Home GENERAL NEWS The clinic: Experts give insights on varied crop and livestock issues

The clinic: Experts give insights on varied crop and livestock issues

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I am a student of general agriculture and I’m also working on a project on horticulture in greenhouses. I would like to know more about setting up greenhouses and taking care of crops inside. Kindly advise me.

Before setting up the greenhouse, consider the following factors, which also matter in maintaining the structures:

a) Availability of raw materials: Have materials that are more durable and cost-effective as this would reduce the cost of maintaining and repairing the greenhouse.
b) Temperatures: They should be controlled by having a ventilation. Insect netting is mostly used to ventilate the greenhouse. In areas that experience high temperatures, the structures should have a more significant part being occupied by the insect netting on the lower side.
c) Direction of wind: The greenhouse should be built towards the course of the wind to prevent it from being blown off. There are different crops that can be grown in the greenhouse, all of which have different management practices. For example, tomatoes in the greenhouse have to be pruned, staked, pollinated, and lowered, among other management practices.



I am interested in buying onions for resale directly from farmers, not brokers, especially in Oloitoktok. Please help.
Samantha Achieng

You can get into direct contact with the farmers after first conducting a survey to identify them. However, for you to get constant supply, it’s essential to maintain a good relation or even sign a contract with the farmers


I’m interested in growing organic strawberries outdoor. Please advise on the growing protocols, best conditions to grow, (altitude and soil), challenges in growing and the best varieties.

Reynolds Kipchumba Chirchir

The best conditions for the growth of strawberries are well-drained deep sandy-loam soils, which have high organic matter content, soil pH range of about 5.5 to 6.5 (slightly acidic), and an area which experiences adequate sunlight — at least six hours a day.

Varieties grown in Kenya include Chandler, Pajero and Douglas. The crop requires an altitude of about 1,500m to 2,200m.

In outdoor strawberry farming, first till the land to remove weeds, add organic manure in the soil, then raised beds should be made as this promotes drainage. Planting holes should then be dug at a spacing of about 35cm between plants and 75cm between rows.

The following field management practices can be used in organic strawberry farming. Mulching is done to regulate soil temperature, smother weeds and help in the production of clean berries. Weeding minimises competition for nutrients, sunlight and moisture and control of pest and diseases.

The crop should also be trained to improve yields. Watering should be done through drip irrigation to avoid fungal diseases. Strawberries are highly perishable hence a farmer should have a ready market.


Can Irish potatoes do well in Bomet County? Which variety will give me high yields?

Irish potatoes do well in Bomet because of favourable growing conditions there. Some of the high-yielding varieties include Shangi and Tigoni.

Answered by agronomist Ann Macharia.

Please advise me on how to feed a chick from day-old to 12 weeks and control of diseases.

Feeding chicks is made easier by availability of feeds specifically formulated not only for the three common breeds of chickens kept, but also the various age groups in each breed.

The breeds are broilers (for meat), layers (for eggs) and Kienyeji birds (for both meat and eggs). Most of the chicken feeds are in dry preparations and unlimited amount of drinking water should be provided throughout the bird’s life.

Feeding and watering troughs are also important but in the first 4-7 days of life, chick feeds are spread on newspaper sheets or any other flat material for ease of access.

Broiler chicks start with broiler mash or crumbs from day one to three weeks in which a bird is expected to consume between 0.85-1kg of feeds.

This is followed by broiler finisher mash or pellets up to six weeks of age when the birds reach market weight. Each bird is expected to consume 2.8-3kg of finisher feeds

Unlimited amount of layers mash is fed from day one to eight weeks to the layers breed and one bird can consume 2kg of the feed.

From 8 to 18 weeks, layer chicks are fed with growers’ mash and one bird can consume up-to 8kg during this period.

Feed intake in grammes per bird per day for Kienyeji chicks that have been separated from their mothers is 12 to 40 for day-old to eight weeks of chick mash; growers mash from week nine to when they start laying with a consumption of 50-120. Thereafter, they are fed with layers mash.

Diseases prevented through vaccination are Newcastle, Gumboro, fowl typhoid and fowl pox. Newcastle affects birds of all ages of the three breeds and kills almost 100 per cent of the flock.

Broilers and layers are more susceptible to Gumboro, which occurs between three and five weeks of age. Fowl pox and fowl typhoid occurs at any age but typhoid is more common after two months.

Coccidiosis produces bloody diarrhoea while colibacillosis is infection of internal organs with E. coli bacteria. Both diseases are preventable through improved hygiene. Regular deworming of birds is also important.


I am Morgan Ochieng, an agri-entrepreneur. My concern is, how much does it cost to use technology in agriculture especially when starting?

For example, what is the cost of creating an app, installing RFID tags and censors and monitoring gadgets for livestock? Also, don’t forget the cost of acquiring agro-drones.

The green revolution and the Schumacher ideology are two coincidences of the 1960s that best describe agricultural technology.

The green revolution was a set of research technology transfer that endorsed use of mechanisation, fertilisers, pesticides, high-yielding seed varieties and irrigation for increased production and productivity while Schumacher articulated the “appropriate technology” ideology to describe a technological choice and application that is small-scale, decentralised, labour-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound and locally autonomous.

So, while the green revolution advocated for large-scale production using sophisticated technologies, Schumacher, an economist, promoted use of locally available expertise for small-scale production. The choice of agricultural technologies, therefore, depends on the proposed scale of production.

Creating an app can be applied on the two scales of production. While the large-scale might purchase such apps, small-scale producers can acquire them free of charge from Google Play Store.

All one has to do is log in and enter a search on the topic of choice say “feeding dairy cattle or beef” or any livestock management practice of choice like record-keeping.

A list of your chosen topic will pop up and each indicates if it is free or not. Small-scale producers can also use manual records like a handbook or simple computer programmes like Excel.

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is one of the many electronic methods used for identification and traceability of livestock.

Others include use of microchips that are implanted under the skin; electronic collars and rumen boluses. Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages.

RFID could be a better choice for large-scale farming, in pastoral farming systems, and in places where cattle insecurity is high. Options for small-scale farmers include naming of animals, ear tags, ear-notching and branding, among others.

Sensors are electronic devices used to monitor basic parameters like animals’ body temperature, oestrus or even animal movements. For cost effectiveness, the tools are best-suited for large-scale farming.

Agridrones are aircraft without a human pilot on board. The gadgets carry out aerial surveys on farmlands and give important information like presence of predators and the grazing land situation among others. The devices can be used as sensors/monitors.

Information on prices of technological tools is available from local agrovet shops or from online markets such as Jumia and Alibaba.

Answered by Dr Jecinta Mwirigi, livestock specialist.

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