Dog farming with a difference earns focused entrepreneur good returns in a short span of time

By Agnes Mbithi

Farming didn’t just revolutionize human society – it transformed the genome of our oldest friend, the dog. A new study has revealed thatdogs eat so much wheat and millet andhence they have made extra copies of starch digesting genes that help them cope. This adaptation is what has allowed them to stay by our side. By the same token, it has led to an increase of dogs being used as pets.

Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intention of maintaining or producing specific qualities and characteristics. Breeding relies on the science of genetics. In that regard, a breeder who is knowledgeable on canine genetics, health, and the intended purpose of the dog is able to breed marketable dogs.

In a little known village along the Thika Super Highway in Kiambu County is Kahawa Sukari where the home of Robert Njagi Gachoki is located. The area is serene and beautiful. The fierce bark from his dogs barely before we access the gate is alarming. Njagi who is in his mid thirties is the founder of Euroskennel Farm whichhas partnered with House of Huskey Kenya. He owns two farms – the main one being at Kahawasukariand the other one at Kirinyaga County. The latter mainly focuses on breeding toy dogs.

Siberian husky breed.

The journey

Having been brought up in a family that reared dogs, he developed an interest in that field at an early age. “I started rearing dogs when I was young since I had passion about them and I started with the local dogs,” says Njagi. He started rearing dogs out of passion but he later discovered a gap in the market -many people needed dogs for security while others needed them for companion. His dog farming journey started at the peak of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. He started by rearing small breeds – chiwawa, Havanese and the Japanese spitz. Gradually, he was able to teach himself how to handle dogs and started training them at a young age. Later, he decided to expand his business by importing other breeds which are mainly the big dogs meant for security purposes. “Actually, I imported my dogs when they were puppies and they are pure breeds,” he states. “In order to succeed in

the business, one requires a considerable amount of research and training,” he adds.

Njagi has been rearing over ten breeds of dogs in his farm including the German shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, South African Boer Boel, Great Dane (Gentle Giant), Siberian husky, Japanese spitz, Havanese and Maltese. He also has a farm that mainly concentrates on breeding husky dogs. He decided to venture into Husky breeding because there was a niche in the market.

He was disappointed by the way people mistreated dogs and he was convinced they needed some formal training to enable them relate with man’s best friend. “Every time I sold dogs to a client I was left a worried man particularly when I was not sure of how the new owner would handle them,” he says.

Initially, he never expected the business to be profitable. All he wanted was to do what he enjoyed doing and get money to pay his bills. But as luck would have it, two years down the line, he is all smiles as he counts the fortunes from his business. What started as a hobby has turned out to be a very lucrative business for the young entrepreneur.

Robert Njagi (Centre) with his employess Dan Ssembito (left) and Isaac Swaba.

Njagi is very passionate about this business and that is why it has been thriving over the years. He gets customers from all over the country and within East Africa because his dogs are healthy and very attractive. In order to keep his dogs healthyhe has ensured that they exercise on a regular basis. This involves taking them for walks within the neighborhood. “I take my dogs for walks two hours in the morning and the same in the evening,” he says. “Normally, I have to engage more workers to help during the walks since I have a lot of dogs and I cannot handle them alone. They walk around Kahawa Sukari estate or along the Thika super Highway and in the process, prospective customers see them,” he adds. The walks have proved to be a very effective way of marketing his dogs.

Selection of breeds

When breeding dogs, Njagi points out that the first step is selecting a breed that is of high demand in the market. “I started basically with the toy dogs because they are easy to manage since they are pets and they do not require a lot of training,” he says. According to him for beginners it is advisable to start with toy dogs and learn how to manage them first before you can start rearing the other breeds. The breeding process starts by mating selected dogs with the objective of maintaining or producing specific qualities and characteristics.

Dogs’ dry food.

Research has proved that many scientists recommend crossbreeding in order to enhance the traits of a certain breed like agility, eyesight and strength. Nevertheless, Njagi has opted to keep his dogs as pure breeds owing to the preference by his customers. “Most customers prefer purely bred dogs as opposed to the mixed ones and hence, all my dogs are pure breeds,” he avers. He emphasizes that one should have comprehensive knowledge when breeding dogs. In the same breath, some breeds are hard to rear because of their aggression. When breeding dogs, their health is a priority. In that respect, one should be equipped with the necessary knowledge and understanding of the diseases that affect the dog breed that you have.Secondly, it is important to position your business near the target market. “You should be accessible to your potential customers in order to generate reasonable amount of income,” he emphasizes.

Rabbits

Apart from breeding dogs, Njagi also breeds rabbits which include the New Zealand breed and also poultry birds. He rears the rabbits and the chickens as pets as opposed to commercial purposes. Rabbits give birth very rapidly and they do not require expensive maintenance. They mostly eat hay and pellets. In addition, one should ensure that they are provided with water. Besides rearing dogs, rabbits and chickens he has a small farm where he plants vegetables using the manure from his animals. “We don’t buy vegetables like sukumawiki and cabbage for feeding our rabbits , hence cutting down on cots,” he avers.

New Zealand rabbit breed at Euroskennel farm.

The business performance

Just like in any other business, animal farming has its own fair share of challenges. “As a business, we experience various challenges. Often, we make good sales but occasionally, they are low. Their prices depends mainly on their breed,” Njagi points out adding that each of the breed in his farm has different functionality and purpose therefore they differ in prices. The dog breed that he sells at a higher price is the Siberian husky which goes at a price of Ksh 160,000 for a 6 week old while a mature dog that is well trained can fetch as high as Kshs. 250,000. “The Siberian husky is a medium-sized working sled dog breed. It is recognizable by its thickly furred double coat, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings. They are ideal family pets since they are gentle, loving, playful, and they are friendly to children. Moreover, they do well with other pets if socialized well and early,” he says. The other breeds – like the German shepherd, South African Boer boel, Great Dane, Golden Retiever,Havanesse, Maltese, Rottweiler and the Belgian Malinois – go at a range of Kshs. 15,000 to Kshs. 80,000 for 6 weeks to 8weeks old puppies respectively.

On the other hand, feeding is the most important part of dog farming, despite its huge cost. It takes up to 80% of the total recurring budget to raise a dog from birth to the market weight. “Due to the high cost of living, getting food for the dogs is quite expensive for instance the cost of rice is too high,” he states. Nevertheless, he has been able to get reliable sources for food. For instance, farmers from Mwea supply him with rice and he buys meat at the City market.

Besides the food challenge Njagi points out that his dogs suffer from diseases and even die at some point. Most veterinary doctors are not familiar with the diseases that dogs suffer from and hence it is a very big challenge. When they fall sick, the dogs might not receive the treatment that they require. Njagi further points out that accessing health services becomes very expensive depending on the type of disease they are suffering from hence he incurs huge losses . He is able to overcome this by spraying pesticide at the dogs’ neck to prevent fleas and ticks from attacking them which lasts for up to a month. In the same vein, he ensures that the kennels are cleaned and kept warm and all their utensils are washed after every meal to avoid dirt and diseases which could cause them to diarrhea. “During the importation process, we ensure that the dogs are vaccinated since they can’t be cleared out of the airport without a veterinary certificate showing that they are vaccinated. A week after they come to our kennels, we also ensure that our vet checks on them,” he states.

Standing out

“The secret of my success in this business lays in the fact that I take utmost care of my dogs,” says the young entrepreneur. He feeds his dogs very well. “I personally cook for my dogs and theyeat three times in a day. In the morning and afternoon, I feed them with dry food while in the evening they eat cooked food ( for instance rice and meat) , before drinking water,” he affirms. Although the dry food feed to the puppies is different from the dry food feed to the big dogs. Njagi also observers that dogs should take several small meals instead of one big meal.

He further points out that he has an edge over his competitors because of the way he handles the aggressiveness of the dogs. They are well behaved and he trains them how to socialize with people. “I usually train my dogs well and all of them are obedient and they understand when they are told to stop and attack,” he attests. Additionally, Njagi gives his customers exceptional experience and that has contributed to the fast growth of his business.

In order to create more awareness about his business, he does serious online marketing campaigns and advertisements. “Normally, I advertise through Instagram, Facebook, Jiji and Youtube among other social media platforms,” he says. Njagi also says that he overcomes competition by rearing the breeds that are in high demand.

Future endeavours

Although he has managed to accommodate and rear different dog breeds and other animals, Njagi aspires to expand the farm so as to accommodate other pets such as cat and snakes. He challenges those who aspire to get into animal farming to be passionate and resilient. “ You should have passion and resilience in order to soldier on during the times when the business is experiencing tough times,” he ends.

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