Farmers in Kirinyaga have been encouraged to embrace dairy farming and put more emphasis on continuous training, technology and skills development.
Governor Joseph Ndathi said dairy farming is a key driver in the livestock sub sector, with a high potential to put the county on the milk production map.
"Our milk production is largely unexploited. We want to make dairy farming more appealing to our farmers because that is where the money lies,” said Ndathi during the launch of the Kirinyaga Dairy Farmers Association at Kerugoya Stadium.
The association, which was launched during the county's agri-business trade fair, will be fully owned and managed by the dairy farmers from the county.
According to the Kenya Dairy Board, the country produces more milk than any other in Africa, but farmers have not maximised production per cow compared with European cattle, which can produce more than 35 litres a day.
The county government, Ndathi said, will embark on a sub-county wide registration and capacity building of members to strengthen the association.
"With our collaborators we will plan a series of farmer educational forums and field days in all sub-counties starting from February to spark interest among farmers,” said the governor.
In 2015 alone, the county had an estimated population of 80,905 dairy animals with an estimated milk production of 78,664,720 litres, of which 20 per cent was consumed at the farm, while 80 per cent marketed largely in the informal market.
He added that his government’s collaboration with stakeholders who promote good livestock husbandry and production resulted in high uptake of dairy farming, with data putting last year’s total earning from milk production at Sh2.75 billion.
“We are encouraging our farmers to take up dairy farming because nowadays it is easy; thanks to new technology and mechanisation that supports value chain addition. Such events provide an opportunity for our farmers and entrepreneurs to learn various technologies in livestock production, value addition, processing and marketing,” Ndathi said.
Kenya Livestock Producers Association chairman Geoffrey Gikungu said organising exhibitions for farmers and agro-dealers created linkages for more productivity.
“We have seen fruitful outcomes through these sessions. We are going to cover all farmers in every county in collaboration with county governments,” said Gikunja.
James Migiro, 59, a smallholder farmer from Kevoro region in Kirinyaga county, makes up the vast majority of dairy farmers in Kenya that struggle to make a living off their cows.
Cost and quality of feeds have been cited as the major setback in achieving high milk production.
“I am happy to have learned new feeds that are cheap from some of the exhibitors here,” said Migiro, a father of six.