Makasa Musonda, 43, of Lusaka is doing very well out of his goat farming business, although it hasn’t always been that way.
Before 2014, the father of five children, married to Vienna, had started a number of enterprises none of which were as successful as his goat farming venture. First, he bought and sold imported second-hand Japanese vehicles; then he traded motor parts across borders. None of these offered him as much satisfaction as the goat farming business.
“You know those times when things really don’t go your way and then, quite unexpectedly, they do,” Musonda says.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF LOW STARTUP
With little start-up capital and a good market driven by increasing consumer demand for goat meat motived Makasa to go into goat farming. Goats are highly fertile with early sexual maturity and less risky than other livestock businesses.
“My business planning showed that I could quickly upscale production and capitalise on the attractive market conditions. I’m in my third season of breeding and I’m producing 300 – 400 every quarter and all of them are sold for breeding,” says Makasa. He gets an average price of K650.00 from the 700 small-scale goat breeders he sells to.
He set up his infrastructure, a block brick building with a tin roof, on 92ha of land in Litete, Central province; hired four permanent workers and bought three popular breeds, Lalimboco, Boer goats and Kalahari goats.
ADJUSTING TO LIFE AS A GOAT FARMER
Things got different and more difficult for Makasa; he left his home in Lusaka and moved to his farm where he lived rough until decent accommodation was built. Farming goats meant the daily discipline of early starts and late endings.
“We have a work structure that rotates staff so that everyone gets varied experience and grasps the skills needed,” he says. Written rules and procedures helped with discipline and team cohesion Makasa explains.
The day begins with prayer followed by breakfast after which goats are let out to graze. While some team members milk and feed others pick up supplementary feed and clean up the pens and holding areas. Part of the forage flow planning is to source hay from neighbouring farms.
“The way we work is liberal and tolerant but we maintain focus and discipline in our work. For example, when I complete a task, I look around and help someone else who is behind in their job,” Makasa says. “In time, everyone is has gained a deeper knowledge of goat management from feeding to medicating them, and generally have come to value the manner of life on the farm,” he says.
The business model is simple: he produces goats for breeding and the customers are smallholder farmers and co-operatives. In the last three years, the customer base has grown, along with the profits.
The marketing approach is informal, mainly by word of mouth and referral. Lately, a Facebook presence has helped to improve customer reach.
Animals are delivered to designated points in Lusaka and the Copperbelt provinces where it is easy for customers to pick up. In areas off the rail line, customers collect off the farm or from a designated drop off in either of the two provinces. “We make our goats conveniently available to a growing number of consumers nationwide,” he says.
Makasa has a long term plan to expand by establishing an innovative, up-to-date, supply chain, that combines both online and offline elements. Growth would be stimulated by the interest of the Saudis who are looking at importing 1 millions goats a year.
MEETING THE CHALLENGES
Though goat farming is comparatively cheaper than other livestock enterprises, there is still a need for investment in vaccination against diseases such as goat pox and foot- and-mouth. And vaccines are expensive he says.
“We have had a few disasters mainly because the vaccinations were not done in time due to financial constraints. This is something we have to be vigilant about going forward even if it is a huge cost for small farmers like us,” he says.
To reduce the cost the team takes extra care of the breeding bucks, kids and pregnant does, providing shelter from cold and rain and ensuring that the housing is always clean and properly covered. “This has helped us to reduce diseases and deaths,” he says.
While the goat business remains profitable, Makasa has branched off into aquaculture on his farm to add value to his business. He believes that some diversity can provide a cushion for times when the goat market suffers a slide, especially after the rainy season.
“In the three years we have bred to sell to breeders, we have discovered that after the rainy season the business slowed down.”
The aquaculture enterprise could grow big enough to produce 60 000 fingerlings he says. Currently he is doing 3 500 fingerlings but growth is good.
Makasa says he followed the advice of a fisheries officer. After soil sampling, they dug two ponds of 50m x 40m and 40m x 40m. Currently he is only culturing tilapia in the bigger pond.
Starting off a low capital base he intends to expand the operation from the profits being generated. “We get about 3 500 fish from the two ponds every six months and the demand is encouraging me to expand to 60 000, the full capacity of our two ponds,” he says.
For someone who had tried his hand at so many ventures before he got the recipe for success right, Makasa is looking forward to a bright future.
Contact: Makasa Musonda +260 97 7918303