It is a lifestyle where you have your home plus farm or operate farm house, to plant and keep animals for home owner’s basic needs and create an additional income at the same time. In a country such as Myanmar, where the population density is low and most of the people own land outside of their own primary dwelling in the city, homestead farming may be a profitable lifestyle for many, assuming things are done the right way.
In an era, where the country itself is trying for self sufficiency in essentials and reducing $ outflow through non-essential import reductions, home-base livestock farming might kill two birds with one stone, serving both personal as well as country’s agenda.
How do we generate cash flows from livestock farming?
Obviously homestead farming is supposed to generate income from both plants and animals. Agricultural income or income from sale of plants produce (fruits and vegetables) may not be substantial to augment one’s income, unless the land area is sufficiently large. Fruits and vegetables also suffer from having short shelf lives. In a country where logistics facilities are below par and cold rooms facilities and electricity is haphazard and irregular, the perishability risk may not be worth taking.
With livestock, the revenue can be generated in four distinct ways:
- Animal produce, such as eggs, milk, etc.
- Production of offspring
- Sale of meat.
- Growth of the animal.
All the above carry significantly less perishability risks than the fruits and vegetables.
The obvious benefits of livestock farming include having the hedge against inflation, the price of meat and animal produce having a market price (hence unlikely to get exploited) and the fact that demand is always there. You will never encounter a problem of not being able to sell your meat or produce.
What animals would be best?
Typical livestock in Myanmar include cows, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, etc. The choice of your livestock depends on a number of variables:
- Initial outlay: A couple of breeding age cows might cost you nearly $1,000 yet the chicken couple would not set you back by more than $10. Baby goats and piglets are normally priced around $50 per animal.
- Feed costs: Feed costs also vary depending on the type of growth expectations. Cows can survive with just grass around your neighbourhood, goats need diet supplements and pigs definitely need its own feed if you want them to grow fast.
- Produce: Chickens, ducks and geese are regular (daily) producer of eggs, yet, it is quite a chore to extract milk from cows and goats. Pigs would not provide any regular produce.
- Multiplier: Obviously selling the animals (for meat) would be notably more profitable than selling the produce. Hence, we must consider the multiplier i.e., the number of brood the animal is producing and the duration between each gestation period. Cows take nine months like humans, goats and pigs take roughly four months, birds a lot shorter.
- Resale Value: With the birds, we are playing the volume game. With the cows, pigs and goats, resale value of the adults matter a lot in income for the homestead.
What are the dangers that we should watch out?
On the surface, it seems livestock business is easy and profitable. Clearly, it is not wrong, yet we must understand the risks, just like in any other business. The most critical of them is the risk of dying from diseases. Livestock keeping is profitable as long as the animals do not die. A baby pig cost around $50. Four months later, the adult pig it has become, can be sold for nearly $200, provided it does not die during these four months.
The second factor is the season and the weather that surround the homestead. Goats specifically do not like wet weather conditions. They suffer from all kinds of diseases during the rainy season. That’s why most of the goat farming took place in the central belt dry region of Myanmar.
The third is the breeding complications. The vets in Myanmar may not be that well trained to ensure maximum survival of both the mother and the offspring. The youngsters also need special feed.
Another matter to consider is staffing and housing for animals. We need reasonably experienced staff to take good care of the livestock as well as appropriate housing to accommodate them.
Last but not least, we have to realise that animal diseases spread very quickly and you may lose the whole batch of livestock if diseases strike. It might be worthwhile to consider not keeping just one type of livestock in large numbers in one farm location.
How do we start?
We must first consider the available land size, region and the seasons in that particular area. Then we work out the initial outlay we can afford considering the type of animal, housing needs and manpower requirements. The key to the whole livestock farming is starting up. You start small, gather experience and expand.
It could be a welcoming and fun family activity for everyone and at the same time, highly rewarding small business activity for those who take the responsibility of caring for the animals seriously.