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Flower company gives free sheep to Maasai herders to increase their income

Oserian dorper sheep
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Grazing dorper sheep. Oserian flower firm uses the sheep to keep the grass short around the flower greenhouses further reducing insects that may cause diseases affecting plants.

Oserian Development Company, a flower producer and exporter in Kenya is giving to the local Maasai herders free high-breed sheep called the Dorper that adapts well to tough climatic conditions and matures faster than their traditional sheep upping the herders’ returns up to Sh10, 000 per sheep from Sh1,000.

The Naivasha-based flower firm yearly set aside some rams which are donated to the community and used to cross breed with the local varieties resulting to a sheep with a low fat quality meat and a hardy type which performs well in dry areas.

 “We selects some of our ram lambs every year and donate them to the community, to help improve their flocks,” said Mr. Hamish Ker, Oserian’s Technical Director.

“The company imports the pedigree breed sheep from South Africa and keep them in the farm to help keep the grass short around the flower greenhouses further reducing insects that may cause diseases affecting plants.”

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The sheep’s unique traits have seen the resuscitation of sheep farming among the herders which has been on a downward trend in recent years owing to poor markets for the local varieties, said Ker.

The sheep has become so popular that farmers from neighbouring countries like Tanzania and Rwanda are flocking the country to buy ewes to cross breed with their local sheep.

“Demand for breeding ewes has been rising far beyond the supply. Farmers from neighbouring countries such as Tanzania have been flocking the Kenya to buy ewes,” says Ms Kone Ole-Sein, a dorper farmer from Kajiado County and also the national Secretary of the Dorper Breeders Society of Kenya.

“Dorper does well on natural pastures, although farmers may offer supplementary feeding during scarcity or based on nutritional requirements.”

They are hardy and perform well in low ecological zones,” noted Ms OleSein, the proprietor of the 1,700 acre Rimpa Estates in Kiserian. According to Ms OleSein, a breeding ram currently costs between Sh25,000 and Sh40,000 with ewes selling from Sh10,000 to Sh15,000 underscoring the increased monetary value of the dorper. Besides the dietary benefit the dorper sheep breed is said to be hardy and performs well in dry areas.

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With the rising demand, large scale farmers and government farms have been breeding rams that are then sold to farmers for multiplication. “We breed rams and then sell to farmers for breeding purposes. Demand for rams is high across the country,” says Mr. Cleopas Wahome, a livestock production officer with Naivasha Sheep and Goat Station, a government farm.

The farm has a flock of 550 dorper sheep. According to Mr. Wahome, dorper sheep have a good mothering ability and exhibit a long breeding season. They have good adaptability and are non-selective grazers- making maximum use of available pastures.

 “When breeding ewes are well man-aged through proper feeding, disease and parasite control, they will bear twinning from the third lambing. They should be properly flushed- fed well be-fore mating to increase the chances of twinning,” he says.

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According to these experts, a mature ram can weigh between 80kg and 114 kg with the eves weighing 57kg to 80 kg. This high yield in meat has attracted many farmers eager to raise sheep and make profits quickly.

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