In 1969, Fabiano Ssevvume started turning his farming dream into a reality by assisting his father on the farm. He was then in his early 20s.
“I knew that farming was good business, especially if a person did it well,” he says.
So, with 10 local cattle, Ssevvume, now 70 years old, started his Gomba Ranchers farm that has now turned into one of the best farmers in Gomba district. The farm sits on a two-mile piece of land.
He uses part of this land to grow coffee, maize and beans, rear beef cattle and exotic goats.
“I use about 1,000 acres of this land and the rest is used by my children to farm. I also have squatters on the land who were occupying it before I bought it,” he adds.
On his farm, Ssevume currently has a herd of over 600 beef cattle as his main enterprise in addition to 50 acres of coffee, over 300 Boer South African goats and 200 acres of maize.
Starting beef cattle rearing
Since the area was bushy with shrubs, climbing vegetation and huge trees, Ssevume brought in the local cattle that have a higher resistant rate to environmental challenges like thick shrubs and other harsh conditions than the exotic breeds.
“The farm now has 600 herds of boran beef cattle grazing under a free range system. This has proved to be a well-paying enterprise because although beef is a daily meal, few people have ventured into it, rendering them scarce,” he explains.
Ssevume says if one wants to start rearing beef cattle, they must have a big piece of land or have stored large volumes of feeds because a beef cow eats a lot of feeds. On average, beef cattle can consume as many as 40kg of grass and mixed feeds if it is to get the desirable daily weight.
“We have a boran bull bought at sh3m that serves our cows for reproduction. A boran cow will conceive at one year and six months,” he says. And on delivery, the offspring can gain as many as 250kg in one year. Comparatively, an indigenous Ankole or Zebu cow takes at least five years to attain that weight.
Under normal circumstances, the farm can raise stock to sale regularly. However, with the cattle quarantine in the region due to the foot-and-mouth disease, they have not had any sales for over a year.
“We last sold cattle to people who wanted to breed in 2017. They sold 150 cattle at an average of sh1.3m each.
Ssevume says boran cattle on free range require less labour, grow fast, multiply easily and bring in faster returns on investment. Besides, they have good tender meat, which is much sought after by the consumers on the market.
“I have also fenced off the ranch, dug two dams to provide a constant source of water and constructed a mechanised spraying place to prevent any diseases and pests like ticks. I spray every after three months,” Ssevume says.
Caring for beef cattle
Fredrick Male, the son to Ssevvume who is also the farm’s veterinary doctor, says beef cattle require certain nutrients daily to match its growth rate right from the day if its birth.
“We give our beef calves a lot of milk to help the body develop well and meet the body growth development for at least the first three months,” Male says.
He says after the three months, they start feeding their calves on grass by letting them move to the grazing area and eating as much grass as possible. By six months, they have gained at least 80kg.
“If you do not have enough grass, you need to supplement with mixed feeds but since. We have a large grazing area of about 200 acres, we just let them move under care of herdsmen. They also need a lot of water as beef cattle should take at least 40 liters of water a day,” he adds. At the farm, they have got several water dams.
Farms need both physical and bio-security. For this, Ssevvume says he has erected a barbed wire fence to prevent the animals from getting out and strange animals from coming in as well as keeping away the thieves.
“At the entrance of the farm, we ensure there is a footbath where all visitors clean their feet before entering the farm. The footbath helps to kill all the germs and bacteria that would cause diseases,” he explains.
Tomorrow, we bring you Part 2 of Ssevume’s farming journey