Keeping cattle for the beef is his “retirement bank”
My name is Januario Bamurumba, 77 years of age, a resident of Kyamusyoka Village Kabingo Sub-county, Isingiro District but with roots in Bushenyi District and a home in Mbarara Municipality.\r\n
I decided to invest my retirement package in beef ranching and consider it a safe way to keep my money than the bank.
\r\n Previously, in the 1970s, I had been keeping the Ankole long-horned cattle while at the same time dealing in beer. Then, I was an agent of Uganda Breweries under Ankole Original Traders.
After being with these local breeds for about 20 years, I realised they were not giving me the returns I needed. This was because the milk production was very low yet they were expensive to look after. I could not cope with the rigours of maintaining milk cattle and also continue with the beer business.\r\n
I found out that milk cattle are very delicate and needed my supervision most of the time yet I had to pursue the other business.\r\n
By the time I changed from dairy to beef farming, I had less land so I had to buy more. Currently, my ranch sits on a square mile of land.\r\n
Why keep beef animals
\r\n I decided to change to keeping beef animals, which require less care yet the returns are very high. The natural choice at that time was the Boran. At that time I had 100 heads of Ankole long-horned cattle, which I crossbred with the Boran cattle.
\r\n Boran cattle require less labour, grow very fast, multiply easily and bring in faster returns on investment. Besides, they have very good tender meat, which is much sought after by the consumers in the market.
At one and a half years, the well-fed animals especially the bulls will have attained the required weight of about 300kg and I am able to sell them at about Shs 1.2m. Recently, I introduced the Brahman beef cattle from Kenya on my farm.
\r\n I have since further developed the ranch by fencing it off, I dug two dams to provide a constant source of water. I am in the process of introducing the water into every paddock to avoid driving the animals to the water points, which they are currently using.
\r\n I first bought 230 hectares of land at Shs1m in 1972 and later 100 hectares at Shs15m.
\r\n I started with a stock of 100 heads of cattle, which have since multiplied to 400. Running a ranch is not very difficult but I meet some challenges like retaining workers as they keep moving from farm to farm.
I sell animals to traders and other farmers interested in beef ranching. A mature bull, which weighs about 600kg goes for Shs3m while a cow will fetch between Shs1.5m and Shs2m.
\r\n I spend about Shs20m on maintenance and make Shs80m annually from the sales of about 120 heads of cattle. Iam assured of the market because of the quality of animals on my farm. Because of the demand, traders usually call me to confirm whether I have the animals before coming for them.
\r\n To get good quality animals I have been importing Boran bulls from breeders in Kenya and I have no regrets because the results are there for everybody to see. The last bull I bought cost me Shs7m.
It is surprising that while many animals die during the drought, I have never lost any animals since I started beef farming in such circumstances because the Boran can withstand harsh conditions.\r\n
During the 1999 dry season, which was the harshest in the recent times in the Ankole region, very many people lost their animals.\r\n
But I never lost even one yet the animals went for a whole month without adequate pastures. They were literally "eating soil” and drinking water because it is one of the major component in cattle keeping; they survived because of water.
\r\n This is what drove me to love the animals more and also to dig two dams and acquire a water pump to improve the water delivery.
\r\n To stem off tick-borne diseases, I dip the cattle once a week and regularly use veterinary services from the service providers in Mbarara. However the ticks have become resistant to the drugs.
Currently, I am faced with the challenge of drug supplies as some are counterfeit while the dip tanks services from the ministry of agriculture are wanting.\r\n
Dip tanks drugs should be tested periodically but the machine in Entebbe no longer works, this puts our animals at risk because I only guess when to add in more drugs in the dip.
\r\n During the dry season, the ranch is faced with pasture shortage and I have so sell off many animals to avoid losses.
Workers are difficult to keep on the ranch because they keep moving between jobs. At times, they leave at a crucial time when I need them most like during the dry season. I have nine workers including their supervisor.\r\n
Cattle keeping is my retirement package, an activity that keeps me on my toes. I did not need a lot of money to inject in the ranch.\r\n
This is the best "bank” I have and it has enabled me to pay school fees for my five grandchildren in various universities, mine having finished their studies a long time ago.
\r\n I have also built a very good house in Mbarara and I have also laid a firm foundation for my children. Some are in business while others work in offices.
I would want my son to take over and may be look into the possibility of value addition like selling the meat instead of live animals and I believe we shall reach that level in the near future.\r\n