How Zimbe earns gold by breeding purebred dogs
On the surface, it is an odd business to breed dogs, but Daniel Zimbe changed his fortune with man’s best friend, writes Moses Mugalu.
In 2010, Daniel Zimbe found himself in a difficult financial situation which left him torn between a rock and a hard place. He felt he had grown too old to live in the family home and wanted to start a new life. On the other hand, he owned land in Dandira village, Mukono district, but his efforts to build a house stalled for lack of money.
Left with no options, Zimbe made the courageous decision to enter his incomplete house and moved into the makeshift store, where he placed all of his belongings.
“The area was isolated and bushy, there was no electricity or neighbors and I feared for my safety,” he says. “The first night I hallucinated from thugs breaking and entering… it was so scary.”
In the days that followed, Zimbe returned home as a fugitive, anxious not to attract the attention of passers-by in case some were criminals. Weeks later, he told his story to a friend, who advised him to buy a guard dog for his safety.
A quick investigation shocked him when he learned that the best dog breeds on the market cost almost as much as he bought his piece of land.
“I went to various dog breeders and was shocked to learn that a German Shepherd dog goes up to Shs 2m,” he says.
“I had saved some money to do the roofing but at the same time I couldn’t bear to live in fear.
IIn the end, Zimbe chose to stick together and buy a three month old German Shepherd puppy for Shs 1m, which he named Archie.
Back then, it was inconceivable that a simple puppy could buy so many, but Zimbe was determined to conquer his fear.
“Some friends said I was crazy spending all that money on a dog, but I didn’t care because I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities to take on,” he says.
“I loved Archie like my own son. We shared the same room. I left him in the room every time I left and he barked loudly when strangers approached the house.
Zimbe and Archie’s bond extended to food, which they sometimes shared.
“I used to pick up leftovers at various restaurants in Mukono town, but canine experts warned me of the dangers. So I bought a bag of mukene [silver cyprinid] and one of posho, which we would share as a meal on certain days.
In just a year, Archie was an adult giant shepherd who caught the attention of the villagers. He was a huge dog and became a kind of draw for the community. Zimbe couldn’t have imagined where he was heading when his new neighbors asked him to mate Archie with their dogs.
“That’s when I opened my eyes to the dog business. I would charge Shs 500,000 for Archie to mate, ”he said. “I got a lot of money because the demand for Archie was so high.”
Zimbe also realized that Archie’s popularity was mainly due to being a purebred shepherd at a time when many in the business had crossbreeds.
In 2012, Zimbe purchased an adult German Shepherd bitch for the sole purpose of breeding dogs. In just five months, he took in a litter of eight puppies, which he sold at three months at varying prices ranging from Shs 500,000 to Shs 800,000.
“It was such a letting go for me because I raised enough money to finish the plastering and roofing of the house,” he says.
Zimbe, now entirely devoted to the development of his business, installed several kennels at his home and purchased two [male and female] Kenyan Boerboel puppies.
“There are a lot of people in the dog breeding business who cross different types, but I was eager to buy purebred dogs and they cost me around 5 million Shs plus to bring them here”, he said.
By 2015, Zimbe had established a fully functioning dog farm at his home after erecting a perimeter wall. However, he could not meet the demand. He says the people he sold dogs to would recommend others to him.
“Some would book in advance even before the dogs give birth,” he says.
He admits that the demand for Boerboel puppies is higher and therefore they are more expensive than Shepherds.
“A boerboel puppy costs at least Shs 2 million and a good litter can have up to 12 puppies,” he says.
That day I found out that Zimbe had finished selling his litter of boerboel and was expecting new arrivals in November. In all, he has eight dogs [three German Shepherds and five boerboels], including six bitches.
While dogs can give birth every five months, he says it’s not healthy and makes sure they only produce once a year. In other words, Zimbe could earn at least Shs 10 million a year if his dogs give birth to 20 puppies.
However, lucrative as it may be, Zimbe admits that it is very difficult, especially when it comes to food and health care.
“These exotic dogs are fragile growing up and are prone to diseases that can kill them in a day,” he says. “I once lost four puppies in two days.
Zimbe further says he spends around Shs 100,000 every week to feed them, not to mention paying a veterinarian who visits at least once a month to make sure all the dogs are perfectly healthy.
By the way, Zimbe treats the dog trade as a side activity to his administrative work at SS Mukono in St Stephen. However, he has no plans to expand his dog business beyond current capacity.
“Dog breeding is big business and I strive to keep the best breeds at the expense of expansion because people who understand dogs will always come back to you when you don’t disappoint them,” he says.
“Some people look down on my job because it makes me get dirty, but I’m not complaining because it helps support my life and my family.”
Zimbe is now planning to specialize in boerboels. “I have already inquired about two purebred bitches registered in South Africa,” he says. “If I can breed each one once a year and get an average of 10 puppies per litter, it would be serious enough to earn me at least Shs 25 million per year.” “