After his initial business idea of selling fast foods fell through in 2018 due to inadequate market research, Ntoampe Mashamaite (29) from Polokwane, Limpopo chose to try his hand at poultry farming as a side hustle.
“In 2018 I had an idea of selling fast foods, popcorn, and takeaways at home,” he recalls. “After purchasing equipment such as a generator, two chips cutters, a popcorn machine, two chips fryers, and a mobile kitchen, I then realised that I didn’t do enough business research.”
He also realised that his working hours as agricultural science teacher at Shakoleng Secondary School were not flexible enough for him to squeeze in that particular side hustle.
While most businesses were shaken by the country’s Covid-19 lockdown early last year, Mashamaite made the bold move to venture into poultry farming, specifically egg production. He sold off some of the fast food equipment to fund his new business, which he called Mash Mates Poultry Project.
He then erected a chicken house in his parents’ backyard in Moletjie Schoonveld village in Polokwane, within which he placed his egg layers. As schools were temporarily on hold, the teacher had the leeway to fully look after his 200 egg-laying Lohmann chickens.
Mashamaite says agriculture was always his “childhood sweetheart”. He was inspired by his late teacher and principal, Mr. K.H. Mphela, to pursue a degree in agricultural economics, before later doing a post graduate certificate in education.
Avian flu and crime worries
Mashamaite supplies local people and neighbouring communities as a subsistence farmer. Although his side hustle is small, he is very concerned about the negative impact which the current avian flu outbreaks will have on poultry production. Along with the constant threat of crime, the risk has made him decide to put expansion plans for his business on hold.
“Since the chickens aren’t that many now, I will at least be able to recover the loss in the event that they contract the flu or get stolen. Even better, I have decided to place my plan to commercialise the business on hold as I am self-funded,” he adds.
“Start small and scale up as time goes on because running a large poultry production can be quite challenging.”
While having an agricultural background can never entirely replace the services of a veterinarian, it has, to a larger extent, kept Mashamaite’s chickens safe from viral diseases such as Newcastle, influenza, and egg drop syndrome.
“A lot of people don’t realise that aloe is an antibiotic, especially on chickens. Every month my chickens drink water that has been mixed with (Aloe vera) for a week. On other days, I use Virokill together with Hipraviar to vaccinate and disinfect the entire structure,” reveals Mashamaite, whose trust towards aloe also emanates from its use in traditional practices.
Having grown up herding his parents’ livestock, Mashamaite also felt drawn to the idea of owning his own. He took his first steps into livestock farming when he bought two Bonsmara and one Nguni cows. The Nguni is currently grazing with his parents’ livestock in their backyard kraal, while the other two are with his uncle, who leases two farms elsewhere in Limpopo.
These days Mashamaite can’t wait for school holidays, to visit the farm to check on his livestock.
Ntoampe Mashamaite’s advice to new poultry farmers
- If you are still a novice in poultry production, make sure that you construct detailed research based on the type of breed you chose to focus on (broilers or egg layers) and have knowledge on basic things such as temperature, structure, and vaccination that your chosen breed will need. (Be sure to get Food For Mzansi’s basic guide to poultry farming.)
- Start small and scale up as time goes on because running a large poultry production can be quite challenging.
- The best way of keeping your chickens healthy is by keeping a close eye on them and reacting quickly whenever something goes wrong.