As population pressure limits land, traditional ways of rearing livestock are becoming extinct. Paddocking is now preferred to the free range system as farmers stem the numbers to avoid them wrecking damage on their neighbours’ crops for which they may be held liable.
Unwilling to resort to the way of farming that restricts numbers of the herds, and probable penalties, Collins Opio, 45, a resident of Amuurie village in Serere District, braved warthogs and pythons to relocate his herds of livestock to Kaburary Island in Lake Kyoga. He wanted to practise what he knows best--the free range system.
On this island, rolling towards the lake shore, measuring about 500 acres of land, he keeps and grazes more than 700 indigenous goats and sheep plus 100 cows.
To Opio, the free range system is not restrictive as the demand for goats is big, so it is the way to go once there is an opportunity for a vast land.
He says on that a free range system, the herds breed throughout the year, as they mate freely while they browse for leaves and grass in the fields, unlike the paddock system that caters best for the exotic breeds. Here, a farmer has only to use artificial insemination to guarantee a possibility of herd multiplication.
So, Opio believes that his was a wise decision to relocate from home, to maintain his source of income. But, along the way, in 2010, attacks from pythons almost sent him packing back home.
“I almost sold the remaining herds, until one Burundian businessman told me how pigs can eat pythons, that is why these herds have increased again to this numbers,” he notes.
Rearing goats and sheep is something he has admired from childhood. “It was the main source of our family income. So, this is like keeping the legacy of our family going,” he says.
According to him, goat rearing needs simple attention; give them soda ash and salt at home to have them lured back to the kraal in the evening hours, after they take water. And also carry out monthly deworming. If this is done, you are well assured of a healthy herd.
To date, Opio says all he owns is majorly a result of rearing goats and sheep. The least he earns from selling a goat is Shs90,000 and despite having indigenous breeds, some of them can weigh 30kgs.
“I own a house estimated at Shs20m, and a motorised boat besides being able to pay my children’s fees,” he reveals. The challenge he faces on the island is when there are floods during the rainy seasons.
Opio says though the vegetation flourishes well. His herds are limited to grazing only on water-free grounds.
There is also a high possibility of foot and water mouth disease, attacks by predators and theft by fisherman.
Besides that, he says he enjoys a production rate of about 150 kids from both goats and sheep annually.
Daniel Ebeiru, an expert in crop and animal husbandry, concurs that because of limited land, people have gone for the other ways of rearing goats and sheep, but free range allows movement and is not confined to small compound spaces.
The animals mix with other kinds of animals like cattle as they graze.
He adds that their health is good due to a more organic diet and way of living plus the fact that they need less supervision.