11 things starters in poultry business ought to know

By SUBIRI OBWOGO

Regular readers know that besides rearing chicken, I also train farmers on various aspects such as poultry husbandry, networking, mentorship, goal-setting and business planning.

We also discuss the challenges and opportunities for beginners.

I started these courses due to demand from farmers who, after receiving a hand-out I was sharing, they asked for additional training.

These interactions have helped me come up with 11 concepts that all seasoned and upcoming farmers need to succeed. I’ve summarised them in the table right.

Now, in the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring some of these theoretical and practical concepts for poultry beginners.

From my experience, although technical aspects of animal husbandry practices like disease control and vaccination, feeding, book-keeping or developing business plans that I’ve written on extensively matter a lot (item two to 10 in the table), they are not the game-changer.

Besides capital and basic knowledge in animal husbandry and agronomy, to succeed in any agribusiness venture, one also needs to have a business mind-set and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.

One of the first questions I ask farmers is, “What made you venture into poultry farming in the first place?” Many times, I am met with blank stares.

But often, I get a wide-range of responses like, “Well, I just retired from formal employment and need to put my ten-acre piece of land that I bought some years back to better use and keep myself busy.”

Others think of it as a way to make money or employment.

Sometime back, I shared an email I got from Julius Fondo, a reader from Kilifi, who was planning to quit his job as a programmes coordinator with a local NGO to become a full-time poultry farmer.

He had read in newspapers about poultry farmers who’d become ‘millionaires’ and felt it was high time lady-luck smiled his way.

My experience in the last three years is that many people get into farming with unrealistic expectations and end up disappointed.

I learned the hard way that money should never be an entrepreneur’s sole motivation. In fact, if your business idea doesn’t solve a problem that people care about and are willing to pay for the solution, you need to go back to the drawing board.

LEARNED ON THE JOB

Another lesson is that entrepreneurship is a way of life and as such, don’t start a business if it entails doing something you don’t enjoy.

The bottom-line is that whatever your reason is for venturing into any business, most successful ventures emphasise purpose and growth over quick monetary gains during the start-up phase.

                                                                         Kienyeji Kenya Ltd’s poultry beginners’ course outline.

“Starting any business is a journey not a sprint and if your goal is to make money quickly, you’re sure to burn-out in a few weeks or months,” I told a group of farmers.

You see, even in the best case scenario, the average success for any start-ups takes six years. I addition, nine out of 10 start-ups fail within a year.

I’ve always advocated for ‘structured networking’ as one strategy to enable smallholder farmers to move their ventures from survivalist entities to thriving small-and-medium-sized enterprises.

You see, farming works best through networks where inputs and ideas are shared to create synergies. To bring the point home, I said this, “The Chinese have a saying that if you want to go fast, go alone, but, if you want to go far, go together”.

If ten farmers teamed up, they could share the cost of hiring a vet, sales representative, farm manager, buy raw materials and make their own feeds.

Here’s the thing, in most cases, people assume that to venture into business, you first develop a written business plan, raise capital, develop a product, sell it and make a profit or a loss. In my case, I didn’t wait until I’d a perfect plan, adequate finances or answers to every possible question.

Instead, I mostly learned on the job and made many mistakes which I’ve recounted. It’s taken me three years of trial-and error to figure out a workable business model for my fledgling venture which I’ll be sharing in subsequent articles.

In the next series, I’ll discuss habits and skills you need to develop early to succeed as a poultry farmer and how to network effectively.

I’ll also share my business model, goal-setting and how to build a strategy around the big picture.

First Published by the Nation

 

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