A decision to keep dairy cows in the same space with poultry is paying off for Edward Mainga with the cow dung providing worms for the chicken while the chicken turns the dung into manure that is used to grow fodder for the cows a venture that has not only increased milk and egg production but also seen him reduce labour costs.
But it wasn’t always this way for the Kisii farmer. When he decided to venture into dairy farming in 2006, he bought one superior dairy cow through a Dairy Cow Common Interest Group, a revolving fund that assisted farmers access high yielding cattle variety. But two years into the trade, things started going south. The dry spell took their toll on fodder with the situation being exacerbated by unprecedented rise in feed prices.
But after attending farmer training sessions. he learnt how to tame production costs while maximizing yields through diversification. “I had a two acre piece of land but I realized how much I was wasting my land on. I learnt how invest in various farming techniques in order to spread my risks,” said Mainga. “I decided to produce my own feeds using the Farm yard manure. I use the decomposed dung which has proved very effective’’.
Through his own innovations, Edward decided to integrate local poultry farming with dairying. He collects the fresh dung from the zero grazing units and spreads it in the local chicken run. As the dung decomposes the chicken keep on turning the matter as they search for maggots / worms and other insects for feeding.
The run is strategically sited at a banana plot. The bananas too are reaping nutrient from the manure prepared. These bananas offer canopy protection of young chicks from predators like the hawks. The run has perimeter fence made of the chicken mesh offering further predator protection and preventing the birds from destroying other crops in the kitchen garden and in the neighbours’ farms.
The chicken serves to provide labour through turning the dung into manure and also weeding the banana plot through scratching the matter. The continued scratching ‘matures’ the manure faster. The ready manure is carried to the fodder and crop plots much easily as it is lighter in weight. Surplus manure is sold to neighbours.
Mainga reports that this kind of practice has assisted him reduce labour cost by upto 40 percent while increasing his income from Sh2, 000 that he used to earn monthly through sale of milk and his bananas to Sh20,000. “I now intend to utilize all the space in the farm by building more poultry pens and cow sheds. If one cow and ten chicken can earn me Sh20,000 I intend to earn Sh500,000 if I expand,” said Mainga.