Frequently Asked Questions

What cures fowl pox in small chicks?

Chicken pox or fowl pox is a viral disease caused by a virus. The disease is common in birds such as chickens, turkeys and pigeons.

Dry form: There are two forms of chicken pox in chickens – dry form and wet form. Chicken with the dry form of the disease have wounds that resemble warts on the parts of the bird’s body that have no feathers such as the comb, wattle, ear lobes, eyes and even the feet. This form of the disease is transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes. Birds affected by the dry form of chicken pox usually recover in a few weeks without treatment.

Wet form: The second form of chicken pox or wet form is spread if the birds inhale the virus, which causes the bird to form a false lining of the tissue in the mouth, pharynx and the windpipe (trachea). Yellowish patches appear in the bird’s mouth.

The wet form of the disease is much more serious than the dry form. Fowl pox spreads slowly and a flock may be affected by the disease for several months without visible symptoms. The main symptoms to look for are:

• Affected birds are retarded in growth.

• Laying birds reduce their egg production.

• All the birds have difficulties in eating and breathing.


Like in all viral diseases, there is no treatment for chicken pox once the chicken are infected. If the birds have a strong immune system, they can survive the disease. The first line of defense against chicken pox is therefore prevention through vaccination and improved hygiene in the poultry sheds. Sick birds should be separated from those that appear to be healthy and provided supportive care to improve chances of their recovery.

All layers should be vaccinated.

If the mosquito population is high, all broilers should be vaccinated to protect them against infection. Chicks should also be vaccinated from day one through the wing-web method (under their wings). Vaccination offers long term immunity to the birds.

I have a Fresian cow which has calved for a second time. During the second calving there was incidence of retained placenta and lack of appetite which followed low milk production (5 litres per day). What can I do in such a case?

The retained placenta could be the cause of the problem especially if it has caused an infection. The infection could be what is causing the cow to lose appetite. With the reduced feed intake, there is no way the cow can produce milk. It has to feed well to give milk. Retained placenta is caused by a number of factors such as the calf being too big for the cow. Here, you need to be careful when selecting bulls for breeding; to select bulls that have higher calving ease. Lack of adequate feed, especially during the dry season is also be a factor. Dairy cows that do not get balanced feed may develop uterine prolapse (where the placenta becomes misplaced and gets retained) when calving down, which can lead to retained placenta. It is advised that you immediately get a Veterinarian to examine the cow and treat infections, if there is any.

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Why do we use ash during making of compost?

Most of the organic material used in making compost do notused in making compost do not have adequate amounts of potassium. Ash has a good amount of potash and that is why it is recommended for incorporation into into the compost. You can add ash after every layer of compost to ensure the trace elements in the ash are incorporated into your soil. When added to compost, ash can also help neutralize acidity in the compost as it is more alkaline in nature. It can also help to keep of harmful pests such as snails that may attack the crops you intend to plant. Do not use ash from charcoal as it has some chemicals that may be harmful to your crop if present in high concentrations.

What is the correct ratio of manure application per hole when planting maize?

An acre of land requires about 2.5 tonnes of manure, which is well-composited (well-composited manure is dark brown in colour, has a sweet smell and a crumbly structure). Manure should be incorporated into the soil as soon as it is ready. Ideally, manure should be fully worked into the soil to ensure it mixes completely. In lighter soils, the manure should be mixed deeper into the soil (up to 20cm). In clay soils, manure can be applied on the surface like mulch, which helps to stimulate the microorganisms in the soil. Farmers can add some mulching material such as dry grass or plant leaves to prevent loss of nutrients from the manure.

Build soil fertility gradually

Do not expect to see good results in the first year of manure application. The uptake of nutrients from manure is not as fast as when you apply chemical fertilizer. It therefore takes time before you start seeing good results in terms of yields after manure application. It is always a good farming practice to keep on adding manure every year when preparing the land for planting. After or even before ploughing, spread the manure across the field and then plough. This will ensure the manure is well incorporated into the soil, and reduce nutrient loss.

Compost may not be enough

As for the rate of application  of manure for every hole while planting, you can apply one handful to every hole. The effect on the maize will, however, be very minimal since maize is a heavy feeder; therefore we would advise that when using compost for the first time,  you can add a bottle top of concentrated organic fertilizer to boost the maize growth because the amount of nutrients in one handful of manure is very little and may not help the maize in meeting its nutritional requirements during the growth phase. This is one reason we would advise you to first build the fertility of your soil by adding compost for several years before you can fully rely on compost for fertilization.

My young calf seems to be passing blood in the urine. I have tried several remedies given by friends but the problem seems to persist. Please advise me on what I can do to stop this.

Incidences of blood in the urine in young calves are very common. The problem is mainly caused by excessive intake of water especially for calves fed milk using a bucket. A calf used to getting its milk in a bucket usually develops a habit of taking anything it finds in the bucket. If it finds water, it will drink it non-stop until its kidneys become over worked. Blood will then start appearing in its urine.

The solution is to limit the amount of water the calf takes. You can do this by ensuring the calf does not have unlimited access to buckets or other open water containers in the compound. But, ensure the calves have enough water just to quench their thirst and let the calves graze with the other animals.

Bloody urine more serious for adult cows

For heifers and adult cows blood in the urine can be a sign of a more serious infection such as inflammation of the kidney, a condition caused by a number of diseases including some that are transmitted by ticks. It is difficult for the farmer to know the cause; that is why it is important to consult a veterinarian immediately you notice these problems in your cattle. The condition is treatable.

Which animal waste is the best to use for making an organic fertilizer?

Excrete from most animals are good organic fertilizers. If a farmer can afford to get a of variety poultry, cows or any other manure then the mix gives better results.

How can one control chaffer grubs in maize to stop their destruction?

Chaffer grubs are creamy coloured pests about 1.5cm (0.6 inch) length. The pests are common in the root system of most growing plants. Chaffer beetles lay their eggs on the ground. The eggs later hatch into chaffer grubs, which dig into the soil and come out of the soil later as chaffer beetles.

The chaffer grub is difficult to control using pesticides. But they are controlled naturally by nematodes. The nematodes look for chaffer grubs and attack them by entering through the grubs’ body openings. Once inside the chaffer grub, the nematodes release bacteria that inhibit the chaffer grubs from feeding, in this way eventually killing them. The nematodes reproduce inside the dead chaffer grubs and release more nematodes which also go for other chaffer grubs.

Nematodes control chaffer grubs naturally

 Most farmers do not bother with chaffer grubs because they are controlled by nematodes naturally. You will notice that chaffer grubs never last long in the affected shamba. They therefore cause very little damage to crops. Farmers should ignore chaffer grubs as the damage they cause is not much compared to other pests. If the destruction of the maize is widespread, it is important to check if there are other pests responsible for the problem and take preventive measures such as spraying with plant extracts or related biopesticides.

How can I serve my cow to either come up with a male or a female calf depending with my own choice?

You are expressing an old wish of cattle breeders. Beef producers will prefer male calves, while dairy producers need female calves for restocking. This is one of the things that are difficult to influence. The reason for this is simple: the semen liquid of the bull (in fact of any male creature) contains a mixture of 50% male sperms and 50% female sperms. However, the technology of sexed semen – sperm sexing for male and female sperms - when used on heifers almost guarantees that the calf will be female. The procedure is expensive and challenging technically, and the separated semen is more difficult to handle and pregnancy rates are lower. Sexed semen is available in Kenya, at a higher fee than that of conventional semen.

How does crop rotation contributes towards Soil fertility?

A crop rotation is a widely adopted management practice where two or more crop species re grown in sequence, one after another, in the same part of the or field and therefore contributes to soil fertility in great percentage in the following ways:

* Maintain and improve soil fertility

* Diversify crop production

* Reduce soil nutrients mining

* Control diseases, Pests and weeds

* Control soil erosion

* Recycle nutrients through growing of deep and shallow rooted crops alternately

How it works

* Each crop places different demands on the soil in which it grows.

* Likewise, each crop leaves some amount of beneficial residues or has some effect on the soil structure.

* A good crop rotation combines crops that complement each other by making different demands in different ways.

* A good rotation will also match farmer’s preferences for diet, marketing potential etc.

Maize head smut disease is a major problem affecting farmers in our area. What can we do to prevent the disease from recurring?

Maize smuts or head smut (sphacelotheca reiliana) is a common disease that affects the maize crop in many regions in the country. It is a fungal disease that affects the cobs and tassels of the maize plant. It is suspected the disease originated from maize seed imported into the country.


 The affected maize cob develops white swollen pouches, which turn black, and then burst releasing more black spores that later infect other maize plants.

The affected maize becomes unproductive and can contaminate the entire maize crop. The fungal spores are transported by wind, water, human beings, and animals over great distances to other areas where they infect other crops. The fungus may remain in the soil for many years.

 Control measures

There is no known cure for the disease, apart from good crop husbandry. Farmers who notice maize smuts in theirshambas should cut the affected plant before it releases the spores, and destroy it by burning. Do not put such crop residue in compost heaps or pits. The head smut fungus also affects sorghum with similar symptoms. If the disease is noticed, no crops from the grass family should be planted in the field for a minimum of three years. All shambas bordering the affected farm have to check if their maize or sorghum has developed the signs of the disease and remove any diseased plants. This prevents the disease from spreading.

How do I apply my Diatomite to my grains?

It is done especially at the drying point where sorting out and winnowing is taking place, mixed well according to recommended ratios. 1/2 kg of diatomite for every 90 Kg of maize should suffice.

My chickens stay for a long period of time before they start laying. What could be the problem?

Many poultry farmers particularly those keeping chickens for a long time become puzzled when the hens suddenly stop laying eggs. This happens at times when the birds appear quite healthy. This phenomenon is called moulting. Moulting is process of shedding or renewing feathers. During the moulting period, the reproductive system of a bird comes to a complete rest from laying eggs. The bird builds up its body reserves of nutrients. Moulting is a natural process where the chickens shed their feathers and grow new ones to protect themselves from cold or to maintain their ability to fly through growth of new feathers. Under normal conditions chickens may moult once, twice a year or rarely once in two years depending on breed and conditions under which they are kept. The main factors that bring about moulting are physical exhaustion and fatigue, completion of laying cycle (birds lay eggs for certain period of time). Most poultry farmers lock up their chickens in their sheds to restrict movement especially after planting their crops at the beginning of the rainy season to prevent them from damaging the young crops. The restriction is not accompanied with adequate feeding of the birds. The birds’ conditions deteriorates to a point where the nutrients they receive cannot support egg production because the little feed available to the chickens is used for body maintenance and nourishment of their feathers. Feathers contain proteins and are more easily grown when laying stops because of an unadequate protein for both egg laying and feather production. Chicken, therefore, require adequate and good quality feed to replace the feathers and build up their body condition to start laying eggs again.

I have a small dairy farm and I am following all the best practices in dairy farming. Mine is a zero-grazing lot with four mature dairy cows and another four growing heifers. Three of the cows calved down in 2011-2012 – all for the first time. All deliveries went well and there were no problems except for postpartum (after birth) pneumonia. They were treated and all recovered well. Now all of them have calved down the second time. But strangely, all three had problems of placenta retention. They get all the minerals they need: I feed them with 200 – 300g daily of Ungaphos® or Maclick Super® mineral mixture. I make my own dairy meal mix according to the best-known formulations with due additions of toxin binders, yeast, and cattle pre-mix. That all three showed the same problem makes me doubt if there is something wrong in my maintenance practice. Please advise.

It is hoped you understand and appreciate that retained afterbirth is usually defined as failure to expel the foetal membranes within 24 hours of giving birth. Under normal circumstances, expulsion takes place within 3 to 8 hours after delivery of the calf. The incidence of retained placenta in healthy dairy cows is 5 to 15%. The problem may be increased by abortion, difficult calving, milk fever, twin births, advancing age of the cow, pre-mature birth, inflamed placenta and various nutritional disturbances.With regard to the latter, note that deficiencies of selenium, vitamin A, copper and iodine increase the incidence of retained placenta. Therefore, providing selenium prior to calving reduces the incidence of retained placenta. The incidence of retained placenta is usually higher in overweight cows.

In a normal calving, degeneration and loosening of the placenta begins during late pregnancy and at calving; changes in uterine pressure, reduction in blood flow and physical flattening of the uterine caruncles (lining) during uterine contractions lead to final loosening and expulsion of the fetal membranes.Cows which fail to drop the afterbirth within 36 hours are likely to retain it for 7 to 10 days. This is because substantial uterine contractions do not proceed beyond 36 hours after birth of the calf, and if the membranes have not been expelled by this time, their subsequent separation from the uterine wall can only occur as a result of the rotting of the afterbirth connections to the uterus. Foul smell is a a sign of retained placenta. Their expulsion then depends on the speed of the normal shrinking of the uterus. It is normally easy to diagnose a cow with retained placenta by looking at the degenerated, discolored and unpleasant-smelling membranes hanging from the vulva more than 24 hours after calving, one can confirm a case of retained placenta. Occasionally, the retained membranes may remain within the uterus and may not be readily apparent, but their presence is usually signaled by a foul smelling discharge. I would advise that if the cases are not complicated they would not require treatment. Further note that manual removal of retained fetal membranes in the cow is NOT recommended and is potentially harmful. Ideally stimulating uterine contractions by the use of drugs such as oxytocin or prostaglandins to expel the retained placenta is the most rational treatment.

Do not remove placenta manually. Should manual removal be decided upon, one may attempt to remove the placenta, if favorable circumstances are present, otherwise it always advisable to seek attention of a veterinarian to examine the animal and decide the best course of action.In summary, first time calving cows are classified as growing heifers but after the second calving they become mature milkers. Therefore, if your management and mineral feeding was perfect, check for the weight because it may be responsible for the placenta retention in your herd.Sometimes, there is a genetic connection. Cows, which retain their placenta in the presence of a nutritionally balanced diet, should be considered for culling. I hope this is not the case with your herd. When unusually high incidence of afterbirth retention occurs in a herd, then an investigation to determine the common cause should be instituted. All retention cases, irrespective of the method of treatment should be examined by a veterinarian, about 30 days after calving, and any signs of uterine infection treated by uterine infusion of antibiotics.For that matter, a veterinarian should have checked your cows 30 days after calving and instituted proper treatment.

Hello, I am an interested sheep farmer . I want to do this in the hot lowlands of Kano, on the shores of the lake Victoria, but am not sure if they are suited for such climates. All knowledge I have on sheep rearing is Molo Merino sheep, and I know Molo is a cold place.

Yes, but you would need to get the correct breed to be able to do this.