Science graduate builds milk powerhouse in the desert

Behind dry and rocky terrain in Kajiado county is a farm with over 80 high pedigree Fresian cows producing over 600kilos of milk in a classic tale that has demonstrated how vanguard farmers are turning hardships into opportunities.

Welcome to the Ole’ Ngishu Dairy farm a 100 acre farm that has revolutionized dairy farming in the area. Started just three years ago with only Holstein Friesian cows, the former poultry farm now boosts of 80 high pedigree Holstein Friesian plus a few Jersey and Ayrshire herds that are producing over 600kg of milk per day from two milking sessions.

It s quite an outstanding feat considering the harsh terrain and other handicaps like lack of electricity form the national grid and also thriving on water harvesting methods, the farm is now a leading milk supplier to the fast growing Ongata Rongai town.

Meet Simon Songok the man credited with the success’s story of the farm, an animal science graduate who horned his skills working for two major dairy farms, the Sasisni farm in Mweiga and Ole Suswa in Naivasha before joining the Sigma Feeds farm currently running the Ole’ Ngishu dairy farm.

We started off with three cows but faced a lot of challenges due to the prevalence of ticks and tsetse flies that are common in this area due to the local cows and we had to spray the farm over a long period to protect the few herds.

We went for the Holstein herd cause it is the ideal animal that can withstand this climate and give you the milk yield and after getting the right technical assistance from coopers Kenya, regarding the right semen and best framing practices, we have been able to study our cows and currently we are getting an average of 40litres of milk from one cow per day a major feat despite the hardships of this area, he says. Currently 20 percent of the herd in the farm comprises of Jerseys and a few Ayrshires to improve the butter fat content with the milk form the Friesian breeds.

With 40 heifers purely born and bred I the farm, Songok is now confident that his dream of becoming a major milk processor will come true in few years. Ole’ Ngishu milking parlour complete with fully automated state of the art machines as well as a cooler room, has inspired the local farmers in the neighbourhood who have even bought some newly born bulls for the farm to improve their stocks.

“Our future plans are to open a processing factory and a dairy training institute to develop the dairy industry,” said Songok. But or challenges are big the current production costs of Sh25 per litre is very high and we are appealing to the Dairy Board to push up the buying price to push up the buying price to Sh50 per litre to enable the farmer make a profit. Also milk packaging material are very high as its only one firm in the country who is licensed to produce them he notes.

The price of feed has shot up while the leading milk processing firms continue to offer very low prices for milk. We small dairy farmers need to have a say as we supplement the whole industry. We only make some money when we sell off some bulls and a few heifers, he adds. Songok and his few farm hands have also set up monoculture farm that grow maize, pawpaw, water melons, kales and a large area under Lucerne used to supplement the sigma Hi Yiek feed he uses.

"Sigma feeds have withstood the test of time and has been credited with the success of our firm," he concluded.