By George Munene
With a 70 kilogram of concentrate dairy feed setting farmers back around Sh2,800, the gnawing question for most dairy keepers is how to still turn a profit in an industry whose production cost is increasingly exorbitant.
For Gordon Chui, a dairy farmer at Igoji, Meru County, the answer lies in having a good foundation stock with high genetic potential.
His herd consist of nine milking cows each averaging 23.6 litres each. His he says is an agribusiness, that does not run on by the book modern feeding methods. His heard feeds on 60 kilograms of dairy meal daily mixed in with Napier grass offered ad libitum and a smattering of hay.
“Farmers often correlate expensive and exotic feeding regimes with production, neglecting the generic potential of their heard. A cow fed on a moderate to high plane diet producing less than 15 litres of milk will leave you out of pocket and disappointed,” he says.
Chui used to make his own dairy meal which was far cheaper to produce and nearly doubled his current output. “That cow, he says pointing to a Friesian and Ayrshire cross, gave me up to 42 litres which is all the way down to 27 litres now, the Holstein Friesian next to it is down 13 litres to just 25 now that we are forced to purchase ready made feeds.”
As his dairy meal is purchased in bulk, he buys a bag for Sh2,300. In a month he buys Sh60,000 worth of feeds, Sh10,000 worth of hay in oats or Rhodes and pays a salary of Sh10,000 to his farmhand. With the buying price of a litre of milk at Sh40, despite the rising cost of feeds, this still leaves his business in the black. Napier grass is sourced from his one acre and change of farmland.
Since September of last year dairy meal constituents have gotten too expensive or have disappeared from local markets altogether. “Sunflower seed cake shot up from Sh1,000 to 2,400 for a 50kg bag. Canola meal was Sh55 a kilogram, now you’ll be lucky to find it in markets for Sh70. The price of soybean has doubled to about Sh120 a kilogram and it’s quality is subpar as is that of wheat bran which is often adulterated with rice polish. Pollard’s price has also ticked up from Sh22 to about Sh30 a kilo.
A graduate in animal health and production from Chuka University, he is his own on call vet which further cuts his operational costs.
Gordon Chui: 0711928111