Farmer cuts niche in turkey farming

Patrick Mwangi an enterprising farmer from Mathioya County is rewriting the rules of agribusiness in poultry farming having shrugged off temptations of joining the quail craze but focusing on the more neglected turkey.

Having grown up in a home where turkey was a significant part of the farming business, Mwangi knew right these rare birds held the key for gaining financial independence. “My father reared turkey when I was still a boy but suddenly the birds disappeared from our homestead after a certain Christmas period when they were all sold out.” Despite this, the now youthful farmer had grasped some basics in rearing the birds and coupled with his love for farming, he vowed to give it a try in future.

His childhood dream started being fulfilled after acquiring a loan in 2013. ‘’I had applied for the loan to pursue other ventures but decided to take a portion of it and gamble into this worthwhile venture. It was not easy to settle on the idea as this was also the time that the country was buzzing with quail farming which many farmers were running into with the hope of being instant millionaires,’’ he said. However, Mwangi managed to stay focused and pursued his dream starting with an initial investment of about Sh50, 000.

As a shrewd farmer, Mwangi first, invested his time into research of the birds which he mainly did through online and farm visits to farmers who already had turkey. “I wanted to be sure of what I was investing in and as a matter of fact, I could only accomplish this through thorough background checks to ascertain their health risks, feeding regime and even market for its products like eggs and meat,” explained Mwangi. Having assured himself that the venture was worthwhile, he embarked on the main project starting off with construction of the structure.

This initial cost included the house structures mainly made from wood and heavy metal on the sides with the normal iron sheets on the roof. He also fenced about half an acre to enable the mainly free roaming birds space to fend for themselves. In total the construction of the structure and the fencing cost was about Sh25000. He then started off his trade with seven mature Turkey six female and a male one.

According to him he opted to begin with mature birds because of the high returns they promised and the ease of dealing with them. “The mature birds were a good bet to begin with because some were already laying eggs and they had finished all the requisite immunization requirements. Therefore I learnt on how to manage the whole flock from the experience I got from the initial stock.   In addition the birds are not heavy feeders compared to exotic chickens. Seven mature birds feeds on a paltry less than 2kilos of commercial feeds because they supplement the feed with their own free range feeds.

The key to keeping turkey is allowing them enough space to fend for themselves. These birds also feed on and require sun light exposure for healthy breeding and growth. He noted, “If you deny them that then they may be very weak and develop rickety tendencies as I witnessed a case with one that my brother had kept in door together with quails.” If they are denied the spacious environment, Mwangi warned that even their laying pattern is heavily hampered.

Currently Mwangi’s farm has over 18 birds. According to him, the market demand for the turkey and its eggs is overwhelming but still underfed. Since starting off, I have sold off over 10 turkeys with some mature male bird able to fetch over Sh9000 especially during the festive season. An egg retails at Sh150 and although the bird is not a good consistent layer, Mwangi noted that one bird can lay an average of four eggs per week. He has an incubator where he broods the chicks selling a one day old chick at Sh500. “Currently all the eggs in the incubator are already booked and am forced to turn down other clients with some coming as far as from Kissii and Kisumu,” noted Mwangi If slaughtered, a kilo of meat retails at Sh900 and some well fed male Turkeys can weigh up to 24 kilos making it a viable venture. According to this budding farmer if the birds are well fed, they start laying eggs at around five months although the mal take a longer period of about eight months to mature.

Despite the promising rosy returns, the birds also have their fair share of challenges with Mwangi noting that the most challenging part of them is dealing with the young birds which are sensitive to cold temperatures. “The chicks are more fragile than the chicken to cold weather which infects them with respiratory complications but the key to this is granting the birds utmost attention, enough warmth and observing all the required immunization against diseases like cocidiosis, Newcastle, Gumboro among others.”  He advised that if one wants to reap from any agribusiness venture, then he needs to create time and physically involve himself in the day to day activities. “It’s only through doing this that you even inspire the workers to do the right thing and to take their work seriously”

As fate would have it, Mwangi was destined for success and now nine months later he smiles back at the milestones he has achieved. I implore more serious farmers who want to reap the gains of agri business to ventiirre into this noble entity because the problem in the villages is that many farmers don’t venture into income generating agribusiness activities just for the sake without a clear vision of business model and how to reap gains in it. This he supports with the examples of turkey farmers in the country who rare may be two or four and at the peak of festive periods, they sell all the birds and again take long to start off.

“This is a lifelong venture available for any stallholder farmer in the country and unlike quails which was hyped and faded, the Turkey birds have been here for ages and only few farmers dare go for it and as a result the returns are so mouth watering that one will not regret”