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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Fabricator helping dairy farmers ditch wooden cattle sheds

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Best dairy sheds: Patrick Mugendi, 29, is not your ordinary metal fabricator. Like other fabricators, he has an engineering workshop where customers walk in to make their orders for housing fabrications such as gates, metal doors and windows.

But unlike many other fabricators, he also loves to employ his engineering skills to solve complex problems for business.

It is this problem solving attitude in life that has seen him create an innovation that is helping dairy farmers modernise their operations.

As timber prices soar in the country following the ban on logging, the young innovator is now helping start up dairy farms to put modern cattle sheds that do not use wood.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) producer price index for quarter three 2018 shows that timber prices increased by 36 percent following a government move this year to ban logging.

Mr Partrick Mugendi i n one of cowsheds he has constructed at Kamburu in Lari, Kiambu County. ERIC WAINAINA|NATION

Mugendi says his modern steel and concrete cattle sheds are long lasting, cost effective, clean and scalable unlike the wooden structures.

He says his modern cattle sheds were inspired by the need to save dairy farmers the high cost of repairs they incur on wooden frame cattle shed.

“As most of the wood used in the structures is not treated, it is susceptible to termites attacks, wood lice and fungi that weaken the wood structure,” says Mugendi.

“Treated wood on the other hand is dangerous because the chemicals used in the treatment process are harmful to both human and animal health,” he adds.

Mugendi says it took him a year between 2016-2017 to research and design his modern cattle shed.

“I wanted to design a cattle shed that incorporated all the needs of a dairy farm from animal shelter, feed processing, milking bay, and cold room for milk storage,” he says.

When the design work was completed he hit the road marketing the concept to prospective clients through word of mouth and his facebook page (https://m.facebook.com/Kingswaymetalworks/).

Luckily for him, he was already in the fabrication business and his first target for the concept were his regular customers.

The first adopter of the concept was Kiambu tycoon and owner of property development firm Ideal Homes Peter Mbutha.

“Mbutha was my regular customer at my fabrication workshop in Kamulu. I have fabricated most of the steel works in his project sites. I had heard from some mutual friends that he was planning to put up a medium sized diary farm,” says Mugendi.

Mbutha liked Mugendi’s concept and the design and signed the dotted line for construction of a cattle shed that holds 200 dairy cows on his farm.

Mr Partrick Mugendi doing welding worksof a cowshed he is constructing at Kamburu in Lari, Kiambu County. ERIC WAINAINA|NATION

Since then, Mugendi who entered the fabrication industry to raise his high school fees, spends most of his time supervising building the cattle sheds for entrepreneurs seeking to cash in dairy business.

Currently, he is supervising the construction of a dairy farm owned by NASA Executive Director, Norman Magaya in Machakos. He is also overseeing the construction of three others sheds in Meru, Kiambu, Nakuru.

He has employed 12 people on permanent basis.

“Our workforce varies depending on the projects in the pipeline and may sometimes shoot to 250, depending on the project size and the landscape,” he says.

He says it takes between 2-4 months to construct a cattle shed that can accommodate 100 cows at a cost of Sh. 900, 000. The sheds come with animal feeding and rest areas, milking bay, feed processing and storage facilities and milk storage.

Mugendi says the government should consider reducing duty for steel bars to promote modern sheds.

“Government should realise that dairy farming falls within its big four agenda particularly of food security. Reducing duty on steel used in dairy farming would improve milk production and creates jobs in the dairy industry value chain,” he says.

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