For the past 111 years, there have been various livestock enterprises tried on Soysambu. In the 1900’s, sheep were dominant with small forays into Ostrich farming, which failed dismally in 1908 and 1923. By the 1930’s, Cattle were reared in great numbers allowing the ranch to benefit from the second world war by providing lots of beef to feed the soldiers.
By the 1970’s, Soysambu was a highly developed and very productive cattle ranch. It was fully paddocked with an extensive fencing and water supply system. Wildlife was seen as an aesthetically appealing nuisance, providing grazing and disease competition for cattle. Over the next two decades, subdivision of all the neighbouring ranches and rampant poaching caused herds of zebra to take up permanent residence on Soysambu and overall game numbers to increase. This resulted in all internal fences being lost (it is not possible to maintain normal ranch fencing in the presence of large zebra populations) and the livestock management system becoming similar to that used by the Maasai – cattle were now herded to grazing during the day and kept in night enclosures, or “bomas” at night.
While burgeoning wildlife populations caused the cattle ranching activity to become less productive, it forced management to find innovative ways of accommodating wildlife. For example, pipelines now had to be buried and night guards posted on “bomas”. Over time, in response to increasing demand for wildlife tourism, management began to see wildlife as an asset to be utilized.
At Soysambu Conservancy, livestock ranching and wildlife conservation were never considered mutually exclusive. Scientific evidence shows that cattle can be used as an “ecological tool” to manage the rangelands, maintaining heterogeneity and maximizing biodiversity. Thus, Soysambu runs an integrated wildlife/livestock operation that aims to maximize the productivity of the land while allowing us to be financially “self-sustaining”.
Today, the ranching operations cover most of the land and provide 85% of the income. The ranch has a population of 8,700 cows, 2,000 sheep and 1,200 goats. The cows are Borans with a few Boran/Friesian Crosses. Borans are reared for beef only and sold to butchers who sell locally or export. Heifers for crosses are sold to daily farmers in semi-arid areas.
The ranch is a member of the Boran Society of Kenya and has 300 hundred cows registered with Kenya stud book. They are in categories of pedigrees: pure bred and foundation. Some embryos’ of the ranch’s Boran have been exported to south Africa and some bulls exported to Uganda. The ranch has the most superior genetic pool in Africa after having been improved for over the last hundred years.