Farmers at crossroads as drought, high feed cost hits dairy sector

The weakening of shilling is also hurting importers

In Summary

• Feed manufacturer says the situation is going from bad to worse.

• Farmers want the government to intervene to help bring down the cost of animal feed.  

Alphaxard Ndung’u at his Alpham farm in Kiambu
Alphaxard Ndung’u at his Alpham farm in Kiambu

Dairy farmers are facing a double challenge of drought and high cost of animal feed.

This has left many at a crossroads on whether to continue with dairy farming or quit altogether.

One farmer told the Star that besides the increased cost of feed, farmers are now grappling with animal diseases due to drought.  

Alice Atego, 32, is a dairy farmer from Ainabkoi in Uasin Gishu. She said they are recording losses as daily milk production has reduced by half.  

She said they have 17 dairy cows and milk production has plummeted from 100-120 litres to 50-60 litres a day.

“The production has drastically declined and dairy farming has become an expensive venture because of drought and the high cost of feed," Atego said.

"We have to dig deeper into our pockets to keep going and it is no longer a profitable venture and we are just doing it for the sake of it.” 

She attributed the decline to severe drought in the country, which has affected the availability of pasture and water.

“Even forage for dairy animals has disappeared due to drought. The boreholes we had have dried up and we now have to take the cows to the river,” she said.

She said most of the animals were on zero grazing but due to the high cost of feed and lack of forage, they have to graze them outside.

“As a result, some of the animals are now having diseases. We lost two cows due to the weather in January,” Atego said.

She urged the government to intervene to help bring down the cost of animal feed. Even the price of salt for the animals has gone up from Sh40-Sh70 for the smallest portion.  

Martin Kibe, an animal feed manufacturer in Kiambu county, said the situation is difficult because of the drought and delay in importation of maize.

He said the maize was supposed to land at the Port of Mombasa last month but it has now been pushed to early next month.

Kibe said the prices keep soaring, especially for maize. Currently a 90kg bag of maize is being sold at Sh6,000 in Kenya and the East African market.  

“Besides drought and the cost of feed, the weakening of shilling against the dollar is hurting importers. This is because currently, the country cannot be able to sustain itself so we are importing from the East African market and this is pushing the prices up,” he said.

Kibe said two months ago, a 70kg bag of dairy meal was selling at Sh2,500 but it has now gone up to Sh3,000.

The cost of maize germ per bag was selling at Sh4,700 a month ago but today it is selling at Sh6,000.

“This cost is being pushed to the consumer or farmer. The purchasing power of farmers has gone down. Unless we receive substantial rain and unless the imports arrive here in time, then the cost of animal feed will continue increasing,” he said.

Kibe said the government has to come up with a long-term solution like irrigation or building of dams to cushion citizens against external forces of climate change, political situations in the region and the dollar rate.

“The government needs to take action to cushion the consumer because the situation is going from bad to worse. If we keep relying on the old ways, the consumer will always be affected,” Kibe said.

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