The old mindset of society engagement in agriculture as an activity for the elderly is fading with a number of youth actively participating to the contribution of food basket.

A number of development partners are participating in projects in skilling the youth to actively engage in agricultural initiatives as business enterprise in order to better their standard of living.

One such initiative is by Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) where they are skilling the youth in agricultural product management in Central, Eastern and Western Uganda.

AVSI chief of parties under Sky project Samuele Rizzo Otim explaining the initiative notes that the project worthy 11m euros is funded by the Danish government and it engages youth right in schools and those within communities.
The youth in Kamuli are engaged in skilling in poultry keeping and below are the best practices they have learnt in poultry keeping and case studies of those already owning poultry farms.

Poultry management
Jonson Basangwa the proprietor of Jeka Farm Ltd who is concentrating on rearing layers has been able to train more than 30 youths in poultry keeping. Basangwa has a brood of more than 35,000 hens.

The farm serves as an institute and trainees are able to learn everything including feed processing. He gives details of knowledge imparted into the youth about best practices of poultry keeping.

Farmers are advised to confine the birds and provide a degree of protection from predators.

Quality
If the enterprise is to be successful it is necessary to use stock known to be of good quality and of the appropriate genotype. The obvious first decision is to choose meat type for meat production and an egg type for egg production.

Breeding
Farmers are advised to purchase one day chicks kept in the brooder at a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius and after 6 weeks they are transferred to the farm house.

Housing
A successful poultry house has to satisfy the welfare needs of the birds which vary with the class, age and housing system. These include adequate floor spacing and roofing with good ventilators.
It is important to provide the hens with adequate feeding space, water drinking space and eliminate anything which may cause injury.

Feeds
It is advisable for farmers to process their own feeds but they may as well purchase from agro input dealers depending on the size of your farm.
The feeds are chick mash, grower mash, layer or broiler mash processed from mixture of maize brand, sunflower husks, cotton husks and sometimes powder from silver fish. The quantity given to growing birds differs as per stage.
Provide two per cent calcium for two weeks from one day old and start giving starter feed for eight weeks thereafter the feed demand increases when the birds start laying.

Diseases
The common diseases the birds are prone to include Coccidiosis, Collibacillosis, Gumboro disease, New Castle disease, cannibalism, and Salmonellosis and worm infection mostly caused by parasites.
Others include; nutritional deficiencies, avian leukosis, foreign bodies (metals and wires), necrotic enteritis, pasterurellosis, mycoplasmosis, fowl pox, avian encephalomyelitis, gout, broiler ascites, mareks disease, infectious bronchitis, bumble feet, external parasites such as lice, fleas, mites.
It is important to vaccinate the hens using required vaccines to avoid in
fection.

Early recognition of disease
• Early recognition of disease is one of the first skills that should be learned by the poultry flock manager.
• Frequent inspection of the flock to monitor for signs of sickness is required. It is expected that inspection of all the birds is the first task performed each day, to monitor for signs of ill health, injury and harassment.
• At the same time feeders, drinkers and other equipment can be checked for serviceability. If a problem has developed since the last inspection, appropriate action can be taken in a timely manner.

Early treatment of disease
• If a disease infects a flock, early treatment may mean the difference between a mild outbreak and a more serious one.
• It is important that the correct treatment be used as soon as possible. This can only be achieved when the correct diagnosis has been made at an early stage.
• Most treatments should be administered under the guidance of the regular flock veterinarian.

Records keeping and marketing
• Farmers must ensure they keep records a requirement for financial management – for business and taxation reasons and for the efficient physical management of the enterprise.
• The records must be current, accurate and complete.
• Farmers should consider important elements to good marketing practice which include producing the commodity required by the consumer. This usually means continuous market research must be carried out to relate production to demand.

Case study
Julius Mulamba is a beneficiary of the skilling initiative. He belongs to Destiny Youth Poultry Project comprising of 10 members.
The group were trained at Jeka Farm and AVSI gave them capital of Shs33m to start up a group poultry farm.
Mulamba the group chairperson notes that they were able to purchase 2,000 birds and reared them.
In 9 months they were able to sell the eggs and later the layers which earned them Shs132.5m. Some of the money was used in management of their farm and the group earned profit of Shs23m which they shared.

Quarantine
It is important to isolate the farm sheds from all other poultry, control of vehicles and visitors, introduction of day-old chicks only onto the farm, provision of shower facilities and clean clothing for staff and visitors and control of the movement of staff and equipment around the farm.

Hygiene practices
The following must be observed:
• The provision of wash facilities for staff, essential visitors and vehicles prior to entry is very important.
• Use of disinfectant foot baths at the entry, farmers must perform thorough cleaning and disinfection of all sheds between flocks and use of a suitable vaccination programme are important.

Managing layers
Layer breeds consist of two types, the ones which lay white eggs and brown eggs
White egg laying hens are comparatively smaller in size and they consume less food.
The common breeds include Isa White, Lehman White, Nikchick and Hi sex White among others.
Brown laying hens lay brown eggs and they are large in size and consume much food.
They include among others Sex brown, Lehman brown, Hi line brown, gold line among others.
Those reared at Jeka farm are Novagen brown, Longman and Isa brown breeds which are imported from the Netherlands each costs 1.09 euros.
It is important for farmers to choose high production breeds which will lay enough eggs.
Egg production depends on the care of the birds.
Hens which have grown for 20 weeks will start laying eggs and when they are 30 weeks the production rate increases and the maximum rate is at 50 weeks when they will stop laying eggs. It is advisable to sell of layers when they 50 weeks old.