Wednesday March 5 2014

The church pastor who wanted to be a doctor but now rears chicken

Left, a worker prepares to feed some of the Kuroilers on the farm.

Left, a worker prepares to feed some of the Kuroilers on the farm. Middle, Ssozi illustrates in one of the several chicken houses. Right, in a section of the farm where maize is milled to make the feeds. PHOTOs BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Gloria Haguma

My name is Peterson Ssozi, a church pastor and proprietor of Nissi Mixed Farm. My engagement in farming began a few years ago, after I travelled to the US as an evangelist.

The idea came when I had given a speech at a church gathering. One person from the congregation walked up to me and asked where I was from.
When I told him I was from Uganda, he seemed very shocked that I was in US seeking for assistance for church programmes. He believed Uganda has very fertile land that made it easy for any crop to grow on it.

At the time I had no exposure to or experience in agriculture whatsoever. The only digging I had done was the light punishments that we were usually given while in school. I wanted to become a medical doctor, and had never thought of becoming a farmer.

My father was a subsistence farmer, and from what I saw, he was always struggling. So for me, farming was not something I thought I could earning a living from. And here I was in a foreign land begging for funds and this came as a great challenge from the American.

Turning point
The words of this man had a great impact on me; so I decided to try my hand at farming. When I came back to Uganda, I started to look for land to start framing. I got the land, in Mityana, which was about 350 acres. On this land, I tried to do some cultivation.

I planted bananas, coffee, cocoa, and many other crops. On this same farm, I also kept some cows and goats. However, I failed to yield much from these enterprises, and I was yet to feel content.

But three years ago, during one of our monthly family meetings, my brother told us about this chicken breed that he said was very amazing and also a good one. But because of my past experiences with farming, I resisted giving in to his pleas for me to invest in poultry, because I did not want to go through the losses I had suffered before.

I had previously tried my hand at chicken farming, but unfortunately all the birds died from Newcastle disease. This is because they had not been vaccinated.

However, when I finally gave in to my brother’s pleas, I was surprised and also impressed by what I found on his farm. I saw this big chicken that I later got to learn is called the Kuroiler chicken. When I was told of several of its advantages, I gave in, and that is how I got into the business of rearing this chicken breed.

Started with 300 birds
I started with 300 birds, with 150 of them being cocks. I bought each of them at Shs7,000 which came up to Shs2.1m in total.
I got these from a farm owned by someone called Spear Kabuye, which is in Kyebando [in Kampala].

He was the one of the first people who brought this breed of chicken to Uganda from India. However, because I was just starting out, I failed to manage them well and lost half of the birds. We failed to immunise them on time, and they were struck by Newcastle disease.

I remained with 150 birds. These have given me all the other birds that I have here today, through reproducing. Currently, we have over 10,000 birds on the farm. We recently exported one-month-old chicks to Accra, in Ghana. Each one-month-old chick goes for Shs3,000.

The beauty about this breed is that it is a three-in-one. The cock that is between three to four months can weigh two to four kilogrammes and is sold between Shs20,000 and Shs40,000.

Making own feeds
I noticed that the poultry industry in Uganda was suffering because of the adulterated feeds. You go and buy feed like mukene (silver fish) somewhere, and they sell you with sand mixed in there.

So, I decided to also invest into producing chicken feed. We ensure that our feeds that are processed here are up to standard. The feed that we make includes chick, starter, growers’, and layers mash.

The farm in Mityana is where we grow the maize that we use in making the feeds. Our prices vary depending on the season. Currently, for all the feeds, a kilogramme costs Shs1,300.

The other innovation we have come up is making chicken feeds from matooke peels. What many people may not know that these peels make good feeds.
We first dry the peels for about three days, depending on the weather, then after this, we mill them into the bran, and the chickens eat this.

We use 30 per cent of these crushed dry peels in our feeds. They are also a great substitute for growers mash, especially during a scarcity season. Many people are throwing away these peelings, not knowing that they can make good money out of them.

I employ only three people. Once in a while we get people that come for training, these ones also work on the farm as part of the activity. We offer training services to those that want to learn how to rear these birds, and it depends on how fast one is at learning, some may take just a week while others may take longer.


Helping the chicken hatch their eggs

Despite the advantages of Kuroiler chicken, one drawback may be that they do not hatch their own eggs. That means you would need to have an incubator.
Its however very pricey and you would need to find a place like this one where they have the incubator, and have them incubated for you at a fee.

Hatching eggs
These machines are actually made here in Uganda, with just a few imported parts like the sensors. This incubator is very useful because it has a standby generator, so it will continue running, even when the electricity is off. It costs Shs250m.
This hatchery and brooder can hatch 10,080 eggs in a month. Every week, we get out 2,520 eggs for the chicks. We do not use this for just the Kuroiler eggs but also for the quails. Here, we charge Shs150 per egg.

Use available space
The other important aspect here is to be very innovative. Use all the available space that you have at home. For instance, instead of having another structure for the cocks, we used the available space in the ceiling of our residential house, to house the cocks.
Given the heat in the ceiling, this makes a very good brooder. So this can be a good place to keep your chicks.

For the case of the chicks, you can make use of the spare rooms will come in handy, since they are supposed to have enough warmth. So you can put them in one of the spare rooms, and then keep the windows closed for warmth.