In 2013, Dennis Maina 38, sold his entire slightly seven year old hardware store enterprise next to Dagoretti corner at Sh600,000 to venture into dairy farming, a venture that is now earning him five times more.
From Sh1, 500 a day he used to earn in his hardware business, Maina is currently earning roughly Sh7,500 a day from milk sales milking 125 liters daily from his five dairy cows.
“I decided to quit my previous business due to the small profit margin and with the sense that I had to sustain my family, I had to try another idea, at times without considering the risk,” said Maina.
He used the capital he obtained from selling the hardware to construct a 16 by 24 feet cow shed at Sh100,000 in Kawangware and bought two dairy cows at Sh100,000 each from a Githunguri based farmer.
“At the onset, I had to convince my siblings and mother about my idea to give me the land in such an urban area for dairy farming but they were non-receptive but they eventually agreed,” said Maina.
His initial thought was to sell his produce through milk dispensing machines commonly known as (milk ATM) which works like an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) that allows consumers to purchase milk from a mechanized nozzle. However, he realized that milk demand was high from direct consumers in his neighborhood and would command a higher fee of Sh60 per liter compared to Sh45 for the ATM vendors.
As an apprentice, Maina learnt skills on how to manage his dairy farm from an established farmer in Githunguri who offered him advice and experiences on how to improve his production.
“Being an urban farmer I could not easily access fodder for my cows so I employed a casual worker who collects corn husks from the Kawangware market maize sellers and other plants feeds on my behalf,” said Maina. He mixes them with dairy meal and lucerne to bring out the required nutrition value for the cows.
However, through attending various dairy livestock seminars and shows he was introduced to a professional veterinary who helps him in controlling and maintaining good health of the animals, he pays him between Sh3,000 to Sh9,000 depending on the nature of work.
Dennis Maina at his dairy farm in Kawangware. Farmbiz Africa
“To increase my production, my veterinary advised me to improve the breeds to top pedigrees from tried and tested fertilization of high breed imported semen through Artificial Insemination process over natural mating which has really bore fruits.
“I import semen from Brazil at Sh9,000 per tube to service my cows since I understood they have the best breeds through workshops I have attended,” said Maina.
From his two cows, he now has a herd of 11. In this, he has eight Friesian cows from which he milks five while three are expectant and about to calf, two young bulls and a calf.
His main challenge is access to consistent feeds and limited storage space for feeds in an urban set up.
“I often hire a truck at Sh5000 to Sh10,000 to purchase bale from Naivasha farms for daily feeding and future use, where I keep them safely above the cow shed which acts as a storage room,” said Maina.
A bale of hay goes for Sh200 and he normally buys up to 100 bales in a single trip.
In future, he plans to purchase a spacious land in Ndeiya near Kikuyu town to relocate his cows but he will still supply milk to his loyal Kawangware customers by using his van purchased from the milk proceeds.
Besides dairy farming, Maina hires out his van through groups interested in going out for leisure purposes such as tours or church outings.
He encourages young people to try milk farming since the demand and market is still large than focusing on white collar jobs.“The pay is quite sweet and less tiresome,” he said.
The quantity of milk produced in Kenya dropped from 4.48bn liters in 2016 to 4.1bn in 2017 according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
Maina can be reached on +254 723 840 795