T. J O'Shea.

Farming & planting in British East Africa. A description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects online

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Online LibraryT. J O'SheaFarming & planting in British East Africa. A description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects → online text (page 6 of 16)
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formed, and has been well supported by breeders, so
that the future of the industry, fostered by a body of
this sort, should be assured.


Pig breeding and fattening, if given the attention
it requires, should be one of, if not the most, lucra-
tive and prosperous industries of the country. Any
farmer v^^ho is prepared to treat pig breeding as an
important industry, and not, as in a great many cases,
as an unimportant side line, should with care and
attention to the feeding of his stock, be able to make
not merely a living out of them, but a fortune of no
small magnitude.

My remarks on paying attention to stock and
feeding apply to all branches of stock breeding, but
in the case of pigs the utmost care and attention are
indispensible to success.



"Poultry farming is slowly but surely advancing
-■- inB.E.A.

RECENT PRO- I come in touch with poultry farmers all over

GRESS. B.E.x\. and Uganda, and am of the opinion that

poultry farming as a paying proposition has made
decided strides during the last two years, and has
completely recovered from the temporary setback it
received at the beginning of the War. This condi-
tion arises partly from the difficulty of importing
birds. Three years ago a bird cost about 5/- to im-
port, whereas now it will cost between 12/- and 15/-,
even when importing a fairly large consignment,
and even then it is very doubtful whether the birds
will arrive safely. This difficulty has caused would-
be purchasers to depend much more on local produc-
tion. This has resulted in a small "boom" in
country bred stock, especially in the more popular
breeds, such as White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds
and Buff Orpingtons. There is also a good demand for
Turkeys and Ducks, but apparently, there are very


few pure bred birds of either of these breeds in the
country, and Turkeys are, unfortunately, being very

There are several factors detrimental to the value of a
B.E.A. Poultry Fancy. The chief is the lack of a poultry club.
Poultry Club. There was a Club formed, but it is
lying dormant, very dormant. It was shelved owing
to the outbreak of War, but if all the many Associa-
tions, etc., which have been formed during the last
eighteen months can flourish, surely it is time the
Poultry Club was resuscitated. The Club, well
worked, would give immense impetus to the poultry
fancy. It would put members in touch for the
exchange of ideas, also for business. Then again,
experienced breeders would give the benefit of their
knowledge to the assistance of the inexperienced
breeder. The result would be better bred birds in
the country and better business methods.

Of two other obvious deterrents to progress, one
is caused by the professional poultry farmer, {i.e., one
who breeds poultry in the hope of making reasonable
profit), the other by the novice.

Tlie mistake very often made by the professional
poultry farmer iai the lack of systematic breeding.
By systematic breeding, I mean breeding with a
definite object in view, either colour, form, or egg
producing qualities, or a combination of all. In
B.E.A. the selection of the breeding pen seldom re-
ceives the careful study, both singly and collectively,
necessary that the breeder may know what traits to
expect in the progeny. Careful selection of the birds
for the breeding pen is, at present, all that is required
in breeding; trap-nesting is practically unknown in
B.E.A. and, except in a small way, could not possibly
pay for the trouble.

This brings me to the second stumbling block, profitable
The inexperienced poultry farmer in all countries is prices.
a thorn in the side of the professional, but in this
country he attains to great magnitude. Many
novices w^hen buying pure bred birds of some well-
known strain offer a price we should ask for a " barn-
door " hen in England, quite overlooking the cost
of production (original cost of imported birds, plus
losses by sickness and vermin). Poultry farming in


this country will never become a paying proposition
unless the breeder can realise fair prices for his pure
bred stock. Say Rs. lo/- upwards for pullets, 15/-
up wards for cocks, 7/50 to 10/- for sittings, and 1/25
a dozen for eating eggs on contract, or 1/50 to 2/-
a dozen on small orders.

The demand for "shenzi" (native) fowls and
eggs by the military authorities should make a
decided scarcity of native birds. This should do
something towards improving the trade in English
table birds, a branch of poultr}^ farming which up to
the present shows a very small margin of profit to
the dealer.

AS A COM- Poultry farming as a commercial proposition, with

MERCIAL foodstuffs procurable at a comparatively low figure,

PROPOSITION, should show satisfactory returns, but unfortunately,
it is an industry which is going through a very pro-
longed infancy. As a side branch to general farm-
ing it can be made to show a very decent profit, but
as a single venture, I very much doubt that a living
could be made at the present time. We are still so
much at the mercy of the dreaded Cholera and
Kikuyu Fowl Disease. These diseases have been
responsible for considerable losses in the past, but the
Pathological Department has done a certain amount
of research in them and can now, I believe, inoculate
the birds to make them immune for a year.

THE RIGHT The B.E.A. poultry farmer has to buy his experi-

WAY TO START, ence very dearly, and it is decidedly unwise for one,
if lacking experience, to lay out a large sum of money
at the start. The novice who will go slowly, start
in a small way, and gradually build up his flock, will
score every time. For, having only a small number
of birds to consider, he will be able to give each bird
individual attention, thus greatly minimizing the risk
of losing the whole flock by an epidemic. With ex-
perience comes the ability to rapidly overlook a large
flock and immediately detect the first sign of sick-
ness. With poultry diseases in this country time is
everything, and the immediate removal of one sick
bird from a flock may prevent a serious epidemic. In
any serious illness it is absolutely waste of time and
money to doctor a sick bird. The only safe course
is to kill the bird (without drawing blood) and burn
the carcase, thus minimizing the risk of the disease
spreading to the rest of the flock.


The housing of the birds depends mostly on local HOUSING.
conditions, as to whether there is, or is not, vermin,
such as mongoose, serval cat, etc., in the neighbour-
hood. In most parts vermin proof houses, and in all
parts, easily disinfected houses, are a necessity.
Wooden houses are unsuitable. Insect pests under
the best conditions are difficult to keep under, and
to build wooden houses is to ask for trouble. Corru-
gated iron affords the safest house. The objection to
iron is that it attracts the heat, but this can be
obviated by covering the house with a grass or reed
thatch. These houses can be made any shape but
should never be made too large to be portable, fre-
quent shifting to fresh groiuid being one way of
avoiding disease. I have found a triangular sliape
the most satisfactory. The frame should be of cut
timber, 8 ft. by 4 ft. broad at the base. Two corru-
gated iron sheets 8 ft. long are used either side, and
one 8 ft. sheet bent in half is placed over the length-
wise beam at the top. One end should be filled in
with iron, the other should have a hinged door, the
peak at either end being filled in with doubled fine
mesh wire netting, allowing a through current of air
without any risk of depredations by mongoose, etc.

The perches should be entirely separate — straight To PREVENT
bars of cut timber, with rounded edges, raised about disease.
three inches from the ground by blocks fixed either
end. A house of this description lends itself to easy
disinfecting. Place a small quantity of damp grass
down the centre of the house, well away from the
joists. Sprinkle with carbolic or other disinfectant,
put a light to it and close up the house and allow the
grass to smoulder. This done monthly will greatly
assist in eradicating insect pests, and, incidentally,
to keep away infection.

Cleanliness is of paramount importance and must
be carried into every department and every detail.

Another vermin proof house, and one that may a serviceablB
appeal to the poultry farmer who has the timber con- house.
venient while corrugated iron is at its present high
price, can be made of poles. The poles should
be let about a foot into the ground and placed close
together, and covered inside and outside with wire
netting. The roof should be formed of corrugated
iron, or of thatch covered with wire netting.


INCUBATING. Incubating is carried on in B.E.A. with very-

varied success. The chief difficulty arises from
extremes of temperature between night and day,
causing great difficulty in regulating the temperature
of the machine. This is a branch of poultry farming
where practical experience combined with careful
study is the only way to success.

A SUITABLE An incubator house should be a building by

INCUBATOR itself and the best material is stone. A house to hold
HOUSE. one medium sized machine should have a f^oor space

of about 8 ft. square, which will allow space for the
attendant and the accessories. The floor should be
two feet, or even more, below the outside ground level,
to prevent vibration and to keep the temperature
even. The foundations should be of cut stone, two
stones thick from the base to two rows above the
outside ground level and fixed in cement. After this
the walls can be built of small rough stones and mud,
but all corners shoiild be of cut stone.

The roof should be built on four posts, firmly
fixed in the ground outside the house and not touch-
ing the walls, to avoid vibration when the wind is
strong. The four posts are connected by cross pieces
and from these is built a well thatched conical shaped
roof of reeds, with a one in one slope. A house built
in this manner will show a practically unvarying
temperature, and materially contribute to the succesB
of one's efforts at incubating.




TT is now some 5 years since the first experiment in
-^ growing flax for fibre was made at Gilgil by the
East Africa Syndicate. The results were so encourag-
ing that after some further experiments by the
Director of Agriculture at the Government Farm,
Kabete, one of the leading authorities on fibres in
England, was invited by the Government to visit
and inspect the whole country and report on its suit-
ability for growing this crop on a commercial scale.
The impression formed by this tour may be gathered


from the fact that on his return to Nairobi this autho-
rity immediately formed a Syndicate (in which he was
largely interested) to develop the industry by the
erection of a factory at Lumbwa, which he selected
as being an exceedingly suitable district for the
crop. This factory has now been running continu-
ously for more than two years, and the figures given
later are calculated from actual results.

Present experience goes to show that the most soil and
suitable elevation for flax cultivation lies between elevation.
6,000 and 7,500 feet above sea level and it thrives on
almost any soil which is not water-logged. At lower
altitudes the percentage of fibre appears to be less.

The crop takes about 3 5^ months on the average RAINFAI,l.
to be ready for harvest, and provided it receives
sufiicient rainfall during the first two months from
seeding, germination will be perfect and the results
certain. Owing to the suitable conditions existing
here, two crops can be grown in one year. The
quality of the fibre depends largely on this early rain-
fall, as if it fails the fibre will be of a dry and harsh
nature. Rainfall in B.E.A. is consistent in most

Cultivation should be thorough and the soil re- cultivation.
duced to a fine tilth.

In Lumbwa the practice is now to sow about 100 seeding.
lbs. per acre, and not less. Care should be taken
that good clean Russian seed should alone be used,
and from Riga, Pernau or Selmev for preference.
Indian seed is no good for fibre. The seed should
be turned in with a light harrow, and the land rolled
to a smooth surface to ensure an even growth to the

Any weeding required should be done when the weeding
young crop is not more than 2 inches liigh, after which
no attention is required until it is ready to be pulled.

It is important that pulling should be done pulling.
exactly at the right time, and well-grown flax should
indicate this by showing a golden colour on the lower
part of the stem from which the leaflets have
dropped, leaving the upper part of the stem greenish



and showing the seed capsule of a reddish yellow
colour. Pulling must be done by hand and
each handful laid aside with the root ends kept as
level as possible. In fine weather, after two days
these handfuls should be turned over, and after two
days more if sufficiently dry three or four handfuls
should be tied up in sheaves and stacked. When the
seed is mature it is threshed out and the strand is
now ready for retting. Threshing by native labour
here costs Rs. 2 per acre, by hand : if done by
machinery the cost would be much less.

Up till now retting has been done here in two
ways — dew retting and water retting. No tank
retting on the Belgian system (by which method the
highest quality of fibre is produced) has as yet been
adopted. The strand is now ready for the mill and
passes out of the hands of the grower.

A good crop should produce at least i>^ tons of
retted straw and 420 lbs. of cleaned seed per acre,
while a really first class crop should exceed these
figures by 25 per cent.

To the grower the lower of these figures, even
taking the small percentage of 12% fibre and 10% tow
(samples have been proved 15% in this country)
means : —

For straw ... ... Rs. 180 per acre.

For seed ... ... Rs. 70 per acre.

Rs. 250 per acre.
Straw is paid for by the factory at the present
time at the rate of Rs. 10 for 1% of fibre.

The whole cost of cultivation, including seed
and all labour, until the straw is ready for the
factory should not exceed Rs. 62, which leaves the
very satisfactory profit to the grower of Rs. 188 per
acre. The immense advantage, however, when the
farmer or group of neighbouring farmers own their
own mill, will be apparent from the following factory

In Belgium the usual size of factory is 40 scutch
mills, and it will probably be found that this is the
most economical unit of size in this country, as one



M ''




vs^^v^^^ ^^


j' A







skilled white man can look after all the work. It
would deal with 900 tons of straw per annum, repre-
senting at the above rate an area under flax of 600
acres. This would probably prove a convenient
arrangement for a group of 3 or 4 neighbouring farms
and the factory would naturally be situated in the
position that best suited the group.

The cost of such a factory erected and complete COST,
but exclusive of motive power should not exceed
Rs. 10,000. The working costs of such a factory
from the entrance of the raw material to the delivery
of the finished article at a London wharf — including
management, labour, depreciation, stores, freight,
insurance and brokerage, should not exceed Rs. 20,000
per month.

Taking London prices of flax at £iSo and tow at returns.
;£75 per ton — prices which have already been greatly
exceeded by the local article — the income of the
factory would run to Rs. 34,000 per month.

Showing a factory profit of Rs. 14,000 per month, profit.
or say Rs. 276 per acre per aniuun. If therefore the
farmer has his own mill his combined profits work
out at Rs. 470 per acre per annum.

These results can be attained only by thoroughly
good farming and thoroughly skilled factory super-



T^HE area suitable for sheep farming in B.E.A.
is limited. The country is hardly big enough to
run very large herds as in Australia, but small
herds can be very well and profitably farmed.

While cattle can be said to do well in nearly
every part of the country, the same cannot be said ™^„^Tp!I
of sheep. So far they have been found profitable ^^^irilts.
only in the Rift Valley (that is from Kijabe to
Nakuru), the Loita Plains and Laikipia, Molo and
some parts of the Uasin Gishu.

SUITABLE It may be taken as proved that the Merino

BREEDS. (Robust wool type) is the most suitable breed to

cross with the natives sheep; but in consequence of
the advance in the price of crossbred wool, and the
local demand for mutton, a number of Romney
Marsh rams have lately been imported into the

The natives of B.E.A. have had sheep for
hundreds of years, the Masai tribe at present
possessing the best and the greatest numbers. The
native sheep are very poor animals, but when crossed
with Merino rams the results are excellent.

CATTLE AND It is advisable for every intending settler to

SHEEP BEST. realise that sheep and cattle must be farmed to-
gether, as the grass must be well eaten down, and
grass fires be avoided as much as possible, before
sheep will thrive. There should be at least 50
head of cattle to every 500 head of sheep.

EAST AFRICAN Wool from British East Africa has quite a

WOOL. good name on the market, and steady prices have

always been obtained, the pre-war prices being

from ninepence halfpenny per pound for grade wool.

Current prices are approximately as fol-
lows:— Good grade ewes 16/- each; hoggets 1.3/4;
wethers 16/- to £1; native sheep 10/-; grade rams
£2; Merino flock rams £4.

ESTIMATE OF The cost of running a small flock of 2,000

COSTS. head for one year should be roughly as follows :

Herds and their food
Dips, medicines, etc.,
Shearing, repairs and sundries




This works out at just a shilling per head per
annum, not including white supervision.

The natives, more especially the Masai, make

good herds, and most of them make quite good

shearers, their wages being from 2/8 to 4/- per
hundred sheep.


As most sheep farmers in the country will
own, losses from disease are fairly high. A small
flock, however, should not have a higher per-
centage of loss than 6 per cent., excluding un weaned

Wire worm is undoubtedly the worst pest far- diseases.
mers have to contend with, but with regular dosing
and change of grazing this trouble can be over-
come. Scab also can be eflFectually kept under by
dipping. Foot rot, which is rather bad in the more
rainy parts of the countr\', can be greatly reduced
by cutting the sheep's feet twice a year. Other
diseases, such as sheep pox, can be dealt with by
the inoculation of a vaccine which has been prepar-
ed by the Pathological Department. It is most
important, howexcr, that sick sheej) should be iso-
lated and be given special attention.

The usual time for lambing is from October lambing
to December. Shearing takes place during De- season.
cember and January. It has been found ad-
visable in those par^s of the country where the
rainfall is heavy, to shear the lambs about seven to
eight months after they are dropped, as the carry-
ing of a heavy fleece for many months over that
period pulls down the sheep very much in condi-

Every sheep farmer must have a small dipping importance
tank, either one of Cooper's portable swim baths, oF dipping.
or one of stone or cement.

In no part of the country has it been found
necessary to shed sheep. For bomas, those con-
structed of bush or hurdles that can be easily re-
moved, have been found most suitable.

Since the inception of the Government Stock government
Farm at Naivasha, sheep have been given considerable stock farm,
attention there, and the progress made is evidenced naivasha.
by the attached extracts from the Manager's Report
for 1915-16.

"We have many varieties and grades of sheep 011
the farm, including pure Merino and pure Suffolk,
grade Merino, grade Lincoln Merino, grade Down
Merino and grade Welsh Merino. We have the


above up to the 6th and 7th crosses, and the wool
of the higher grade merino is equal to a great deal
of pure Merino wool and is well reported upon by
our London Agents.

The Suffolk crosses give a very nice mutton
animal and the demand for rams of this grade was
very marked at the last Annual Sale.

MUTTON The stud ewes and rams purchased from Messrs.

CROSSES. Faulkner and Sons, Boonoke, have bred excellently,

and we have reared some very nice rams and ewes
from the importation, which are now pure Boonoke
blood but bred in East Africa.



The clip was good, the weight of fleece per
animal being about the same as previous years. The
report on the clip was very satisfactory, and the
prices obtained were very good, considering the
times, being iid per lb. for pure Merino ewe fleeces,
lod. and loj^d. per lb. for grade Merino fleeces.

These prices pay us very well and compare
favourably with those obtained by any other country.

Our shearing costs from five to six shillings per
hundred animals, while the cost is much higher in
other countries : indeed the general labour expenses
in connection with sheep and shearing are much
cheaper here than in many places, while the increase
here is as good and in many instances better.

For the welfare of a flock I believe in plenty of
salt, and I am now inclined to think that sheep want
a little lime and I am also of this opinion re cattle.

The sheep on the farm are certainly an eminently
paying proposition, taking into account the wool
increase and sales of sheep.

MEDICINES. I find that the pure Merino sheep and pure bred

lambs are just as hardy as any of the grades. As
regards dosing, I have used the same as in previous
years, that is. Cooper's powder sheep dip and salt,
and Cooper's powder sheep dip and bluestone; the
latter in liquid form and the former in dry state. All
sheep treated are fasted for 20 to 24 hours previous
to dosing.


None of the stock have been pampered or kept in no STOCK
a way that a private person could not do. All the pampered.
pure bred stock, both cattle and sheep, are out day
and night all the year round, that is, they are grazing
all day and are in bomas of wire without any cover-
ing at night.

Among ewes the general deathrate was low, but
as regards grade lambs it was higher this year than
usual, and much higher than in th^ pure Merino

To the pure Merino rams during the tupping
season I always give a feed of crushed maize. I am
also a believer in giving young Merino rams in this
country a little feed of some kind — lucerne or crushed
maize — and in grazing them out all day. I find they
do ever so much better when treated in this way; the
feed being discontinued at a later date and resumed
at tupping time."

The beginner would be well advised to buy sound .\dvick.
good ewes of strong constitution to start with, and
to spend a short time on a sheep farm, especially
during shearing, before moving on his own. At
the start the beginner is bound to have some losses,
but he will find that as soon as his flock has got
acclimatized to his farm, sheep are undoubtedly
one of the most profitable branches of farming in
British East Africa.







^EA cannot yet be regarded as among the products
that have proved themselves commercial pro-
positions in B.E.A. Nevertiheless, experiments have
proved that in parts of the Highlands the soil and
climate are favourable to its growth, and several
schemes are on foot to lay down plantations.

As far back as 1903 an experiment was under-
taken at Limuru by the late Mr. G. W. h. Caine, who
had considerable experience of tea in India, and in
the following year an area of two acres was planted
out with plants raised from seed of the Manipur
hybrid variety. Unfortunately a break in the rains
just after the transplanting resulted in the loss of
many of the plants. Notwithstanding this, some
500 healthy, luxuriant trees of the original experiment
are still flourishing, and may be taken as evidence of
what covild be done with the tea plant in the district.

Samples of this tea sent home to the Imperial

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Online LibraryT. J O'SheaFarming & planting in British East Africa. A description of the leading agricultural centres and an account of agricultural conditions and prospects → online text (page 6 of 16)