Managing livestock farming business by working professionals
Nowadays, a good number of working professionals try to find ways to both advance their careers professionally and enhance their wealth or income. In addition to using bank savings plans, the typical possibilities include investing in the stock market, buying national savings certificates, or starting a business. Among them, many have frequently tried to explore the concept of starting a business in the agricultural sector, particularly one that involves raising animals. Why else would they not? Agriculture business principles appear to be less risky than other business concepts. This was the starting point for my business partner, who is also my husband, and myself, to invest in and establish our cattle farming company, SHAAN Agro. In this article I will illustrate some part of the journey to inspire others to do the same.
Reasons to start farming: One should start only if they are determined about this business or have a passion for livestock farming or farming in general. Farming is rewarding as one can be part of the most important basic need. My partner and I always wanted to have a cattle farm. Covid-19 taught us that people can buy livestock animals online and as working professionals, we don't need to go to local hut bazaars to sell the cattle. This gave us the initial confidence. One word of caution is that entrepreneurs should try to use their idle money for this business. This will help manage the overall financial risk for the person. One can also consider taking a low interest loan from Bangladesh Bank.
Investment and return: After running this business, it can be said that one doesn't need a huge amount of investment to start cattle farming. Ideally, Tk 1.0 million (10 lac) can be a good starting point. If the land owner is one of the partners then it will be easier to manage the upfront cost. A general thumb rule of return is that with 20 cows one can expect a minimum of Tk 0.2 million (2 lac) return a year depending on various risks and challenges. However, if an entrepreneur has the tenacity to grow it, in the long term the return will be much higher. It is also important to determine your product and market. If one is going for a mix of products in dairy and cattle farming then the investment requirement and return will vary. It is best to start with a narrow focus in mind such as- selling cattle during Eid-ul Adha. This will simplify the business operations for the initial years if the entrepreneur is doing it as a side business.
Starting and managing: The key to success in cattle farming is to learn the important things and implement it without cutting corners. Everything one needs to learn is at their disposal. There are many case studies and online resources available related to cattle farming in Bangladesh. There are also different services and training available from the Department of Livestock Services (DLS). Aspiring entrepreneurs can visit other farms and talk to other entrepreneurs to know ins and outs of the business. However, self-starters should make sure they have a trained farm employee or 'cow-boy' to manage the herd and the farm.
Entrepreneurs should ensure that the cattle feed is the right one depending on what breed of cattle they have brought. Feeds vary depending on the cattle type. An experienced cowboy will know how to wash the cattle, how much feed and water they need in a day. This is the key to ensuring that the cattle are kept in the best manner. We were lucky to find someone like that. For a small farm, it is better to have an additional employee to do external things such as buying feed, managing the inventory, cutting grass etc.
Then another important part is the area where these cattle will be kept. Cattle require a stress free environment with separate areas for grazing for healthy growth. Farms should appoint a vet who can visit once a week to check up on each cattle. For management, we visit the farm on weekends and communicate daily via online channels. If one of the senior family members is involved in addition to that it becomes much easier. For SHAAN Agro, it was my father who monitors it from time to time.
Challenges and way forward: Cattle farming is financially rewarding but entrepreneurs need to be patient to make money from it. There are several challenges. Even after government initiatives, farmers are still facing challenges due to the illegal inflows of cattle from India. Moreover, there are unhealthy cattle fattening ways many syndicates follow before Eid. People should be aware of these and honest farm owners should communicate about their farm to customers through online. In our case, customers visit our farm and directly buy from us. It is located at Sonargaon, Narayanganj, a 40-minute drive from Dhaka. Entrepreneurs can set up the business in a way to make sure customers can buy directly from farms online or have easy options to visit it before purchase.
The writer is currently working as a key account manager at SSL Wireless.