Ayrshire dairy cows (photo: Zablon Oyugi).
A dairy farmer from Uasin Gishu County is reaping big from combining creamy milk from Ayrshire cows with that of Friesian after abandoning maize farming due to exploitation from middlemen whom he said denied him of his full returns.
Willy Kirwa was struggling to make ends meet due to poor farm gate prices and maize diseases conspired to rob him off his sweat. But a field day in 2007 became a change point in his career when a presentation on dairy farming caught his attention.
”I was convinced that this was the way to go and after doing some quick calculations, I realised that returns were quite impressive,” said the famer.
“I secured a loan of Sh200,000 to assist me in constructing the structures and also facilitate take-off,” said the farmer.
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Before the filed day, he had 10 animals and sought to improve their quality by buying additional pedigree animals which included Holstein, Friesian and Ayrshire breeds. In 2009, he secured a bigger loan of Sh1m having successfully cleared the previous debt.
“I used the money to purchase a milking machine and to buy more high quality animals, he said.
With 20 animals on zero grazing, he was gradually realising his dream having secured a steady market for his milk supply including a local school that offered him a very competitive price.
To be a class above the rest, Mr. Kirwa devised a method that has ensured that his milk is the most sought after commodity by both companies and individuals.
“I realized that Ayrshire cows have thick creamed milk which I now combine with milk from the Friesian using my own formula,” he said.
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The milk has been the talking point of his customers, with others waiting to sample it and become customers.
“I wanted to try out something different to ensure my commodity remained relevant in the market,” he added.
Mr. Kirwa has also turned to breeding with his heifers forming part of his growing herd. “I source for the best semen globally to ensure I get the best breeds, “he said.
Friesian dairy cows (photo: Zablon Oyugi).
A heifer on his farm fetches more than Sh150, 000. Today, the animals have increased to 36. On average he milks more than 25 animals at any given month which produces about 350litres of milk daily.
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This translates to a tidy sum of money at the end of the month, depending on market forces. “The milk market in this area is so huge that we even run short of supplies,” he said.
To cut on costs and maximize on profits, Mr Kirwa has turned to growing and operating his own animal feed.
He also purchases drugs for these animals from leading pharmaceutical firm on wholesale, which helps to cut down the cost of treating them by almost half. “I invite veterinary officers only to check on the heath of the animals, but supply the drugs, “he added
The farmer is also planning to take his dairy farming a notch higher by turning to value addition. He plans to purchase a coolant in the coming months, before engaging in packaging and selling yoghurt.
With his success spreading like bushfire in the village of Kapseret, budding dairy farmers have been flocking to his home to learn a few basics on rearing dairy animals at a fee. He charges between Sh300 and Sh400 to educate farmers on the best practices when carrying out dairy business, “he said.
According to Mr. Kirwa the most encouraging aspect of the visits is that most of the farmers are fresh graduates eager to break with the past and start income generating project.
Apart from dairy farming Mr. Kirwa also rear chicken and reaping the fruits of resilience, as he and his wife seek to expand their tentacles in farming in a complete departure from the traditional of growing maize.