• Bukura Agricultural College processes 1,000 litres daily that it supplies in the region
• It formulates dairy feeds and has trained more than 1,000 farmers on best practices
In 2017, students at Bukura Agricultural College in Western proposed a business idea to their school.
Final-year students studying for the college's diploma in animal production conducted a survey and found that the milk consumed in the region was being transported all the way from the Rift Valley. Some milk products were even imported from Uganda.
"This area has the potential for dairy farming, but few farmers had embraced the venture. To us, it was a business opportunity," said Davis Kamau, who today is plant manager at a thriving dairy at the college.
The institution adopted the recommendations by the students and started a dairy farm.
As a response to the initial student proposal, the college bought two dairy cows and was soon producing 50 litres of milk per day.
The project then got a shot in the arm when the students wrote a funding proposal to the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) to establish a modern dairy farm.
The agency helped the college construct a dairy plant with a Sh25 million grant, providing the college with the capacity to produce 2,000 litres daily.
"The dairy was established with the twin objectives of commercial milk production after value-addition and as a training unit for college students undertaking a course in animal production," Kamau said.
The college bought 20 dairy cows but quickly found that more cows were needed to meet the demand for milk from residents, who had started coming to the institution to buy milk.
"To meet with the forces of demand and supply, we again bought an additional 25 cows that saw us increase the processing capacity to 800 litres per day," Kamau said. The college also rears milk cows with the main breeds being Jersey, Friesians and Ayrshire.
"We also contracted five dairy farmers and trained them on better farming practices, and we get 200 litres of milk per day from them. Our current processing capacity is now 1,000 litres a day," the plant manager added.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards and the Kenya Dairy Board have since accredited their operations. To increase profits, the college has started producing branded yoghurt, fermented milk and pasteurised milk. "We are discouraging people from buying raw milk as that does not fetch good money," Kamau said.
The college has a ready market in surrounding schools and colleges, leading supermarkets and local shops in Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga and Kisumu counties. Kamau said 500ml of yoghurt goes at Sh80 and fermented milk sells for Sh130 per litre.
"On a good month, we make profits of between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million. When milk processing will be at full capacity, we expect to get triple the revenue from what we are currently getting every month," Kamau said.
"We want to buy more dairy cows to increase our milk processing capacity. Already, plans are at an advanced stage to instal ATM milk kiosks in Kakamega and Bungoma to expand our market reach."
The college also wants to start producing cream, ghee and biscuits. Patrick Chogo, the commercial farm manager, said they want to maximise profits by fully formulating their dairy feeds. Currently, they produce 70 per cent of the feeds at the college farm.
He said they had planted Napier grass, hay, desmodium, yellow maize and sorghum, which, after harvesting, is dried, crushed into fine particles and given to the animals as feed.
"We take around 35kg of dry and crushed maize stalks and Napier grass, 12kg of wheat bran, 8kg of maize jam, 35kg of hay, 8kg of malt residue, a kilo of salt, four litres of molasses and then mix it with 60 litres of water, which we formulate and feed the animals daily," Chogo said.
Geoffrey Gichuki, the assistant farm manager, lamented high feed costs, saying it eats more into the profits than they had expected. However, he had confidence in elaborate plans developed by the college to provide feed for the next two years.
Acting principal Paul Kuria said the income-generating unit had provided invaluable cash flow to the college, allowing it to stay afloat when it faced financial constraints. He is now determined to make the project more viable by reaching a wider market. He also wants to ensure the project gives job opportunities to local farmers and residents, he said.
"Through our dairy project, the institute has trained more than 1,000 farmers, who are also into dairy farming. We will contract them so they can produce enough milk to meet our expansion targets of processing 5,000 litres of milk in two years' time," Kuria said.
Internship opportunities for graduates from the college as well as from other institutions of higher learning will make the project even more beneficial to the wider community, he said.