One of the most profitable farming techniques is dairy farming in Kenya. Think about it, you take care of Godâ€™s creature and it rewards you with milk for your family and also for sale. All this, without having to go through the traffic jams of the so called Nairobi elite.
I’ve always had an interest in dairy cows every since my grandparents insisted that for me to eat breakfast in their home, I must go milk the cow. Ours was called “Tore”. It was a tall black and white cow that had very big horns. As I was milking it, under the watchful eye of my grandfather, I just couldn’t keep from staring at those horns.
For a long time I believed that “Tore” was a superstar in dairy cows. Think about it, she could produce 3 liters of milk every day. We’d end up selling 1 litre to the KCC fellows who drove by at about 9 am.
The facts is that like every Kenyan farmer at that time, we had a lot to learn about dairy farming.
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As I came to learn later, “Tore” was a Holstein breed and 3 litres in one sitting meant that we weren’t taking care of dairy cow welfare.
A lot of farming techniques in Kenya still rely on mother nature to grant you one genius of a cow that makes you a millionaire. This doesn’t need to be the case. Talking to a few dairy farmers in the country, these are some of the tips they have for better dairy farming in Kenya.
START WITH QUALITY ANIMAL HUSBANDRY CHOICES
If you are looking for a fast track to animal farming hell, then let your precious cow become the village lay. Always ensure that you have quality animal husbandry. Start with your local government vet. If he is not up to par, visit KARI. They have some of the best animal husbandry experts in Kenya and I know for a fact that they give solid information.
Openly seek out farming consultants. I find that it is better to pay one consultant a few thousands in one day than get a cow that I will feed for 2 years and still never get any profit from it.
Using consultants can help you figure out complex issues and make informed decisions. The fact that they visit multiple dairy farms means that they have a unique perspective on your farming needs.
HAVE THE DAIRY COW WELFARE AS YOUR TOP PRIORITY
I was watching TV news recently and saw a farmer in Nyandarua laying mattresses for his cows. Boy wasn’t my wife laughing. I had to remind her that since this dairy farmer was richer than we were, he should be laughing at us.
Sometimes new ideas are cloaked in old school behavior. There is a reason why they say, treat others as you would like them to treat you. Of course, if someone treated me nicely, I would give them more than they asked for. So taking good care of your cattle means they reward you with better milk yields.
Don’t overdo it though by treating your farm help worse than the cows. Proper cattle farm management means that you take care of your workers as well as your livestock.
BUY YOUR DAIRY COWS WISELY FOR BETTER DAIRY FARMING IN KENYA
One of the most important farming facts is that if you buy your dairy cattle unwisely, you will pay dearly.
Always buy young cows for your new stock. Younger, non-lactating animals less likely to have been exposed to mastitis pathogens so you lower your risk.
Remember to buy only from a healthy herd. Though your seller may insist that their dairy farms are a fantastic, don’t trust them if they don’t have a dairy diary. In fact, keep any new dairy cows away from your current stock until you are satisfied that they do not have any diseases.
SMART FARMING MEANS WELL TRAINED STAFF
Do not hire farm workers who do not like farming. I say like because we know that farming is a calling not a job. Hiring farm hands who are only doing this for the money means that you have poor farm management leading to poor milk yields.
Invest in training your farming staff. Do not call them labor any more and think of them as partners in your dairy business. There is a dairy farmer in Nyeri who having noted how is staff love going out of the farm started organizing farming trips to other dairy farms.
KEEP CLEAN COWS AND MILKING SCHEDULE
I wanted to re-emphasize the need for a clean herd, before I went to keeping a milking schedule and a treatment protocol.
It is not enough to see a cow that was producing 20 ltrs of milk a day drop to 15ltrs. You need to figure out what is wrong quickly and have a treatment protocol in place. Your herd welfare is essential to your success so keep them happy and clean at all times.
Clean their house and hire someone to do it. If they can’t do it as well, then do it yourself. You will find that cleaning a dairy shed can relieve a lot of stress and save you the money of going to the gym. And anyway, who doesn’t want to be in the news for being the best dairy farmer in his region?
The idea that farming in Kenya is not profitable for the small scale farmer is beyond logic. When you think that more than 50% of Kenyans earn less than ksh.30,000 per month, while a good cow can earn you that amount, it makes no sense that more our youth aren’t going into farming. Farming facts are that a dairy farmer is likely to be a happier person especially if they have the animal welfare in their hearts.
Well that’s it on my first article on Dumisha on dairy facts that I learned along the way of talking to farmers in Kenya. I’m sure that there’s more that you can add to this. Comment below and tell us what you think are some of the issues in supporting dairy farming in Kenya that we have forgotten or made a mistake with.