Livestock Farming in Kenya

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The livestock sector in Kenya contributes four per cent of GDP and comprises mainly dairy and meat production, eggs, hides, skins and wool from cows, sheep, goats and poultry.

The Government has stepped up plans to increase livestock production through investment in genetic improvement.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is of the view that shortage of disease resistant breeds, which produce more milk is a hindrance to the development of the livestock sub-sector.

The Ministry plans to create more forums where farmers can access information on cattle breeds, feed production and animal husbandry practices to increase the contribution of livestock to the national GDP, currently standing at 12 percent.

The ministry has finalised plans to establish disease – free zones in all counties. This will ensure livestock products attract better prices in the international market.

The Government encourages private sector participation in the realisation of its development agenda. The ministry also hopes to work with county governments to rejuvenate extension services at the grassroots.

Players in the industry, including Brookside Dairies, have been promoting modern breeding methods like embryo transfer through agricultural shows. The company also plans to sponsor 20 farmers for educational tours of Israel.

Kenya Meat Commission

Established in the early 1950s to provide a ready market for livestock farmers and high quality products to consumers, KMC requires a face lift through investment in new machinery, diversification and introducing buffer stock to ensure continuous supply throughout the year.

The firm is also considering processing pigs and poultry to end over-reliance on cattle and goats.

The factory is of utmost importance to livestock farmers and the country’s economy. Its performance directly affects farmers across the country.

After being closed for 15 years, the firm was re-opened in 2006 geared to supply domestic consumption and for export.

Livestock Farming in Kenya

Livestock farming is the rearing of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and poultry. Two types of livestock fanning may be distinguished, namely traditional or pastoral and commercial.

Pastoral Farming in Kenya

The system is also referred to as subsistence livestock farming or nomadic pastoralism. lt refers to extensive grazing on natural pasture involving constant or seasonal migration of nomads and their livestock.

Main Areas of Livestock farming in Kenya

The practice is confined to the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya such as Turkana,Wajir, Garissa, Kajiado, Narok and Marsabit among others. Where it is practiced by the Nilo-Hamitic groups like the Maasai, Turkana, Pokot, Borana, Rendille and Somali. The maasai, for example, practice nomadism in the southern part of Kenya and the northern part of Tanzania. During the rains, they go down the Athi- Kapiti Plains upto Kajiado and Namanga.

When the rains are over and the streams dry up, they move up the hills around Ngong, Naivasha and Narok areas.

Characteristics of Livestock farming in Kenya

Nomadic herding in Kenya is distinguished by the following main features:

  1. Cattle are kept as a sign of wealth, reared for the purpose of paying bride price and for slaughter during cultural festivities.
  2. There is uncontrolled breeding and large herds is what meets the eye in areas of nomadic pastoralists.
  3. There is lack of organised land tenure where land is communally owned resulting in overgrazing and serious incidents of soil erosion.
  4. Disease incidences are common. Both human and animals are exposed to tropical diseases.
  5. The animals are poor, weakened by disease, unhealthy and of low value. The marketing systems are inefficient because the attitude of the nomads is such that animals are a source of pride and not income.
  6. There is seasonal movement whereby people spend the dry season in one place and the wet season in another. This movement is known as transhumance.
  7. Many kinds of animals are grazed e. g. cattle, goats, sheep and camels.

Problems Facing Pastoralism in Kenya

  1. Climatic hazards – The areas where pastoralism is practiced receive low and unreliable rainfall. At times they experience prolonged drought. This leads to lack of water and sufficient pasture for the animals.
  2. Pests and diseases – Pests such as ticks and the tsetsefly, and diseases e.g. rinderpest, anthrax, east coast fever etc. are common in the pastoral areas. This has contributed to the death of large herds of animals.
  3. Overstocking – In most instances the pastoralists keep large herds far exceeding the land carrying capacity. This has led to soil erosion and environment degradation.
  4. Poor pastures – Most of the pastoral areas are underlain by poor soil. This cannot support quality pastures. Most areas are thus covered by poor pastures consisting of taft grasses and bare land.
  5. Cattle rustling – This is a big cause of insecurity among the pastoralists and it always leads to loss of life and destruction of property.
  6. Inadequate transport network – The pastoral areas are inaccessible. Fanners are therefore not able to get their animals to the market.
  7. Inadequate veterinary services – Extension services in the pastoral areas are inadequate hence it is difficult to treat or improve the animals. It is difficult to provide these services due to insecurity and given that the pastoralists are always on the move.

Improvements in Pastoral Areas in Kenya

Nomadism is increasingly disappearing in  Kenya just like in many other parts of the world. The Government is encouraging the pastoral tribes to settle down since the system is plagued by a number of problems. In Kenya the Government is employing the following measures to assist the nomadic pastoralists to improve the quality of their livestock:

  1. The Government has established demonstration ranches to sensitise the pastoralists on better methods of animal husbandry.
  2. The Cvovernment is encouraging cross-breeding of indigenous breeds with hybrid ‘ Cattle dips have been constructed to breeds to improve the quality of livestock.
  3. control pests. Extension services have been provided to give advice to the pastoralists and offer drugs and treatment to the animals.
  4. Boreholes have been sunk and dams constructed in pastoral areas to provide water for the livestock hence minimize movement due to inadequate water.
  5. Through fonnal education, pastoralists are learning something about the advantages of keeping manageable sizes of herds.
  6. The Government is also encouraging group ranching to enable the pastoralists to view livestock keeping as a commercial undertaking.
  7. Efforts are being made to encourage bee keeping along the river valleys of Tana River Basin, Ewaso Nyiro Basin and Dawa River Basin where there are luxuriant vegetation growth.

Red meat, comprising beef, mutton, goat and camel meat, accounts for more than 80 per cent of all the meat consumed locally.

About 65 per cent of the red meat is produced in the arid and semi-arid lands under pastoral production system. According to the 2009 census, Kenya has about 17.3 million cattle (14 million indigenous and 3.3 million exotic), 27 million goats, 17 million sheep, 2.9 million camels and 335,000 pigs. White meat, which includes poultry and pig meat accounts for about 20 per cent of he is consumed in the country. Two main players are key in poultry and pork production-Ken chic and Farmers Choice.

The contribution of game meal is negligible, accounting for less than one per cent of the meat consumed. At present, Kenya restricts marketing and export of game meat due to fears that legalizing it could stimulate demand for illegal bush meat and poaching. However, there are a few licensed dealers in game meat, especially hotels and restaurants.

Kenya’s main export markets for meat products include United Arab Emirates, Tanzania and Uganda, while the main markets for hides and skins are Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Italy.

Livestock supply in Kenya

In Kenya, the domestic market consists of primary, secondary and terminal markets. Stock changes hands once or twice before reaching the terminal markets. For example, the primary market is Moyale-Nairobi, while the secondary is Mandera-Garissa-Nairobi or Turkana-Eldoret-Nairobi. However, the terminal market is Mandera-Wajir-Garissa-Nairobi.

The main supplies of stock to Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and other terminal markets are Marsabit, Moyale, Laikipia, Garissa, Kuria, Kajiado, Narok, Machakos, Isiolo, Nakuru, Migori and Mandera for cattle. For goats, the supplies are from Marsabit, Moyale, Clarissa, Kajiado, Turkana, Machakos and Mandera. Camels are sup-plied from Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo and Moyale.

The market for livestock supplies is increasingly expanding locally and regionally. Nearly all cattle bought at Moyale and some cattle and goats purchased at Mandera originate from the Borana and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Small numbers of cattle from South Sudan and the south-western part of Ethiopia are routed to Eldoret and Nairobi through Lokichogio and Lodwar.

A significant proportion in the Garissa market comes from Somalia. Similarly, livestock from Tanzania is routed through Kuria and Migori and to markets in Nairobi.

Livestock market in Kenya

To boost the income of farmers, the government of Kenya will establish satellite slaughterhouses and camel slaughter slabs in Garissa and Isiolo, establish a mini-dairy at Garissa to promote camel milk marketing and support national livestock marketing information systems.

It will also establish and rehabilitate market infrastructure, improve livestock off take and creation of disease free zones in coast province, train pastoralists in marketing, product processing and value addition and conduct studies on camel meat and milk products.

Boosting the livestock sector in Kenya

Many initiatives have been started to improve the livestock center in Kenya:

  1. Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanomiasis Eradication Campaign Programme
  2. National Agriculture and Livestock Extension Programme (NALEP) which deals with institutional setting and extension approaches.

Phase one started in July 2000. NALEP has been implemented through the Ministries of Agriculture and Livestock. The objective is to assess the impact and prepare for phase two. An assessment was done in 2006 in four provinces, Central, Nyanza, Eastern and Western

The smallholder Dairy Programme is aimed at increasing incomes in poor rural households that depend on production and trade in dairy products, while the ASAL Livestock and Rural Livelihood Support Projects is designed to improve the livelihoods of communities through improved incomes. The project is funded by the Government and African Development Bank and implemented by the Veterinary Services and Livestock Production departments. The beneficiary contribute at least 20%of the cost of their projects.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya Camel Association, the University of Nairobi and the Ewaso Nyiro North Development Authority are the main collaborators.

The improvement of livestock production projects aims to increase carcass weight and boost livestock health. The focus is on the local breeds and others suited to local breeds and others suited to tropical conditions. They include the Boran and Sahiwal cattle, Galla and small East African goats, Black Head Persia, Red Maasai and Dorper Sheep.

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