A Nairobi-based lawyer is rearing exotic bulls in his rural Machakos County to meet meat domestic and export demand because they mature two to three years faster compared local breeds.
Benjamin Musau chose the Friesian, which he said matures quickly to give maximum weight for higher returns than the local breeds.
Why Friesian bulls
Friesian bulls have vigorous growth. If they are well taken care of, they can be more than 400kg in two years.
“BM.Musau.com Farm is in Machakos where it is a bit dry and feeding such beasts to satisfaction is not easy. I mainly feed them on hay and molasses before allowing them to move around the vast farm grazing,” Musau said during the Machakos Agricultural Society of Kenya Show of 2016.
Although he started his cattle rearing with milking cows in 1998, he has gradually increased the bulls from the one to the current 16.
Money in the weight
If he were to sell all of them at an average price of Sh175,000, they can earn up to Sh2.8 million.
“Their costs range between Sh150,000 and Sh250,00 depending on the weight. I sell them to local butchery owners as well as the Kenya Meat Commission,” he said.
It takes resources of between Sh80,000 and Sh100,000 to raise a Friesian of 500kg.
How to get best results from AI
For the best results, the farmer, who is also a law lecturer at the University of Nairobi, keeps a keen eye on the breed supplied by the artificial insemination (AI) officers.
“The parents of the bull, from which the semen was gotten from, must be known as per the available records. The history of the mother to receive the semen must also be understood to be a performer. If not, you risk spending resources on a bull that will not offer you the results you want,” he said.
To minimise chances of failed insemination, he closely examines the expiry date records on the tube containing the seed. He also ensures that he takes semen from well known suppliers who he can call on for follow-ups.
Breeder of champions
One of his bulls, four-year-old Kiiva, was the champion in the 2016 Machakos County ASK Show. His other bull Maua, was the first runners up after clocking 400kg.
The urban lawyer who moonlights as a rural farmer relies on a borehole and the nearby Athi River for water needs on his 100 acres farm.
Unlike indigenous breeds, Friesians and other exotic cattle are highly susceptible to diseases, with East Coast Fever being one of the deadliest infections.
A single bite from a tick carrying the protozoan parasite can bring down a Friesian in few days.
He ensures regular spraying, vaccination, deworming, among other practices to keep the animals healthy.
Friesians originated from Europe, where climates are relatively low. These climates favour high yields. Thatsfarming.com reports that a beef Friesian has recorded 1,300kg.
In most cases, Musau uses the American Breeders Service.