SAMUEL Kibalabaâ€™s children loved milk, but buying it from the market was costly, and sometimes unhealthy, due to poor handling. So, in 1994, Kibalaba decided to buy a cow, which in due course, gave birth to several offspring.
Soon Kibalaba was selling milk to neighbours and giving some to his parents who live nearby. The income from selling milk enabled him pay his workers, and settle some of his domestic bills. Realising there was money in dairy farming, Kibalaba bought two more cows.
â€œI realised the dairy business was lucrative. I decided to invest more resources into it,â€ Kibalaba recalls.
Sixteen years later, Kibalaba has 11 cows in his backyard zero-grazing dairy farm located in the densely populated Lusaka zone in Makindye Division, Kampala district.
Kibalaba recently hosted President Yoweri Museveni on the farm during his prosperity-for-all tour.
Museveni appreciated his high grade cows, and also commended the cleanliness level on the farm.
Kibalalaba challenged the President to sell him some cows since it is hard to get a good quality dairy cow.
â€œWe discussed the possibility of buying cows from him since I know he has a good quality breed,â€ Kibalaba says.
Before settling for dairy farming, Kibalaba tried his hand at different enterprises. A teacher by profession, he taught for two years at Kings College â€“ Budo (1974-75) before swapping the blackboard for a fish net. For seven years, he was into fishing, and made some good returns, but it was soon time to move on.
Next, he ventured into exporting fresh vegetables, such as, okra, pepper, cabbages and others, due to the lucrative, but demanding European market.
Income and expenditure
Although Kibalaba engages in some small time real estate brokering, dairy farming is his main source of income.From his 11 cows, Kibalaba gets between 100 and 120 litres of milk a day. â€œAt the farm, we sell a litre at sh1,000, and sh1,200, if delivered to the customer,â€ Kibalaba says. Residents of Lusaka, and other neighbouring areas, are his main customers.
â€œPeople like my milk due to its high quality. Unlike other dealers, I do not adulterate my milk. Besides, the cows are also of a good breed,â€ he says. On average, he earns sh110,000 a day, from which he puts sh6,000 aside for each cow for maintenance and treatment in terms of buying feeds, clearing veterinary bills, and paying his workers.
â€œWith the rest of the money, I can comfortably look after my four children and pay their school fees. I have also bought land in Busingu village,â€ Kibalaba says.
He has now become a model farmer. Many farmers visit his home to find out how he has managed to keep many animals on such a limited space of land.
â€œCleanliness is crucial, if a dairy farmer is to get quality milk,â€ Kibalaba emphasises. For a balanced diet, Kibalaba feeds his cows on spent grain, from East African Breweries at Luzira.
He says the spent grain has improved the quality and quantity of milk because it contains a lot of protein and sugar. He supplements this with grass, which is delivered to his farm on a hired truck.
Kibalaba also mobilises the women in the area to gather banana peels for him, paying them sh1,000 per full gunny bag. During milking, the cows are given mineral salts and premix containing vitamins to boost their production.
Once in a while, Kibalaba sells off one of his mature cows to pay fees for his children, and use the rest of the money to buy a calf to replace the sold cow. That is how he maintains the number of cows on the farm.
Kibalaba also helps young local dairy farmers in his area to get market for their milk. He buys it from them at sh800 and sells it at sh1,000.
â€œGood quality cows die off easily, the better the cow, the more it is likely to die,â€ Kibalaba laments. He says tick borne diseases are the cowsâ€™ worst enemy.
â€œMarketing my milk is not so much of a problem, but I have heard the authorities want to ban unpasturised milk.â€ Kibalaba also finds problems in getting cows of a good breed.
Getting quality semen is also a problem: â€œAll bulls can serve a cow on heat, but not all bulls are of good breed,â€ Kibalaba says.
â€œI get quality semen from East Africa Dairy Development Project in Nakasero. The heifer has a capacity of 35 litres a day,â€he adds.
Farmers should endeavour to know the bullâ€™s history. They should also look out for the size and shape of the cowâ€™s udder. A good heifer costs between sh2m and sh3m. â€œI advise young farmers to venture into dairy farming, it is clean business,â€ says Kibalaba.
â€œI want to buy more cows, and reduce on the the amount of time I spend on other activities. I would like to concentrate on things that are low risk, my cows do not put me on pressure, especially if I have my wifeâ€™s help.â€
We swapped the blackboard for a fishnet before dairy farming