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Feedback: Checklist for starting beef farm

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I wish to keep beef animals on my 40-acre farm in Laikipia West, Rumuruti ward. To have a successful venture, I intend to sink a borehole whose hydrogeological survey has already been conducted.

Since I do not live there, my plan is to adopt long-range grazing as opposed to feedlots, which require a lot of supervision.

This implies that I should plant good grasses, which are suitable for grazing and not cut and carry grasses such as hay or lucerne.

I would like advice on the most suitable grasses in terms of nutritional value, availability of seeds and the yield potential.

I also need to know of any supplements if the grasses are not sufficient as my goal is to fatten the cows in two years. Any other advice on beef farming is most welcome.

Beef production is a profitable enterprise both for local meat consumption and export. There are several things you should do before you start this venture.

You should have sufficient water, be feed-secure, ensure that the farm is secure and safe by fencing and have biosecurity measures in place.

Also, have farm structures like stores, offices, parking and beef shed. You also need to know where you will get your initial stock.

There are ranches around Nanyuki and other places where you can find time to visit and learn more on beef breeds and production.

There is also the beef research institute in Lanet, Nakuru, which you can visit and get informed. In terms of the system of production you have chosen — grazing, it is good for people with vast land.

You can also consider feedlot system and on the rest of your farm, you could plant grass for your animals and sell the excess. About seeds, there are several companies offering the products. Please check online.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.

I am interested in sesame oil processing. Please share information on how I can start the business?

To process sesame oil, you need to have a pressing machine, also called the presser. The capacity of the presser will depend on the quantity of seeds you intend to process, say in a day.

Secondly, you need to have filtration systems for purifying the oil obtained after pressing. Lastly, you need to have packaging materials.

Also, ensure that your supply of sesame seeds is continuous and sustainable when you start the processing. However, remember that to start the sesame oil business, there are prerequisite requirements that you need, which include trade licences, certification from Kenya Bureau Standards and understanding the needs of your target market.

Norbert Wafula
Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology, Egerton University.


Do you have potato seeds? I need quality seeds to plant.

Potato is an annual crop that does well in full sun. It demonstrates improved productivity in loosely packed, well drained soils, with a pH range of 5.0 to 7.0.

To realise good harvest, potato garden should be kept weed-free and crop rotation should be carried out, such that it should only be planted on the same piece of land after a three-year period. The crop can be planted either through plant cuttings or seeds.

In each of the growing seasons, a farmer is required to use disease-free certified seeds to prevent spreading of diseases and pests in case of infestation in the previous season.

Certified seeds can be obtained from: International Potato Research Centre (CIP) — Nairobi. Official email: [email protected]

You can as well get in touch with Dr Gemenet, who is a potato specialist on [email protected] for further advice on best potato cultivar for your region.

Sillus Oduor,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.

My question is: How safe are GMOs?

The safety of applying genetic technology to food crops is still a matter of concern globally. Some genetically modified crops in the market like maize are insect-resistant and tolerant to toxic herbicide stress.

Risk assessments have been done based on the concept of ‘substantial equivalence’, where the nutritional and basic similarity between a GM crop and a normal crop are compared.

Under this criterion, GM crops are said to be as safe and nutritious, for human use, as normal crops.

However, this criterion is limited to a set of variables, such as the total amount of carbohydrates, proteins and minerals.

Thus, some scientists feel that the technology is not safe based on issues such as:

(1) Pesticide residues component for herbicide-tolerant GM crops,

(2) Physiologic changes on GM crops being grown in different environmental conditions such as high salinity, drought or cold/hot climate.

(3) Lack of information on the effect of GM crops to the natural environment and biodiversity. For example, how would insect-resistant GM crops affect bees and their product? And lastly,

(4) How do we keep track of the GMOs once in the market and field, with cases of cross-pollination, among others?

Therefore, the facts about the absolute safety of this technology are still under research.

Samuel Muhoro Kinyanjui
Department of Agricultural Engineering, Egerton University.


I am based in Mombasa and planning to buy five acres in Kilifi County. I am humbly requesting for information on the types of crops that I can grow, where I can go for training for the same plus how to do organic farming.

Crops like chillies, brinjals, okra, watermelons, oranges, bananas, green grams, cowpeas, cassava, cashew nuts and coconuts do well in Kilifi.

You can visit the Ministry of Agriculture or Kalro offices in Kilifi for more information and training. Organic farming involves the use of natural materials in the production of crops.

Farmyard or compost manures are used instead of inorganic fertilisers and plant extracts (like garlic, pyrethrum, chilli or neem) are used to control pests. No chemicals are used in organic farming.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, Egerton University.


If I was to start a profitable fruit farming business in Turi, Molo, what would you recommend?

You can try hass avocado, passion fruits, strawberry, tree tomato or kiwi. In the case of hass avocado, the cost-benefit analysis is as shown below.

According to Oxfam, the total expenses when planting avocado on an acre is Sh40,000.

1st and 2nd years — growth
3rd year — 200-250 fruits per tree- Sh240,000.
5th year — 800 fruits per tree — Sh900,000.
10th year — more than 1,750 fruits per tree — Sh2 million

The above cost analysis was for hass avocado variety grown at a spacing of 5m by 5m to give a total of 150 plants per acre and the selling price at Sh8 per fruit (Oxfam).

Therefore, the benefit analysis will vary depending on the variety, selling price of the fruit, spacing and good agricultural practices.

Carol Mutua
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University

Where can I buy maize seeds known as ‘Githigu’ in the Kikuyu language? I used to enjoy eating githeri cooked using this variety in the 70s.

‘Githigu’, as used in Kikuyu language, is yellow maize. The maize is mainly grown in western and Nyanza. It is early-maturing and believed to have higher nutritional value because of its high levels of lutein, carotenoid and Vitamin A as compared to white maize.

Farmers who grow this type of maize mainly use grains saved from previous harvests as seeds. This is because commercial seed companies in Kenya mainly produce white maize.

Availability of certified seeds for yellow maize, therefore, is limited. If interested, you may be required to source from farmers who have saved the seeds from areas where it is commonly grown.

Isaiah Aleri,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.

Where can I get lupin seeds?

Lupin is a plant belonging to the leguminous family. It is sometimes referred to as “Lupinus” or “Lupine”. Its grains are rich in proteins and can be used as a supplement in dairy feeds.

After harvesting, livestock can graze on the stubbles and residues. The plant does well in highland areas. It is planted at a seed rate of about 20kg/acre and at a spacing of 30×45cm. It takes an average of five months to mature.

After harvesting, lupin seeds are crushed, mixed with ground maize at a ratio of 1:3 then fed to livestock. 1kg of the mixture supplements 1kg of dairy feeds, but with an added advantage of increasing milk production since it is rich in proteins, which is a key component that provides energy in the body.

Farmers who use lupin seeds with surplus maize on their farms can save on the cost of buying animal feeds in addition to getting more milk.

Lupin seeds can be obtained from :

b) Also inquire at any nearby office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

Egerton University, Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils.

My name is Tim Kiprop and I would like to venture into mint production. I have been doing some research from production to marketing and I think this is a good venture for me.

Where can I get mint seeds and kindly expound on its production?

Mint is an aromatic plant that belongs to the family Lamiaceae and is grown for its leaves, which are used either in their fresh or dried form to make tea, jams and desserts.

The leaves are also used in the extraction of an essential oil, which is used for flavouring. The varieties of mint include spearmint, pineapple mint, corsican mint, peppermint, citrus mint and pennyroyal mint.

Propagation is done using seeds, cuttings or by divisions from an existing plant. When seeds are used, they are sowed at a depth of 6mm and they emerge after 10-15 days.

Transplanting is done when the seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves and the spacing is 45-60cm between plants.

If direct planting is used, thinning should be done after emergence to a spacing of 45-60cm between plants. Pinching is done to encourage growth of lateral branches, make the plant bushy and hence more leaves.

Deflowering (removal of flowers as soon as they appear) should also be done. Mulching can be done to keep the leaves clean, smother weeds and conserve moisture.

Irrigation should be done regularly to keep the soil moist. The field should be kept weed-free because weeds compete with mint for nutrients and this will lead to reduced yields.

Harvesting is done 60-90 days after planting but this will depend on the variety and environmental conditions. Frequent harvesting is necessary to keep the plants at their best. You cannot lack market for mint both locally and internationally.

You can get mint seeds from Urban Garden, contact them through [email protected] or 0716 598833

Carol Mutua.
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.

I am interested in growing table grapes. Where can I get good quality cuttings for planting? Please also advise on agronomic requirements.

Grape seedlings are available at the Kalro Horticulture Research Centre, Thika or you can also enquire from Kalro offices in Mombasa.

Grapes do well in areas with warm to hot temperature. During fruiting, the weather must be sunny because warm conditions increase sugar content in the fruits. Grapes can do well in any type of soil as long as it is deep and well-drained.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.


I need a single milking machine to start my dairy project. Where I can purchase a quality one?
David Bor

Adapting technology like milking machine ensures that you produce clean milk, reducing chances of rejection by processors.

Visit the agrovet near you and ask for suppliers of farm equipment. You can also ask from successful dairy farms near you for guidance or you can check online.

Dennis Kigiri
Department of Animal Science, Egerton University.

Kindly let me know whether rabbit urine can be of use? I throw it away.

Rabbit farming is a profitable and interesting venture. We keep rabbits for meat, fur and urine. Rabbit urine business is something you could do, however, it’s dependent on the number of animals you have since you need volumes to work on foliar fertiliser and pesticide.

One rabbit produces an average 200-250ml of urine daily. Since it’s possible to get 50 young ones from one mother in a year, you can grow your population in a short period.

A litre of rabbit urine can go for up to Sh300 and the foliar fertiliser goes for Sh800. To increase on volumes, you can work with other rabbit farmers in your area.

Dennis Kigiri
Department of Animal Science, Egerton University.

I read an article on fish farming in Seeds of Gold and I would like to know more.

Kenya’s fisheries and aquaculture sector contributes approximately 0.54 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product.

Freshwater aquaculture development in Kenya is remarkable, especially in 2009/2010, making the country one of the major producers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A prominent feature of Kenya’s rich heritage is its over 600km of coastline on the Indian Ocean, with productive ecosystems, which play a highly significant role in the economic and social well-being of the people.

Kindly share the specific questions you have and I will link you with fish farming experts.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


I am a rabbit breeder and I would love to get information on where I can be selling my rabbits.
Akadiri Michael

The most common breeds of rabbits in Kenya include New Zealand White, Californian white, Chinchilla, French lop, Dutch, Checkered Giant, Giant Flemish and Angora.

With the increased awareness on the health benefits of rabbit meat, talk to supermarkets around you, butcheries, schools, and other food stores.

Focus on consistency of production so that your customers never get the shelf empty, meaning there is none to buy.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.


I would like to visit some agricultural firms. How do I get the contacts of some of these firms?

Which agricultural firms would you like to visit? There are many firms, some growing vegetables, flowers, fruits or ornamental plants.

If you can be specific about the firms you would like to visit, we can connect you with them or give you their contacts. Meanwhile, check for some contacts online.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.

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