Special Farming Interview with Dr. Paul Anthony Chukwuma AGBASO
FAD: Tell us briefly about yourself – the journey so far?
AGBASO: My primary school days were at Lagos. My secondary school was at Warri, Hussey college, Warri to be precise. After that, I did my Cambridge at Ogun State Abeokuta. I proceeded to University of Ibadan to study Veterinary Medicine as a profession and graduated in the year 1987. I did my Masters in Animal Science at the same University of Ibadan. I also went to University of Lagos for Diploma in management. I went to Lagos State University for my MBA program on Finance and Marketing.
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I have a lot of certification in Agriculture as a discipline, Aquatic Biology and management. I am also certified in Marketing.
My work experience started at Animalcare Konsult in 1989. It was a foundational experience where I got to work closely with the president and other key staff. My experience there helped to perfect my technical practices and disease management. It was in did a learning ground for a start.
I worked at Dalam as a Technical Manager in the year 1990 to 1994. My experience at Dalam exposed me to production of feed additives and premixes. I went ahead to work at Dizpharm Nig. Ltd., where I worked as an Agric Manager/Veterinary Consultant. I moved on to work at Reals Pharmaceuticals in the year 2000. I worked at Kensington Pharmaceutical Limited where we produce Disinfectants, Medical Devices and Consumables like Flakes and Ice Cream. In summary, we produced fast moving consumables.
I started Companion Animal Food. We were the first company to pioneer information marketing about dog foods over the media. I later left for my own business fully which has been existing since I left school. I have a good family and I am blessed with a son. Presently I work with an organisation at South Africa. The name of the organisation is DSM South Africa. I am in charge of their Marketing in West Africa which includes Nigeria. We are into Premixes, Feed Additives, Carotenoids (Carophyll) products.
FAD: As a seasoned professional, enumerate briefly the specific roles of veterinarians in assuring successful farming operations?
AGBASO: Speaking from the Animal Breeders’ side such as poultry, quail, rabbitry etc., the Veterinarian as a professional who is trained and certified as a doctor in the management of animal diseases should be on top of his job to be able to interpret diseases and its effect to the environment.
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A Veterinarian must be able to understand and analyze reports. When I mean report, a veterinarian must be able to work as a team with animal scientist and nutritionist to be able to analyse report coming from them. A vet must be vast in the ability to work with other professionals.
The Veterinarian should also develop the ability to understand outcome of production indices. The nutrition of animal is key. The ability of the veterinarian to trace disease to nutrition is highly important. A veterinarian as a Doctor, must understand the animals’ body languages.
A veterinarian must be honest in terms of declaring the quality of raw materials. A vet must not be biased in decisions on diagnosis. As a qualified veterinarian, always say ‘yes’ when you know and don’t assume. Call a colleague if you feel you need some help. No veterinarian is an island.
A veterinarian must specialise in both small and large animals. You must be on top of the management system in any organisation you find yourself. A Veterinarian must put it in mind that in dealing with animal health issues, management is key. How much drugs does an animal have to use to stay healthy? Good management practices in the farm promotes good health.
FAD: As a seasoned consultant, what are the time tested steps that a typical farmer must take to succeed faster and better today?
AGBASO: From the poultry side and swine, the average farmer has an advantage to succeed. The ban on the importation of frozen foods has given farmers a bigger advantage for expansion. Farmers should key into this great opportunity.
Farmers don’t go into partnership, they are individualistic. This kind of lifestyle won’t help an average farmer to succeed at all.
A farmer should not run his farm as an absentee farmer. If he cannot stay in the farm, he should out source it, go into partnership or even give it to an expert to run the farm. No farmer should think he can succeed the farming operation being an absentee farmer.
A farmer should run his farm as a corporate organisation. He must learn to departmentalise his operations. He should be able to raise a reliable marketing department, purchase department, accounting departments etc., he should learn to see the farming business beyond the ordinary.
A farmer should understand that the profits he gets from the eggs on his farms should be used to run the farm. That money is not for holidays, buying cars, building houses and so on. The proceeds you get from the eggs should be used to feed the birds, pay salaries, maintain the farm, save some money and so on. It should not be seen as a spending or an earning medium at all.
The only time a farmer earns his profit is when he sells off the spent birds which appear to be after the end of one year. The money you get from selling off the old birds is what is recorded to you as your profit and that should be after one year. This is so because the birds are spent and can’t produce anything any longer.
If you must take any money from the farm’s account, then it must be recorded that you borrowed from the farm and that you must refund the money. Farm owners should listen to their accountant. You should not think because you own the high stake of the farm then you can dictate how money is being spent.
Every farm must employ the service of a Veterinary Doctor andan Animal Nutritionist. I want farmers to embrace this idea because majority of the animal problems comes from the feedmill. Nutrition is vital. Farmers must hold performance review meeting from time to time.
The welfare of the staff is also important. Don’t employ an unqualified person (family members) based on sentiments. Employ an experienced and qualified person. This advice goes to the poultry, piggery, and aquaculture and swine management.
Farmers must do all they can to eliminate middle men. They have to invest and take their destiny into their own hands.
Farmers should learn to brand their eggs. This provides a greater advantage in knowing where good eggs come from. Every farm name should be stamped on each egg. It will go a long way in helping a farm to be identified with timely and quality eggs.
I advice farmers to add Carophyll (egg colourant) in their feeds. This enhances the egg colour, stabilizes the egg and allow it to keep for a long time. Farmers will be amazed that by doing this their egg will stand the test of a good market price.
We should not leave behind the necessity of bio security on every farm. Farms should work more intensely in making sure that proper bio security procedures are adhered to.
FAD: Can you please share with farmers any latest trends for better performance in farming?
AGBASO: It is all about good feed hygiene practices. A farmer should embrace the ability to manage the microbial level in every feeds. The toxin binders must be the three way action:
Absorber Property – which will help to absorb the toxins, Enzymatic Property and Transformation Properties – Which will help in terms of denature and transforms to a form that is not harmful.
Enzyme usage is the way to go nowadays in feeds. Toxins are amazing the way they grow. They start growing right from when the plant start growing from the soil (field toxins) up to when the plant is being preserved and stored (storage toxins). That is why a farmer will start wondering where diseases such as Ecoli and Newcastle comes from. Toxin binders must be present in your feeds.
The ability to manage the guts of poultry livestock and other livestock reduces mortality and increases life ability with positive economic benefits in terms of cash after production. For a farmer to really appreciate all these, he must harness the services of a Vet and a nutritionist. These are the key professionals in this area.
Let me repeat this again, a well taken care staff is the key to a successful faming.
FAD: Can you share a particular setback in your professional experience and how you were able to bounce back?
AGBASO: I must say I have been a lucky veterinarian in the poultry angle and treatments of other animals. I successfully solve problems when they happen. In those early days, feed hygiene was low and fewer people seem to understand how toxin works.
Vegetarians treat diseases those days and ignore the nutrition angles. It can be so frustrating treating a disease and not treating it from the source. I was opportune to understand that the major problem of disease outbreak comes from the feed intake of animals. If I must attempt treating farm animals, I first see the animal from the animal scientist view and solve its problem permanently through the veterinary angle. That is all I have always done that I would say I never recorded a setback.
FAD: What specific thing do you think farmers can do as a group to better their lot in Nigeria?
AGBASO: Farmers should start seeing themselves as pressure groups in terms of food and food safety. They are the one producing it and much effort is needed from them to perfect all that concerns food and food safety.
Farmers should stop seeing farming as a part time. It is so amazing that other countries don’t see farming as a part time profession. They take the practices so seriously and do all it takes to make it look classy. Farmers in Nigeria must see the farming profession as highly important. If a farmer knows that he wouldnot be on ground for his business, he should give the running to an expert and also go into partnership.
Farmers should interact. Farmers are never sincere with themselves. They spread the wrong information and put other farmers like them into serious problems. This has to stop. Farming is a good market medium that everyone must sell.
As a farmer, add value to your services and food. Label your eggs. Brand it such that your farm name would be noticed for quality products. Select your eggs, create a department for selection, grade your eggs and sell to super markets. Egg grading helps a lot in reduction of prices during bad market times. When you grade your eggs, it gives you room for flexibility of egg prices. WHO is around now and they are operating on a strict ground. Farmers have no choice but to brace up.
FAD: What do you think specifically that government should do to transform agriculture in Nigeria?
AGBASO: As it relates to me, Government should create policies to produce grains in large quantities to be sufficient successfully with animal and human consumption and to also create silos for grain reserves.
We need enough grain supplies in our country. We should not buy grains from experts in other countries when we have all it takes to produce enough. The cropping section must be put in place. Our tractors need to come back. Government should look into the cropping angle of agriculture and not just the oil section.
Government should build model farms, wake up the tractors and mechanization department as I said earlier. Something should be done to activate all the sleeping agric departments in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Those departments are currently complete racket.
FAD: To you, what are the 4 secrets of business success?
AGBASO: Discipline – You should know when to spend your profit and when not to.
Staff welfare – there must be a cordial interaction with your staff. You must be update on what they are really facing on the job and what they need to make the job come up as the best. Staff profiling is also important in this aspect. This is about getting the right staff for the business.
Professionals – consult the professionals for key advice on how to expand and upgrade the farming business.
God – don’t put off the God factor. God is the greatest, if you don’t have God’s backing other things will always be out of place. If you have God you will have discipline, you will have conscience and you will treat your staff well.
FAD: Tell us one greatest thing among so many that life has taught you?
AGBASO: There is no close ending in life. When you think there is no escape route, if you try and think deep somehow you will escape. No matter the situation you find yourself, always know that things will work. Even at the last minute, it must surely work somehow. Also, I have learnt to praise God always. It goes a long way doing some praises first thing in the morning and last thing at night.