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Muranga farmer finds lucrative opportunity in turkey farming

Patrick Mwangi an en­ter­pris­ing farmer from Muranga County is re­writ­ing the rules of ag­ribusi­ness in poultry farm­ing hav­ing shrugged off tempta­tions of join­ing the quail craze but fo­cus­ing on the more neg­lected tur­key.

Hav­ing grown up in a home where tur­key was a sig­ni­fic­ant part of the farm­ing busi­ness, Mwangi knew right these rare birds held the key for gain­ing fin­an­cial in­de­pend­ence. “My father reared tur­key when I was still a boy but sud­denly the birds dis­ap­peared from our homestead after a cer­tain Christ­mas period when they were all sold out.” Des­pite this, the now youth­ful farmer had grasped some ba­sics in rear­ing the birds and coupled with his love for farm­ing, he vowed to give it a try in fu­ture.

His child­hood dream star­ted being ful­filled after ac­quir­ing a loan in 2013. ‘’I had ap­plied for the loan to pur­sue other ven­tures but de­cided to take a por­tion of it and gamble into this worth­while ven­ture. It was not easy to settle on the idea as this was also the time that the coun­try was buzz­ing with quail farm­ing which many farm­ers were run­ning into with the hope of being in­stant mil­lion­aires,’’ he said. However, Mwangi man­aged to stay fo­cused and pur­sued his dream start­ing with an ini­tial in­vest­ment of about Sh50, 000.

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As a shrewd farmer, Mwangi first, in­ves­ted his time into re­search of the birds which he mainly did through on­line and farm vis­its to farm­ers who already had tur­key. “I wanted to be sure of what I was in­vest­ing in and as a mat­ter of fact, I could only ac­com­plish this through thor­ough back­ground checks to as­cer­tain their health risks, feed­ing re­gime and even mar­ket for its products like eggs and meat,” ex­plained Mwangi. Hav­ing as­sured him­self that the ven­ture was worth­while, he em­barked on the main pro­ject start­ing off with con­struc­tion of the struc­ture.

This ini­tial cost in­cluded the house struc­tures mainly made from wood and heavy metal on the sides with the nor­mal iron sheets on the roof. He also fenced about half an acre to en­able the mainly free roam­ing birds space to fend for them­selves. In total the con­struc­tion of the struc­ture and the fen­cing cost was about Sh25000. He then star­ted off his trade with seven ma­ture Tur­key six fe­male and a male one.

Ac­cord­ing to him he opted to begin with ma­ture birds be­cause of the high re­turns they prom­ised and the ease of deal­ing with them. “The ma­ture birds were a good bet to begin with be­cause some were already lay­ing eggs and they had fin­ished all the re­quis­ite im­mun­iz­a­tion re­quire­ments. There­fore I learnt on how to man­age the whole flock from the ex­per­i­ence I got from the ini­tial stock.   In ad­di­tion the birds are not heavy feed­ers com­pared to exotic chick­ens. Seven ma­ture birds feeds on a paltry less than 2kilos of com­mer­cial feeds be­cause they sup­ple­ment the feed with their own free range feeds.

The key to keep­ing tur­key is al­low­ing them enough space to fend for them­selves. These birds also feed on and re­quire sun light ex­pos­ure for healthy breed­ing and growth. He noted, “If you deny them that then they may be very weak and de­velop rick­ety tend­en­cies as I wit­nessed a case with one that my brother had kept in door to­gether with quails.” If they are denied the spa­cious en­vir­on­ment, Mwangi warned that even their lay­ing pat­tern is heav­ily hampered.

Cur­rently Mwangi’s farm has over 18 birds. Ac­cord­ing to him, the mar­ket de­mand for the tur­key and its eggs is over­whelm­ing but still un­der­fed. Since start­ing off, I have sold off over 10 tur­keys with some ma­ture male bird able to fetch over Sh9000 es­pe­cially dur­ing the fest­ive sea­son. An egg re­tails at Sh150 and al­though the bird is not a good con­sist­ent layer, Mwangi noted that one bird can lay an av­er­age of four eggs per week. He has an in­cub­ator where he broods the chicks selling a one day old chick at Sh500. “Cur­rently all the eggs in the in­cub­ator are already booked and am forced to turn down other cli­ents with some com­ing as far as from Kissii and Kisumu,” noted Mwangi If slaughtered, a kilo of meat re­tails at Sh900 and some well fed male Tur­keys can weigh up to 24 kilos mak­ing it a vi­able ven­ture. Ac­cord­ing to this bud­ding farmer if the birds are well fed, they start lay­ing eggs at around five months al­though the mal take a longer period of about eight months to ma­ture.

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Des­pite the prom­ising rosy re­turns, the birds also have their fair share of chal­lenges with Mwangi not­ing that the most chal­len­ging part of them is deal­ing with the young birds which are sens­it­ive to cold tem­per­at­ures. “The chicks are more fra­gile than the chicken to cold weather which in­fects them with res­pir­at­ory com­plic­a­tions but the key to this is grant­ing the birds ut­most at­ten­tion, enough warmth and ob­serving all the re­quired im­mun­iz­a­tion against dis­eases like co­ci­di­osis, New­castle, Gum­boro among oth­ers.”  He ad­vised that if one wants to reap from any ag­ribusi­ness ven­ture, then he needs to cre­ate time and phys­ic­ally in­volve him­self in the day to day activ­it­ies. “It’s only through doing this that you even in­spire the work­ers to do the right thing and to take their work ser­i­ously”

As fate would have it, Mwangi was destined for suc­cess and now nine months later he smiles back at the mile­stones he has achieved. I im­plore more ser­i­ous farm­ers who want to reap the gains of agri busi­ness to ventiirre into this noble en­tity be­cause the prob­lem in the vil­lages is that many farm­ers don’t ven­ture into in­come gen­er­at­ing ag­ribusi­ness activ­it­ies just for the sake without a clear vis­ion of busi­ness model and how to reap gains in it. This he sup­ports with the ex­amples of tur­key farm­ers in the coun­try who rare may be two or four and at the peak of fest­ive peri­ods, they sell all the birds and again take long to start off.

“This is a lifelong ven­ture avail­able for any stall­holder farmer in the coun­try and un­like quails which was hyped and faded, the Tur­key birds have been here for ages and only few farm­ers dare go for it and as a res­ult the re­turns are so mouth wa­ter­ing that one will not re­gret”

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