It remains a mystery why more African farmers are not breeding the native African Guinea fowl. They are hardy, low on cost, and in demand. Farmer Humphrey Milanzi makes best use of these bords.
Guinea fowl are Gallinaceous birds like chickens and turkeys. Members of the order Numididae, they are native to Africa and there cannot be many Africans who are not familiar with this distinctively coloured bird.
The helmeted Guinea fowl is raising interest in the Zambian farming sector and at K2.50 per egg and K35 or more for a mature bird, this is hardly a surprise.
Seasonal breeders, these Guinea fowl are a common sight throughout the Sub-region especially in spring and summer when one sees them foraging cautiously with their young.
They have a unique and distinctive call and like chickens, they will run rather than fly when alarmed. The Guinea fowl diet is varied, ranging from fruit and seeds to insects, reptiles and small mammals.
STRONG MARKET DEMAND
Guinea fowl farmer, Humphrey Milanzi (42) of Mpika in Muchinga province, says the birds lay for at least three months before they brood and are a source of both eggs and meat.
“Guinea fowl meat is tasty, with a good flavor,” says Humphrey. “There is strong demand in the market which is why Guinea fowl gets a better price [than chicken].”
According to a study by the University of Zambia’s (UNZA) School of Agriculture, the demand for poultry meat is on the increase, but there is not much diversification in the sector as most poultry farmers produce chicken.
“Guinea fowl production is less capital intensive than chicken farming,” says Humphrey. “I started with 15 birds four years ago, and at my peak I was producing 120 guinea fowl a month from a laying flock of about 50.”
Guinea fowl droppings make good manure for the maize and other crops Humphrey grows on his 10ha smallholding.
The business took a serious knock when Humphrey lost 800 Guinea fowl eggs in November last year during a 48-hour power outage which affected the five provinces of Muchinga, Lusaka, Central, Eastern, Copperbelt and Northern. “I nearly abandoned my Guinea fowl venture,” he says.
Once he had decided not to give up, Humphrey took some notice of where he had gone wrong. “It quickly dawned on me that my planning was way off – I had not thought about what I would do if there was a power cut. So, I decided to go back to the drawing board,” he explains.
I had not thought about what I would do if there was a power cut
He looked for the best advice he could find from agri-business consultants and experts and then worked out a new plan. “I covered worst-case scenarios, and then I looked at breeding, housing, lighting, feeding, health care and marketing. To spread the risk in a volatile market, I grow village chickens alongside the Guinea fowl.”
Humphrey’s ‘new look’ farming business focused on raising guinea fowls for meat, eggs and breeding. Guinea fowl meat is a lucrative product line with the average price of guinea fowl in a restaurant at K65/ meal. He has regular orders for between 10 and 15 birds a week from local restaurant owners. “The increasing demand puts me in a good place to expand production,” he says.
Humphrey is under-supplied with eggs because he is still recovering from his loss and needs to grow numbers. Lately, he has also seen an increase for orders of day-old chicks and fertilised eggs, from aspirant Guinea fowl farmers. Since last November, the laying flock has grown to about 35 hens. There are also 35 Black Australorp chickens.
Investment in a relatively affordable solar system underpinned the rebuilding of the Guinea fowl venture. “I cannot plan enough as far as having alternative power sources is concerned,” Humphrey says. Ventilation, lighting and temperature are key elements in housing plans. The houses are made from brick and corrugated iron sheeting and partitioned to accommodate the village chickens.
Buying a mini-sized incubator has improved the hatching rate. “Eggs hatch between day 15 and 17 after incubation,” he explains.
Birds are housed in a clean environment and vaccinated according to protocols recommended by extension officers. “Guinea fowl are pretty disease-resistant and I have not lost a single bird to disease in the four years I have kept them.
Humphrey uses starter mash before he switches to grower mash at eight weeks. “Good feed from the start means healthy birds and a decent product.”
Word-of- mouth advertising and customer interaction have kept Humphrey’s Guinea fowl business buoyant. His friends and relations help spread the word about his product. “This has worked very well. I tell them about my products and ask them to tell others for a small commission on every introduction that translates into a sale,” he says.
Facebook marketing, specifically, presence on the popular page for Zambian farmers, small scale farming (farming as a business) has helped Humphrey access markets beyond Muchinga. “Facebook has become an integral part of people’s lives, adding value to businesses such as mine. I now have customers across Zambia,” he says.
Contact: Humphrey Milanzi 097 772 8189
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