Earning millions from goat rearing

One of the advantages of cross breed goats is that 85 per cent of them exotic breeds deliver two kids at once. The goats also mature faster and weigh more than local breeds. photos by Ismail Kezaala.

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Buhigiro is elated upon her recent sale of 10 Savana cross-goat-offspring for Shs1m and she explains why. “Just over one year ago, I received six cross-goats (Savana origin), one of them a billy, from Paul Ssembeguya’s ranch.

Ms Janet Buhigiro is married and a mother of nine. Her third-born, a daughter, is at university and the last born in P.1. While she didn’t have an opportunity for a meaningful education because of the cultural perceptions her parents had, Buhigiro is determined that her children will have the best education as long as she can fend for them. And fending for her offspring is what she does through the lucrative proceeds from livestock rearing in Rwensakara Village, Rwemiyaga sub-county.

Buhigiro is elated upon her recent sale of 10 Savana cross-goat-offspring for Shs1m and she explains why. “Just over one year ago, I received six cross-goats (Savana origin), one of them a billy, from Paul Ssembeguya’s ranch. Unlike the local breeds, the offspring are ready for the market at only eight months, they fetch more money, are easier to sell and their meat is more tender and tastier.”

Ms Grace Kaaka who lives in Bukiragi Village, in Rwentutsi sub-county is equally upbeat on account of a bull she received from Ssembeguya Estates. “It has sired nine cross-offspring which are in the range of two to three months.

In body mass, they are equal to or bigger than local breeds seven months old. I am also happy that the offspring are ready for mating at only 12 months unlike the local breeds that take more than three years,” she says. With a herd of 50 goats, the joy the elderly Kaaka, who cares for four children and some grandchildren left by a deceased son, is immense.

She recollects that it is the same Ssembeguya Estates that excavated the valley dam at Bukiragi from which she and other pastoralists in the area water their livestock. “Because water is readily available, courtesy of Bukiragi and Kakyinga dams, more and more people are aspiring to improve the quality of their livestock to fast growing and better paying breeds; Ssembeguya Estates’ veterinary doctors in addition visit us and attend to our livestock at no cost,” adds Mr Caleb Kamulindi, the local chairman.

Paul Ssembeguya is the proprietor of Ssembeguya Estates Uganda Ltd (SEUL), a livestock rearing enterprise he founded on UK kyeyo savings in January 1991, initially on 158 acres with Nsagala (Nkole) and Karamoja (Zebu) cattle breeds. Realising that the venture was gold-laden, he increased the ranch size to three square miles by 2003 on which he already had 1,300 goats, the exotic boars, rare-white Savana (meat-only) breeds and local goats.

Explaining why he ventured into ranching, he says other businesses are fraught with trickery and fraud, “I carried out research on how one can make money out of livestock. On a good farm with appropriate facilities, good veterinary staff and managerial skills, a Boran cow produces every year. The carrying capacity is two heads of cattle per acre and a sizeable stock, for instance of 1,000 cows could have a mortality rate of two per cent, thus an assurance of 980 animals every year. The female:male ratio is 50:50 and one heifer is sold at Shs1m.”

When Ms Joan Kakwenzire, the presidential advisor on poverty alleviation introduced him to President Yoweri Museveni in 2004, he subsequently signed a memorandum of understanding with the government and he got assistance for further expansion of his ranch with more two square miles as the first step in the quest for starting a live goat and goat meat export venture for people in Uganda’s range lands. Under the memorandum of understanding, the government committed Shs6.5bn (to be released in batches) for procuring 54,000 local Mubende goats to which SEUL’s contribution is Shs700m worth of Savana and Boar goats of which 150 are billies and 200 female. The “wealth creation” arrangement requires that SEUL gives one bBilly to each participating farmer. They will get the animals in batches of 50, which would allow for the individual ranchers’ gradual attainment of management experience.

Superior yields
The Ssembeguya goats attain slaughter weight in only eight months, compared to the two and a half years the local breeds take. The other advantage is that 85 per cent of the exotic breeds deliver two kids at once, 10 per cent deliver three kids and only five per cent deliver a single kid. This is the productive superiority that the project is cultivating.

SEUL initially imported 50 Savana and Boar goats from South Africa at a cost of Shs1.5m each; the two breeds now number 3,500. To ensure that ranchers do not dispose of the goats for atleast three years, during which period the critical mass for sustained export would have been generated, they have been tagged and veterinary staff based at Sssembeguya’s ranch supervise the farmers for quality sustenance.

The government and SEUL are in partnership, the multi-pronged Presidential Goat Rearing Initiative meant to breed goats for distribution under the Poverty Alleviation Programme executed under Naads, the “wealth creation project”, and related corporate social responsibilities outreach to ranchers in Sembabule District under which they are assisted to improve the quality of their breeds.

Under another arrangement, the wealth creation programme, a cooperative movement initially comprising 108 farmers was started. Each farmer with atleast 150 acres would get 500 goats. This is the nucleus for generating the critical mass ideal for sustained export. Under its Corporate Social Responsibility arrangement, SEUL is also giving out two billies to every individual with atleast 50 goats supported by good pasture.

While Ssembeguya’s idea was initially rearing cattle for beef, he also sought to exploit the reality that they are not interested in the flourishing shrubs/bushes that goats love to feed on. It is also true that the goats have no interest in grass, the delicacy cattle graze hence the two can successfully be raised on the same ranch.

For his efforts, Ssembeguya won the 2006 Investor of the year award from the Diaspora. He employs 50 staff, including veterinary doctors and an assortment of farm hands. He has introduced and shown the value of selective bush-clearing to other ranchers, thereby improving their properties’ carrying capacity which has also improved their livestock’s weight-gain and beef quality.

Also on offer as part of corporate social responsibility is a bull to each rancher with at-least 50 cows, and ranch visits by Ssembeguya veterinary staff who inspect and advice on the quality of pasture and other farm facilities in Sembabule District. The farmer returns the bull for transfer to another rancher after three years, a practice aimed at avoiding in-breeding.

However according to Dr Francis Byekwaaso, the Manager for Planning in Naads, the undertaking has not been without upsets. “After a disbursement of Shs1bn, there was stagnation until the Ministry of Agriculture opted for Naads carrying out the project.” He says so far, close to Shs400m has been spent on 722 goats that have been passed on to the ranchers in 27 groups, each of which has 26 ranchers. “The government has refocused on this project under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and budgeted Shs1bn for 2009/10.”

Dr Byekwaaso elaborates that the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre will work closely with Naads on this project and the district of Sembabule to monitor its performance since its success depends on their supervision. Under Naads, the farmer brings back 70 per cent of the yield for passing on to other farmers in the district. If each of the 108 farmers has 500 goats, it is expected that in two years, an export of 11, 000 goats per month would be possible.

Facts about Savannah goats
•First recognised in South Africa as a distinct breed with the formation of the Savannah Goat Breeders Society on November 21, 1993.
•In 1955, local multi-coloured lop-eared goats were used in the foundation herd on Messrs D S U Cilliers and Sons farm, and the result was a fertile, heat and parasite tolerant, drought-resistant White Savanna goat with good meat quality.
•Hardy and adaptable with natural resistance against tick-born diseases such as heart water and other external parasites.
•Drought-resistant and easily endure cold and rain as well.
•Relatively simple, low nutritional requirements and can survive and reproduce where other small stock breeds cannot exist, thus produce a higher net profit because of lower input costs.
•Cared for under ideal conditions, the male can attain 100kg and the female 60kg weight; in 100 days, the male attains 30kg and the female 25kg. They attain slaughter weight in eight to 10 months.
•They breed year round, exhibit early sexual maturity and have long productive lives; 85 per cent deliver two kids, 10 per cent deliver three kids and five per cent deliver a single kid.
• They have been selected for rapid growth and good carcass conformation; their pure white colour makes them much sought after for religious purposes slaughter and other various reasons.
•Excellent reproduction, muscular development, good bones and strong legs and hooves.

How Ssembeguya Estates was started
•1986: Paul Ssembeguya accepts maternal uncle Edward Mugalu’s (RIP) advice that with sound management, ranching is a “gold-mine.”
•1988: Initially buys 158 acres of land in Sembabule from work savings in the UK; stocks 70 indigenous cows and a few goats.
•1989: Imports the first batch of 57 of Savana and Boar goats from South Africa.
•In 2004: President Museveni meets Ssembeguya at the ranch; A memorandum of understanding is signed for goat multiplication, supply and distribution among farmers; other two square miles added to the ranch.
•In 2006: Partnership to supply improved goats under prosperity for all programme entered with Naads – 722 goats supplied.
•By 2010: Stock of more than 3,500 pure white Savana and Boars as well as goat-crosses programme continues.
•Livestock holding capacity: Two cattle and 36 goats on each acre.
•More than 1,000 cattle, mixture of Bonsmara and Boran and their crosses.