Beef Farming in Kenya
Beef farming in Kenya is a type of livestock keeping which involves rearing of cattle for the production of meat. Beef cattle, therefore, refer to cattle raised for meat rather than milk. The major world exporters of beef are Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The United States of America and Europe have considerable production of beef for their high local demand.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Overview
90% of beef cattle in Kenya are in the hands of subsistence farmers and pastoralists. Today, cattle population exceeds 10 million head with the largest number in the Rift Valley, Nyanza and Eastern parts of Kenya. Beef farming is very important in Kenya today. Today the cattle population exceeds 10 million heads, and the large-scale livestock farmers keep animals both for commercial (meat and milk) and subsistence purposes. The distribution of beef cattle in Kenya is influenced by rainfall patterns. Small-scale beef farming is carried out in almost all parts of Kenya.
Before the meat is sold, it is being inspected and declared either fit or unfit for human consumption. The canning and freezing plants for beef are found in Nairobi, Thika, and Nakuru, and the canned meat is mainly exported. It is estimated that over 6 million head of cattle go to slaughter houses every year and provide beef for the local and export market. The major slaughter-houses are located in the urban areas like Dagoretti in Nairobi, Miritini in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Eldoret. The meat processing factory was located at Athi River town near Nairobi. However, due to mismanagement, the factory closed down. Measures are now being undertaken to revive it. Canning and freezing plants are located at Nairobi, Thika, and Nakuru.
The distribution of beef cattle in Kenya is controlled by the rainfall pattern. Most animals are kept in ranches in Rift Valley region like in Laikipia, Nakuru, Trans Nzoia and Kajiado counties. Large ranches are also found in parts of Kiliﬁ and Kwale counties in the Coast region.
Small scale beef farming is carried out in almost all parts of Kenya. The small scale farmers sell their traditional breeds to the nearest open-air markets to traders, who in turn sell them to the butchers. The butchers slaughter them at their respective abattoirs and in turn sell their beef at their respective butcheries to the customers in the locality.
Before the meat is sold, it must be inspected by a Veterinary Extension Ofﬁcer, who declares it either ﬁt or unﬁt for human consumption.
The canned and frozen beef is mainly exported to some African and other overseas countries. The marketing of beef and related products is dominated by the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).
Beef Farming in Kenya – Breeds
- Indigenous breeds such as the highly adapted zebu i.e small east African Zebu and Boran
- Exotic beef breeds such as Hereford, Simmental, Charolais, Angus
Beef Farming in Kenya – Parasites and Diseases
The most prevalent diseases include rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), lumpy skin and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. The most common parasites include both internal parasites such as worms, and external parasites such as ticks, mites, tsetse fly among others.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Feeding
Beef production in Kenya is pasture-based and hence dependent on land availability. Continued subdivision of land and persistent droughts pose a particular challenge for beef production, especially during the dry season. Subdivision has led to shrinkage of the grazing resource and consequently affects the productivity of the animals.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Measures by the Kenyan Government to Improve Beef Farming
A lot of effort is being directed to improving areas suitable for cattle ranching. The 1989-1993 development plan laid emphasis on rehabilitation of marginal areas. There are plans to increase acreage under ranching. Better management and support services are being provided to existing livestock programs in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of Rift Valley, Eastern, Coast, and North Eastern regions.
- The strategies to improve traditional production in the current development plan include:
- Establishing the priority orders, by creating awareness among the leaders.
- Identifying methods of approach that include related ministries and
- Departments of Agriculture, Livestock and Reclamation and Wildlife.
- Organising forums to educate the farmers on strategies to improve their systems of livestock farming.
- Mobilising senior officers and experts to map out workable plans on improving livestock farming.
- Investigating the prevailing market situation and make appropriate recommendations.
- Identifying possible ﬁnancial institutions to the farmers such as Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), banks and co~operatives and advice the farmers accordingly.
- Creating ranching schemes in the arid and semi-arid areas (ASAL) to improve livestock farming among the pastoral communities. For instance, Kaputiei Group Ranching Scheme to the southeast of Sultan Hamud and Konza (Kajiado District), is meant to improve livestock farming among the Maasai. Kaputiei is planned to develop over 1,000,000 acres of Maasailand. The project also includes other rangelands in Maasailand and near Taita Hills and seeks to:
- Provide dipping equipment and facilities.
- Improve water supply.
- Offer technical assistance to the community.
- Purchase pedigree and cross-breed with local good stock and
- Control stock numbers.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Efforts being made to improve beef farming
There are measures being put in place aimed at improving beef farming in Kenya. These measures include:-
- Introduction of pedigree British cattle in some suitable districts or cross-breeding them with indigenous breeds.
- Teaching and encouraging farmers to adopt modern methods of rearing and breeding beef cattle.
- Providing water by building dams and reservoirs.
- Ploughing and resowing pastureland with special ought resistant or more nourish,
- Funding research in animal disease control and management, educational programs and drug supply.
- Providing extension ofﬁcers to give the farmers the necessary advice.
- Decontrolling the price of meat products.
This has resulted in an increase in the variety of prices offered to beef farmers.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Limitations of Beef Farming
A number of problems limit beef farming in Kenya. They include:-
- High temperatures – In most parts of the country temperatures are high. This makes it hard to rare cattle of high quality.
- Unreliable rainfall– In most parts of the country rainfall is unreliable leading to inadequate pasture in some times of the year. This affects the general growth and weight of the livestock.
- Poor soils – The hard ancient rock that underlies Kenya produces poor soils prone to erosion. Natural grass is poor and not good for quality animals.
- Overstocking – the pastoral tribes care for quantity rather than quality. As a result, large herds of poor animals are steadily ruining pastureland.
- Pest and diseases – Some regions of the country are infested by the tsetse fly whose control has been difficult. The environment also encourages the spread of diseases e.g. nagana, rinderpest, foot and mouth, east coast fever, etc. Controlling the diseases is quite difﬁcult since these diseases are constantly spread by wandering herds of wild animals.
- Competition from other land use activities – Wildlife poses a significant land use challenge in the utilisation of rangeland pastures e.g., the conﬂict between the Maasai pastoralists and the National Parks.
- Poor quality animals – The animals kept are of poor quality due to the poor pastures. These fetch low prices.
- Inadequate capital – There is insufficient capital for the development of the beef industry. There are inadequate funds for the establishment of processing and storage facilities.
Beef Farming in Kenya- Significance of Beef Farming
Beef farming has beneﬁted the Kenyan Economy in several ways. These include:-
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- Provision of beef for local consumption:-The industry has produced beef which is consumed locally. This has saved the country the foreign exchange that could have been used in beef importation. This has also served as a cheap source of protein.
- Foreign exchange – Through the exportation of beef products and livestock, the country has earned foreign exchange.
- Employment – Beef farming is a source of employment to many people e.g., in the beef farms and processing plants.
- High standard of living – Through the sale of livestock the farmers are able to earn some income. This has raised their standards of living.
Beef Farming in Kenya – Marketing
The main players in beef cattle and beef marketing included the private livestock traders, Livestock Marketing Division (LMD), Kenya Meat Commission(KMC) and private butchers.