Djibouti has opened its doors for Kenyan dairy goat farmers, who are better placed to feed its market.
With slightly more than 16,000 farmer in the country rearing between three and 50 dairy goats, Kenya may not meet the new market demand as cattle craze takes preference.
According to the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya (DGAK), an exporting agent, the country exported dairy goats worth Sh18 million in 2014 against Sh25 million in the preceding year.
There was a drop despite good returns, with a four-month-old goat fetching about Sh10,000 while older ones shoot to Sh25,000 or more.
The East African Farmers Federation (EAFF), through DGAK, exported 45 dairy goats to Djibouti on April 4,2016, officially ending a pilot project started in 2015.
DGAK Chairman Julius Kangee says pedigree goats are ready for the international market from 10 months. About 70 per cent of pedigree dairy goats give birth to twins.
The association has been upgrading local breeds with barks sourced from Germany since 1992. And because of the mix of indigenous and exotic characteristics, survival and high yield are achievable if farmers practice proper animal husbandry.
The main breed of dairy goats in Kenya is the Kenyan Alpine, a hybrid of local and French Alpine blood line.
Goats better than cows
The EAFF contacts DGAK to export the goats by air, which is the most preferred mode of transportation. A four-year bark can weigh up to 100 kilogrammes while its counterpart can reach 70 kilogrammes.
But farmers frown upon goats because they think dairy cattle have more returns.
Despite the small size of goats, they are productive too. For instance, a farmer can comfortably raise six dairy goats in a space of one dairy cow.
The National Farmers Information Service says it is easier to feed goats than cows. Goats consume a wide variety of grasses, weeds and small branches of bushes and trees. They also ‘scavenge’ on discarded leaves, fruit and root peelings and roots of vegetables, maize husks and other waste plant residues.
This adaptation makes them better survivors in urban and rural areas as well as champions of feed scarce times.
Similarly, they are hardy to tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis. They are not affected by the deadly east Coast Fever. This means fewer expenses on drugs as opposed to cattle.
A dairy cow produces far more milk than a goat, which yields between 1.7 litres to seven litres per single session. With one litre of goat milk retailing between Sh100 and Sh120 in the local readily available market, a cow’s milk will only fetch Sh50 and when in plenty, much of it goes bad before reaching selling.
With such productivity a farmer who has six goats against one cow still stays afloat. Going by the Djibouti market price, six goats can comfortable fetch between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000 just like a dairy cow.
Twining would also give more returns to a farmer pear year given that a goat's gestation period is three months while a cow takes thrice this time.
EAFF Chief Executive Officer Stephen Mucheru says the export opportunity arose due to the demand in Djibouti as the Horn of Africa State targets to increase dairy goat farming among small-scale farmers. This would increase revenue and alleviate them from poverty.