Behind dry and rocky terrain in Kajiado county is a farm with over 80 high-pedigree Friesian cows producing over 600 kilos 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 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 from 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.
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Meet Simon Songok the man credited with the success story of the farm, an animal science graduate who honed 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 Jerseys and a few Ayrshires to improve the butter fat content with the milk from 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 a few years. Ole’ Ngishu milking parlor complete with fully automated state-of-the-art machines as well as a cooler room, has inspired the local farmers in the neighborhood 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 our challenges are big the current production costs of Sh25 per liter are very high and we are appealing to the Dairy Board to push up the buying price to enable the farmer to make a profit. Also milk packaging materials are very high as its only one firm in the country that is licensed to produce them he notes.
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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 a monoculture farm that grows maize, pawpaw, watermelons, kales, and a large area under Lucerne used to supplement the feed he uses.
“Sigma feeds have withstood the test of time and have been credited with the success of our firm,” he concluded.