By Ayo Alonge
AFTER bagging a degree in Industrial Mathematics, Riliwan Raji thought of nothing else than taking up a poultry business and according to him, that was always his ambition. At the moment, he runs Dekoraj Farms, which specialises in poultry, poultry equipment, consultancy and farmlands. As an expert in the business, the young and successful entrepreneur, in this interview, provides tips for running a successful farm while declaring the venture very profitable. Excerpts:
How long have you been in the business?
The business was my father’s and I was born into it. Immediately after I graduated, I just took up the business because my father is no more anyway. On my own, I have been doing it for four years.
Why did you choose to do this, rather than getting a white-collar job in town, after graduation?
Maybe that is because it’s our upbringing. My senior siblings after graduation went into our businesses. It is a family trend. I have always said I cannot work for anybody.
What does it take to start up a poultry business?
The most important thing is passion. People that aren’t passionate about it fail in the business. It is not a business you can just go into. If you’re not naturally passionate, develop it. It also needs attentiveness.
Could you be more specific and tell us what one needs to put in place in order to be successful in the business?
To be successful in the business, apart from passion, you need huge capital. It is capital intensive. It is a business of numbers. The more birds you do, the better the business for you. If you are doing like 100 birds and another person is doing 1,000 birds, you cannot compare your profit margins and the cost of running both may not be too different. If you want to buy the feeds, on transporting feeds, you are both likely to spend the same.
You must also be mobile. You either need to get a vehicle or get someone that would always be moving things for you. Another thing you have to consider is managerial acumen as well as insurance. You must insure your birds. I tell my clients that they must insure their birds. If you don’t, a disease can break out and you lose all your birds. For someone doing 15,000 birds, when bird flu strikes, automatically the person is out of business already.
Maybe you should address how to prevent such diseases like bird flu on the farm, since that seems to be the major fear of investors…
Yes, there are ways to counter that. Thank God for advanced technology, there are so many vaccines now. Bird flu is not really a major issue now. If you look back, as far back as 2001, bird flu used to be a major problem but because of the biosecurity measures people take now, it has abated. That is why people first disinfect their farms before starting. Government is also giving people the orientation on how to protect their farms from bird flu. The agricultural sector is really equipped, especially in the area of how to cure sick birds. Bird flu comes from the birds that live on water like geese. It is also airborne. That is why you are advised to give a minimum of 100 feet distance between your farm and another farm. You must keep that distance. The longer the distance you keep, the safer your birds are from infection. You also tell your staff to always wash their hands before entering the farm. If you touch any sick bird, ensure you clean your hands very well before attending to the healthy ones. You must also have a veterinary doctor on ground that would help you out. What people do now is self-medication. Quacks would come and tell them to do all what not. They don’t want to pay an expert who may be charging them, maybe on monthly basis.
The business seems to be very cost-effective and maybe quite challenging for starters. How can someone with little capital start up?
To start, the least you must have are 100 birds. That’s a very small scale. There are two ways of running a poultry business. We have the deep litre system and then the caging system. The deep litre system entails rearing your birds on the ground. You only put sawdust. The battery caging system entails building a cage for your birds.
Which is better?
The caging system is better.
Which aspect of farming would you advise anybody to venture into and why?
Looking at it from my own experience, it is poultry. There are also other aspects like tomato, cassava and the rest. Livestock farming entails rearing cattle, goats and poultry. The area people are venturing into now is poultry because it’s easier. It is like on-the-job-training. It is not that you really need to know so much before you can go into it. Someone can just guide you into poultry farming business and you start up.
How profitable is it?
The business is very profitable. It is a business of numbers, and that means it is capital intensive. The cages are also in different sizes and can be hot deep or cold deep. The hot deep lasts longer, say for about 30 years and the cold deep lasts for between seven to 10 years.
What risks and challenges are involved in poultry?
The major risk is disease outbreak. You talk of the New Castle disease and then bird flu. There are vaccines for them and preventive measures though.
How does one maximize profit in egg production?
When you cage the birds, then you can make huge profit compared to the ones on the floor. If you want to maximise profit, you have to produce a cage for them so you can get the best of eggs production from them.
How many eggs do you get on a daily basis?
If you have 2,000 birds, then you can get about 1,600 eggs daily. Put them in crates and you will know how many crates you have. But don’t forget that part of the money you make would be spent on feeds. Other running costs will come too.
How do you hope to grow the business?
Being an engineer and a farmer, I combine two things. I want to expand my farm in such a way that people will wonder if it can be done here. Some of the equipment we import from China can be done here and I can. The more money I get, the more investment. I make money from setting up the business for people and also from my farm.
How can government promote poultry farming?
Government should create an enabling environment for the business to thrive. Government should create the market for us and we may have to go and borrow money to boost production, since there is a ready market.
In your view, what can be done to achieve the one-egg-per-day scheme for school children?
If implemented, it will really help us. The scheme would help us to produce more and it would also encourage investors to come in.