Pastoralists up milk yields and income with cattle swap project

A dairy farmer in Transmara region is among pioneer farmers who are recording five times more income and milk yields having sold their traditional cows for the higher yielding breeds in a venture meant to encourage pastoralists to change the breeds they keep to keep up with environment.

Kakenya Milka delivered a total  gross of 13 million litres of raw milk processors a figure that added up close to Kshs370 million from milk supplies in the last financial year. She supplies 40 litres per day to Brookside dairy from her four cows.  Having gotten extension services from agricultural officers, the Maasai woman decided to sell the traditional zebu cows and bought eight Friesian cows.
Her project started 3 years ago when she resolved to soil her hands instead of seeking a teaching job to earn her income through dairy farming.

Mrs. Milka Kakenya, a trained P1 teachers, says that from her about 100 local breed cows, the milk yield were low but rich in butter fat content. She notes that the cows grazed large tracks of land but had low milk yields.

“I was spending so much feeding the cattle and treating them while the returns were low, so I decided to seek an agricultural extension officers’ advice,” Mrs. Kakenya narrated. Kakenya credits her husband for the success she has in the activity.  As a Maasai woman she had to beat the beliefs that don’t allow women to own cattle, in order to succeed in dairy cattle rearing.

Her husband John Ole Kararan also a P1 teacher says that she has been able to do savings from her teaching career. Ole Kararan smiles all the way to the bank as his wife does not ask him for money to spend in the day to day operation in their home.  “She is supportive as she buys personal effects for the children as they go to school and also shopping for the house, he says.

The dairy farmer says it was disturbing to have close to 100 cows but cannot get even 10littres of milk from the local breeds. Moreover, selling highbred calves fetches more income than the local breed. The price of a high breed calf is Sh80,000 while the local breeds fetches a meager trivial price of sh6,000.

The climate in Enoosaen part of Trans-Mara also favours dairy farming and if fully mechanized, farmers can earn more from milk proceeds.

“The climate is cold and warm and there are disease and pests but with the little know-how, I am managing the challenges.  Most of our people still need training on best agricultural practices,” Milka said. I started supplying 10litres of milk in the morning and 5 litres in the evening with the traditional cows, but I realized I was not gaining as expected.  So I continued to take care of the high breed cows that eventually calved at a go.

Milka fetches 80 litres of milk per day from the 10 cows.  This was a good sign that dairy farming was tenable and she decided to seek more training from extension officers.  Presently she milks 40 litres a days and sells a litre of milk at sh27 to Brookside Company while the hawkers offer up to sh35 pr litre.  This translates to about sh30,000 per month from her 4 dairy cattle.  For Milk, she takes her milk to Brookside in order to be consitent and have a track record of her milk sale.

After training from extension officers I decided to stager the calving time so that I can have milk supply throughout the year to avoid drying up, a situation she describes as when a framer does not have milk to supply to the customers. She says that despite hawking offering instant payments for the milk as well as better prices, her sale records are consistent and intends to use them to obtain a bank loan.

Smiling, she said. “In fact my husband, a primary school teachers, does not spend his salary on the families daily needs, instead he does savings.  I don’t request cash from him but instead support him since I make more than his salary.”

Kakenya says that the profits are ploughed back into gardening and school fees for her children, noting that the dairy cow supplements the family’s needs. The Brookside General Manager in charge of milk procurement and extension services John Gethi said the processor had embarked on plans to grow to dairy production volumes for each of their contract farmers countrywide.  Farmers are encouraged to registers their animals with the Kenya Livestock Breeders Organization.

According to Steven Muendo, Trans-Mara District agricultural officer, registration of cattle will ensure the details of their animals were captured in the national Stud Book. Muedo noted that registration provides for the recording and maintenance of accurate ancestral information and other pedigree details about each animal.

He said livestock registration and milk recording were vital instruments for tracing the performance of each animal.  He said records formed the basis of making management decisions on the farm. Kakenya is not swayed to sell her produce to middlemen whom she say at time compromise the quality of milk before reaching the end user.

The mother aged 40, is blessed with 6 children, 4 girls and 2 twin boys. She hopes that the rest of the community will embrace modern dairy technology to boost yields. I am thinking of using artificial insemination to boost the quality of my calve instead of purchasing already bred cows, this will reduce my costs of acquiring high breed cattle, she says.

Kakenya says that she would like to double up the number of cattle she owns currently to 16 cows since she has enough land to do so. Just like most of the families amongst our Maasai community still have large tracks of land but the difference is they keep a large number of low yield local bred of cattle. She observed.