News and knowhow for farmers

Record prices hinder Kenya replacing livestock lost to drought 

Record livestock prices caused by loud beef demand is hindering Kenya’s attempt to replenish animals lost during Kenya’s worst drought in 40 years.

With Gulf beef buyers flying into the country to compete with locals for limited beef stocks, the Kenyan livestock market is now a seller’s market with sale values up 10 to 100 per cent.

In local markets, a goat that would cost bulk buyers Sh5,000 now sells at minimum for Sh8,500 if you know your way around, and for Sh9,000 for first-time buyers.

“The age of livestock being slaughtered has gotten increasingly young. It’s hard to blame farmers though, they are being offered they have never seen before. I am holding off selling any of my goats before replenishing my herd which was slashed from 600 to just 100. The prices are increasingly tempting though, admits Mcharo Mbogho– a livestock keeper at Kilengeta Farm in Taita Taveta.

Over 9.5 million livestock are estimated to have died by March of last year due to the severe 2020 – 2023 East African drought in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. 

Mcharo bore witness to the devastation wrought by the drought firsthand. “I had 150 pregnant sheep, 80 of whom I watched die even after buying fodder because they were too weak to digest the feed. We had to curl our livestock at throwaway prices to about 10 per cent of our capacity. From a herd of 200 beef cattle, I now have 20, and my galla goats are down from 600 to 100. It was either that or watch them all die,” he recounted.

Despite this, he is one of the lucky ones. “Most of my neighbors lost everything,” he said.

According to a study of pastoral livestock losses and post-drought rehabilitation in Africa, sheep and goats which reproduce fairly rapidly take eighteen months to three years to recover following losses of 30-40 per cent.

Larger stock such as cattle and camels take much longer to reestablish their former numbers. A cattle herd will need 10 to 12 years to recover after a similar level of loss.

Households trying to replenish their surviving stock found their incomes strained for some years while their herd numbers slowly rebuilt while most who sold off their rebuilding heard were unable to recover entirely. 

Read more:

Little upkeep, lucrative returns: Why galla goats are a perfect side venture

Beef prices soar on post-drought shortage

Dollar-touting Gulf buyers fly into Kenya hunting beef for export

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