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December 17, 2018

Dairy farming holds huge potential as state pushes job creation for the youth

A dairy cow at a farm near Eldoret. /FILE
A dairy cow at a farm near Eldoret. /FILE

During this year’s celebration of the International Youth Day last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the private sector and county governments to support the youth and give them an opportunity to utilise their creativity and innovations.

The head of state assured that implementation of the Big Four Agenda will create more than 800,000 jobs for the youth by 2022.

“Textile and apparel making, assembly of electricals and electronics, motor vehicle assembly, agro-processing and fish processing are emergent opportunities that our youth can now exploit,” he said in Kisii county on August 12.

One area young people are warming up to is agribusiness, particularly the dairy sector. Kenya Dairy Board managing director Margaret Kibugoy welcomes this development, saying it has made it easier to get milk and better quality.

The board recently trained more than 600 youth on how to improve the quality of milk. So far the board has registered 1,550 ATM milk operators countrywide, many of whom are young people.

“We will continue training them so we can get the right equipment to ensure the milk they have is pasteurised to safeguard consumers,” Kibugoy said.

“We want to empower them to make the right choices and eliminate food-borne diseases arising from milk contamination. And we are working in partnership with the county governments.”

SH2K PROFIT DAILY 

Kiambu resident Alphaxrd Ndung’u, 27, is not shy to make his hands dirty. He has ventured into dairy farming and he says the long hours he dedicates to his business are worth every dime.

Ndungu, who lives in Kiamumbi, Kahawa West ward, started dairy farming in 2014 with only one dairy cow given to him by his father. Since then, he has increased the number to 12.

Currently he has a herd of 19 cows, including calves between six months and two weeks old. Seven of the dairy cows are almost calving, while he is milking five.

Ndungu says on average, he is doing 15 litres of milk per cow per day, which totals to about 75 litres of milk daily. He sells 60 litres to nearby milk shops at Sh50 per litre, while 15 litres is bought by residents at Sh70 per litre.

“In a day I get about Sh4,000 from the sale of milk. If I deduct the cost of labour, water and feeds, I get a profit of about Sh2,000,” he says, adding that in a good month, he makes close to Sh100,000 from the sale of milk. 

Ndungu is making his own feeds because the dairy feeds sold in the agrovets, he says, are costly and of poor quality. “The daily consumption for all the 19 cows had started going up, so I decided to start making my own feeds to reduce the cost. I spent about Sh32 on one kilo of feeds but since I started making my own feeds, the cost of production has reduced to Sh25, and yet I have been able to increase production,” he says.

He supplements the dairy feeds with hay, silage and Napier grass. He buys a bale of hay at Sh190 and silage at Sh12 per kilo. “I am spending less on feeds and getting more yields since the feeds I am making are cheaper to buy and are more nutritious, and the cows feed on less,” he says.

HIGH DEMAND

Ndungu says getting quality products for dairy farming is becoming a problem. “There are a lot of substandard products in the market, including feeds, minerals or supplements and treatment drugs. This is affecting production and increasing the cost of production, hence making the youth shy away from farming,” he says.

Ndungu works closely with a veterinary officer to ensure he sustains his production. He makes sure he is up to date with information on dairy farming by researching on the Internet and attending trade fairs and farmers’ field days.

He is aiming to hit 250 litres per day by the end of the year by increasing the number of dairy cows to 20. “There is a high demand for milk in the market, and I have not met it yet,” he says.

He also keeps poultry and currently has 2,000 broilers. He has a ready market and sells one chicken at between Sh350 and Sh400.

According to the Kenya Dairy Board, milk production stands at 5.2 billion litres annually of which 3.9 billion litres are from cattle and the rest from camels and goats. Consumption at the household level is at 1.4 billion litres, with 2.5b litres being supplied in the informal market.

MD Kibogy says post-harvest losses from the farm to market are more than 500 million litres every year. She said the formal market handles about 600 million litres of milk, of which the government is planning to increase to one billion litres by 2022.

“Our intention is to increase quantity of milk going into the formal market from 30 per cent to 60 per cent,” Kibogy said.

The Sh300 billion industry contributes four per cent to the Gross Domestic Product, but it has a potential to contribute at least seven per cent. The industry is grappling with high cost of production, low utilisation capacity, seasonal fluctuations, substandard commercial feeds, low quality of milk, weak infrastructure and informal milk trade.

KEY TO SUCCESS 

The theme in this year’s International Youth Day was ‘Safe spaces for the youth’. It focused on providing safe spaces for young people to come together and engage in activities that foster their diverse needs and interests.

Ndungu says agriculture is the way to go, as there are a lot of opportunities across the value chain. “Making agriculture sexy and cool is not the solution. It has to be and needs to be profitable. Young people that do not have the capacity to be in primary production can look at it from a value chain capacity,” he says.

“Agriculture is not a get-rich-quick venture. One needs to have passion and patience to get returns.”

Ndungu urged the government to support farmers with getting professional help and quality farm inputs. “There should be an effective way for farmers to access extension service. This will help them get timely information, for instance, on disease outbreaks, which will help reduce losses. It will also help in dealing post-harvest losses,” he concludes. 

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