How to select the best crop or animals for your farm

As a farmer, you deserve the best. It can either be the maximum profits or nutritious and healthy food if you are farming for self-consumption or sale. Choosing the best plants or animals to raise is crucial for every farmer.

You can choose to grow what you like. However, the opportunity cost of not raising the best can be expensive for you. In this article, we give you five (5) steps to guide your choice for the least opportunity cost. By following them, you can farm the most profitable or nutritional food on your farm.

Summary process

You will make two vast decisions; the best crop or plant types and selecting the best variety or breed to raise. You can achieve this by following a five  steps process;

RELATED: How to do a cost-benefit analysis for your farm- A guide

  • Make a long list; identify all the crop or animal types that can do well in your agro-ecological region.
  • Analyse and compare the profits and nutrition potential of each. Use the cost-benefit analysis method for financial goals.
  • Rank; the crops or animals based on results in step 2 above from the most profitable or nutritious to the least.
  • Make a shortlist; prioritize a few plants or pets you can raise comfortably given your land and capital resources.
  • Variety or breed choice; once you have the plant and livestock types you will raise, compare their different seed varieties and breeds qualities to grow the best. you will follow similar steps as 1 to 4 above.

The steps are straightforward. The additional factors to guide your analysis are as follows;

Days to Maturity

Time is money. In farming, the shortest time to produce is better. Grow the fast-growing crop varieties and animal breeds to enjoy more profits. By adopting this method, you can harvest up to 3-4 seasons in a year.

Most of the typical corn cultivars mature in 6 – 9 months.  Their drought-tolerant varieties mature in around three months. As a farmer, you can harvest and re-plant the field with another crop like indigenous vegetables when your neighbour’s crop has not flowered yet.

Should you grow horticultural products for export or Hass avocados?  Ignoring all other factors, grow vegetables like sweet corn.  You will enjoy at least nine seasons in the three years before the avocado trees can mature and start to produce first fruits.

As a herder or rancher, raise the improved animal or bird breeds like the Kari “Kienyenji” chicken. These have high-quality yields in a shorter time.

Popularity

The benefits of growing a popular product are; access to a ready market and cheap supplies. Its value chain is functional, with a good flow of information between buyers and sellers.  A product may have high demand across all the general market. Others enjoy a tremendous demand in a target market niche like the upmarket or tourist hotels.

For example, quail products are unpopular compared to chicken products in Kenya.  The former has a niche market while the latter has an unmet demand across the country. Chicken raising would be more profitable than quails.

Yield potential

It is the best yields (in kilograms, or metric tons) you can get in a specified piece of land (like hectare, an acre or square meter).  To get it, follow the best agronomic practices like fertilizer application, farm hygiene, and pest control.

If you are looking for ample food supply or profits, grow a variety that has a higher yield potential. You will fetch more money by selling the extra yields.  If looking for food, you will have higher yields or enjoy short harvesting intervals per week.

You can get high yields from a crop with late flowering for greens like kales, Long harvesting lifespan for vegetables like tomatoes or spinach. A cereal seed varieties with higher yields have multiple heads or large seeds.

For meat, milk, or egg producers; the yield potential is for a well-managed (feeding and health) animal.

Profit or calories per kg

Grow the products with the highest profit or calories per kilogram.  You can also figure it per an acre, plant or animal.

To get figure the profits, do a simple cost-benefit analysis (CBA). You will get the difference between all the costs from the earnings of growing and selling your produce. Raise the one with highest-earning, considering all other factors as constant.

To compare nutrition, look for a tool that compares fats, vitamins and mineral content between two or more similar products. For instance, the table below gives the nutrients per 100g serving of various meat products; chicken, turkey and lamb. According to the results, your best poultry to raise is turkey.

Variety/ Breed qualities

It is the last consideration once you have settled on the crop or animal types. You will choose the best seed variety or animal breed. To decide, consider the following factors;  

  • Harvesting lifespan; Grow a seed variety with long periods of picking fruits or vegetable yields. As a dairy farmer, choose a cow or goat breed whose milking period is longer.
  • Tolerance to pests and diseases; pest, weed and disease control is an immense farming cost today. To lower it, raise pets and crops breeds with improved or modified quality to withstand them.
  • Climate-smart seed varieties; climate change effects like droughts and floods are the worst risk to current agriculture. As a cushion against these risks, grow seed varieties resistant to excess moisture or droughts (fast-growing seed varieties).
  • Agro-ecological fitness; Animals and plants do best in given climate and weather (rainfall and temperature) conditions, soil types and elevation. A farmers’ tool like the mbegu choice; an online seed selection database or seed variety Apps by the KALRO, allows you to choose the best seed suitable for your region.

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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