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Finding inner strength and hope: Livestock business empowers Ethiopian couple

Bull calves bought for fattening_East shoa (Photo:ILRI\Addisu Abera)

One of Bizunesh’s bull calves ready for fattening (photo credit:ILRI\Addisu Abera).

This story is about a couple, Bizunesh Abu (30) and Wendu Gutema (40), living in Mojo town, Oromia who are involved in dairy farming and fattening of bulls calves. Prior to starting the their livestock production business, Bizunesh and Wendu had both suffered illness that caused them to lose motivation for living and improving their livelihoods. But their reality changed two years ago when Bizunesh attended a short-term training on business entrepreneurship.

Organized by Mekedem Ethiopia, a local NGO, the training included giving seed money of ETB 2,000 (USD 100) to the trainees to start a business. Right after the training, Bizunesh was motivated to start a business of fattening bull calves bought from traders and farmers in the Mojo market and sold at the same market at a higher price.

With an additional 740 ETB from her savings, she bought two bull calves which she sold two months later for a total of ETB 6,700 (USD 320). She reinvested the money from the sale of the animals a couple of times until she had enough savings to buy a lactating crossbred dairy cow for ETB 16,000 (USD 780). The cow produced about 10 litres of milk per day, which they sold at a price of 10 ETB/litre to a milk processing plant. They used profit from the milk sales to buy animal feed and bull calves as well as other items for the farm and household. After they had enough savings from the sale of milk, they started another cycle of fattening calves and saved more to buy a second crossbred cow with its calf. Now they get 18 to 19 liters of milk per day from the two cows. All this happened in a period of two and a half years.

Bizunesh says she finds livestock rearing fascinating because it has given her newfound determination to support herself and her family by her own efforts. She has chosen to be a full-time urban farmer. Her husband, Wendu also enjoys livestock rearing and recently left his job as a security guard to work with Bizunesh in the farm. Bizunesh chose bull calves after observing the increased demand for their meat in Mojo town. ‘But even if the bull calves are not sold on time, they keep growing and fetch even higher prices,’ she says.

The couple explain that the price of bull calves decreases between September and January as farmers bring many grass-fattened animals to market. Particularly in September, they only buy two to three bull calves, which they sell in January when prices increase as the supply of fattened animals from rural farmers declines. They also target holidays to sell the fattened animals.

Bull calves bought for fattening_East shoa (Photo:ILRI\Addisu Abera)

Bull calves are kept by the roadside as Bizunesh and Wundu do not have an alternative space (photo credit: ILRI\Addisu Abera).

The calves are fed agro-industrial by-products (AIBPs) and crop residues, with the former bought from retailers in Mojo town. They also buy straws of barley, wheat, teff and lentil from farmers and occasionally from retailers and Atela (a residue from local brewery) from Tella traders in town to feed their animals. They do not buy feed in bulk due to shortage of storage place and capital. Animal health services such as vaccination and deworming are provided, at a cost, by a nearby veterinary clinic.

Both Bizunesh and Wendu have completed elementary level education. They do not have further training in livestock management. They also lack basic training in record keeping and rely on memory for all the information related to their animals’ condition, their expenditures and revenue.

The couple faces many challenges in running their business. Waste management and unfavorable smell from the manure makes their neighbors unhappy and their calves are crowded in small space especially in rainy season due to lack of land, the high price of input, particularly feed, and difficulty in getting credit are also major problems.

But the couple hopes that the bull calves fattening and the dairy business will eventually help them build a milk processing plant and create job opportunities for fellow Ethiopians.

We got introduced to this couple, who were once bedridden and hopeless but are now successful and visionary, during a feed assessment survey. After an inspiring discussion with the couple, we advised them on different issues of livestock business and pointed out that the Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project can assist them through training on improved livestock management, proper feeding, record keeping and business plan development. In future, the project plans study tours to their farm so that other farmers can learn from their experience in managing their bull calves fattening and dairy production business.

 Written by Abule Ebro, Adissu Abera, Zewdie Adane and Nigatu Alemayehu.

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