When he retired from the army at the rank of colonel, he could not imagine his future without the uniform.
Following his passion, the Retired Colonel Dick Bugingo, ventured into commercial farming, a decision most of his colleagues dread.
About six and half years later, his choice is handsomely paying off as evidenced by his Agdi Dairy farm slogan; “Farming is the way to go.”
Birth of Agdi Dairy farm
Agdi Dairy farm, a family company was started in 2010 after a well thought out business plan by Dr Florence Kasirye.
Although the dairy farm was started nearly three and half years ago, Bugingo took to dairy farming in 2007 after retiring from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).
Mission to process the raw milk
Traditionally, Bugingo is a cattle keeper just like his fore fathers.
“My forefathers were cattle keepers and I have taken after them. The only difference is that I am doing it (farming) for commercial reasons and not entirely subsistence,” says Bugingo, adding, “When I have all the 100 cows on supplements, I will consider adding value to the raw milk instead of selling it raw to processors,” he said.
With the exotic breed cows on supplements hay (food), more than 1,000 litres of milk per day will be produced. He hopes this jump in production will enable him start producing yoghurt, ice cream and packed ghee.
Milking the investment
Out of the 300 exotic animals, he has identified about 100 for special feeding (diet). Currently, nearly half of the 100 are being fed with supplement fodder, which comprises maize bran, cotton cake, dairy lick, banana peels and brewer spent grain.
Asked where he sources the animal feeds from, Bugingo says he grows and buys some fodder, especially supplements.
As result, he gets nearly 600 litres daily in the dry season when most dairy farmers run short of hay for their animals. That is why unlike other farmers, the prices for his produce/milk to processors are constant at Shs1,000.
This means that every month, he earns about Shs15 million, an amount that could multiply if he eventually put all the 100 cows on supplement fodder (special diet).
“Half of that [Shs15 million] is the profit and the other caters for operational costs, including paying workers,” Bugingo said.
Total investment so far
Bugingo believes the most important capital or initial investment is the idea and the interest to make it work rather than hard cash or machinery.
That is what he had at the beginning—an idea and interest to become a successful commercial farmer.
But when pressed, he said he has spent nearly a billion shillings so far to raise the standard of his farms, among them Agdi Dairy farm.
“It is hard to pinpoint how much I started with because this is something we built from almost nothing. But over the years, we kept putting in money in bits which I believe is nearly a billion shillings now,” he says. He also believes the reward for it far outweighs what has so far been sunk in the project.
“The future is bright. I encourage everybody, especially officers who are out of the uniform, to join farming. It is profitable,” said the retired soldier.
Bugingo built the Agdi farm with the support of the family and not the bank due to the high interest rates commercial banks charge on loans.
He argues that the price that the raw milk fetches is still low, given the effort the farmers put in.
He further argues that expensive equipment makes processing of milk and its related products difficult, suggesting that there is need for government intervention and other partners in form of public-private partnerships.
Beside lack of technology to improve both quantity and quality of milk and limited resources in terms of agricultural finance, Bugingo cites competition from medium and large scale dairy farms and unpredictable outbreak of animal diseases as other stumbling blocks.
his future prospects
Together with his wife, Agnes Bugingo who is also a director, who owns half the shares of the company, they would like to improve on pastures and animal feed supplements.
He also intends to resort to the use of artificial insemination instead of relying on bulls, and improve on the quality of milk produced at the farm.
Other future plans include; adding value to raw milk, using milking machines to increase the farm outputs and have an on-site chilling system that will help in the preservation of milk.
To achieve all the above, he is ready to partner with the government or any other interested party or groups to achieve those targets.
The consumption of milk per person in Ugandan is estimated at 60 litres per year, a much lower consumption compared to the 200 litres recommended per person by the World Health Organisation annually.
Marketable milk in Uganda is valued at $317million annually and shared among the estimated 1.7 million households that keep cattle.
• Challenges in industry.
Lack of pasture and water for the animals has led to low production, yet the demand remained constant.
• Production areas.
Dairy farming is concentrated in 42 districts found in the cattle corridor that stretches from south-western Uganda through the central region to the north-eastern part of the country.