Kenya is one of the largest producers of milk in Africa. Large scale dairy farming in Kenya accounts for 20 percent of national milk production and small scale farming 80 percent.
Dairy Farming in Kenya is a type of farming whereby cattle are kept for milk production. Dairy farming is mainly practiced in several parts of the Rift Valley and the Central, Eastern, Coast and Western parts of Kenya. It is mostly practiced by small-scale holders, who account for 80% of the milk produced in Kenya, while large-scale farming accounts for the remaining 20%. There are two types of dairy farming in Kenya, namely:-
- Commercial dairy farming.
- Domestic dairy farming.
Commercial Dairy Farming in Kenya
Commercial dairy farming in Kenya is practiced in both small and large scale farms. There are two types of commercial dairying in Kenya, namely:
- Highland commercial dairy fanning.
- Lowland commercial dairy farming.
Highland Commercial Dairy Farming in Kenya
Highland commercial dairy farming is practiced in the Kenya highlands. The major highland dairying areas.
Lowland Commercial Farming in Kenya
Domestic Dairy Farming in Kenya
This is a traditional practice which is common among many Kenyan communities.
It involves keeping traditional cattle for domestic milk. The milk is consumed by the members of the family. However, several changes have taken place recently. Many domestic cattle keepers in Kenya are now selling their milk to the local markets.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Types of Dairy Cows
(i). Friesian Cow
This is a black and white dairy cow which originated from the Netherlands, where it is also known as Holstein. It has soft and ﬁne hair. It accounts for most of the dairy cattle in Kenya.
(ii) The Channel Island Cows
These are from Western Europe around the English Channel and are found in several breeds. The main breeds include Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney. They are commonly referred to as the Channel Island cows because their origin is around the English channel in Western Europe.
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The Jersey cow has colors ranging from white to dark brown. It has a “mealy” ring of light hair on the muzzle. It is an exotic breed which came from Jersey and South England in Britain. The animal is more adaptable to extremes of heat and cold.
Jersey is, therefore, the most numerous and widespread dairy breed in the world.
A Guernsey is brown in color with white dots or pale patches. It is an exotic breed from France.
The cow is very docile and gives a good yield of rich creamy milk. As a result, the breed has become very popular.
(v) Ayrshire Cow
This is an exotic breed from Scotland. It has white and brown patches and smaller than Friesian in size.
It can ﬁt in a wide range of climates. The breed gives high milk yields.
(vi) The Sahiwal Cow
This is the most suitable breed in tropical land. It originated from India.
It is common in the Government farm in Naivasha. Sahiwal bulls are useful in cross-breeding with traditional cattle.
Traits To Consider When Buying A Dairy Cow
Traits to consider when buying a dairy cow – While it is true you can mint millions selling milk produced by your dairy cows; farmers fail to attain this for lack of good planning at the foundation level. At the very core of any good dairy farming, breed selection and subsequent animal husbandry are of paramount importance.
There are many traits to consider when buying a dairy cow. However, milk production is a factor of the genetic make-up and the environment, where environment includes housing, feed and health management.
Dairy cows are kept for milk production. Any farmer engaged in dairy production must have lots of milk from his current herd, whose sales must offset the amount spent on its production — where this isn’t the case then, we can’t talk of commercial dairy production.
Indigenous breeds have never been good at milk production since they are multi-purpose — kept for drought resistance, milk and meat production. Some counties like Garissa and Marsabit satisfy their markets with the milk from indigenous animals due to their large stocks.
However, the problem of in-breeding perpetuated by free-range grazing is taking its toll on the productivity of Zebu cows.
Factors to Consider before Seeking the Right Dairy cow
It is important to consider the following factors before deciding on the dairy cow to purchase:-
- Suitability to the environment. Important environmental parameters such as rainfall and temperature ought to be considered.
- Availability of feed resources throughout the year and possibility of storage.
- Land size: This determines the number of animals you can keep.
- Intensity of production, which is whether you intend to rear your animals under zero-grazing or free-grazing.
- Outlay of capital resources required.
- Availability of the animal of choice and transportation costs involved.
- Milk market requirements and preferences.
Traits to consider when buying a dairy cow
These traits refer to milk volume and the contents i.e percentage of butterfat level, protein and other
non-fat solids. Milk volume should be considered relative to amount of feeds consumed since more produce from relatively lesser fodder is proof of a high feed conversion efficiency. More solids in milk generally increase the quality.
These traits give an indication of the performance of the dairy animal and include the udder structure, nature of feet or legs, stature and general dairy character.
The udder should be pliable, silky in texture, sack-like in nature and non-pendulous but firmly attached with strong suspensory ligaments high up near the vulva region. A huge udder is not necessarily a sign of a high milk yield. The teats should be average-sized and evenly placed and pointing straight down on the udder.
Good feet and strong legs lead to longevity of a dairy cow and facilitates it to be able to feed comfortably especially when in-calf.Observed from behind, a dairy cow’s hind legs should stand straight and wide apart while the side view should show a slightly set back sickled ending with slightly angled feet. The front legs should also be straight with a steep strongly attached pastern.
The ideal cow’s stature should portray a deep, long body with wide, sprung ribs to provide ample space for the rumen and other digestive system organs. A good dairy cow should have a wedge shape, long neck, good width between fore legs, wide pin bones, broad muzzle and strong straight top line.
The classic dairy character is indicated by sharpness across shoulders and slight general leanness all over the body ending with a thin fine tail. Generally, pedigree dairy cows portray flatness of bone usually evident on the inner thigh.
The number of inseminations per conception will always determine the success of a breeding programme. The fewer the inseminations per conception, the better the fertility of a particular animal.
This determines the amount of total lifetime milk production of a cow but it is usually influenced greatly by other traits such as health and fertility. Choose heifers or bull semen from families with a history of cows that can maintain high production ability across many lactations as well as have as many normal calvings as possible in their lifetimes.
Emphasis should be laid on choosing disease-resistant and hardy animals to remain in production for long.
Calving ease traits
Physical traits that facilitate easy calving include a wide pelvic diameter and a gentle slope from pin to hip bone. A cow’s body frame should portray a strong straight back or loin, which is essential during gestation in enabling the animal to comfortably feed as well as carry its foetus to term.
Milking speed is of essence in maximising yield since milk let-down is controlled by oxytocin hormone whose concentration levels in blood diminish with time. Therefore, it is important to choose animals with the right teat size, shape and opening. Bad temperament interferes with oxytocin flow during milking, thus, one should also consider docility when choosing a dairy animal.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Conditions Favouring Dairy Farming in the Highlands
- Low temperatures – The region experiences low temperatures averaging 18°C. This is ideal for the survival of exotic breeds.
- High rainfall – The highlands receive high rainfall well distributed throughout the year. This can ensure that there is an abundant supply of water for the animals and adequate natural pasture throughout the year.
- Fertile soils – The fertile volcanic soils in the highlands have ensured that there is the high quality nutritious cover of grass. This implies high-quality pasture throughout the year.
- Infrastructure – The region has a well-established infrastructure e.g. roads which enhance the quick transportation of milk from the ﬁelds to the processing plants.
- Ready market – The high population in the highlands has offered a ready market for the dairy products.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Breeding
Milk yield is an important factor in the life of a dairy farmer. To get the required yield there is a demand for comprehensive planning by the farmer. He must plan ahead to ensure that his herd is “in milk” at the right point in time. Not all the cows in the herd give milk all the time. There is always a large proportion of “followers” in the herd. The “followers” are the cows which are not in milk either because they are between the end of lactation and next calving or because they are heifers.
A cow produces milk when it calves and this calving takes nine months after successful mating. In Kenya, farmers use the bulls directly or artiﬁcial insemination (AI) to sire calves and keep the herd in milk.
Use of bulls is now becoming unpopular compared to artiﬁcial insemination.
Artificial insemination refers to the method by which the semen collected from good breeding males of a species is placed in the reproductive tract of the female animal at the most effective time during its reproduction cycle. This method enables the farmer to breed from excellent bulls. This improves the potential value of the farmer’s herd.
Artiﬁcial insemination units are located at various control points in the dairy farming districts called Livestock Multiplication Centres. They are administered by the Veterinary Extension Officers. However, the privatizing of the same has affected its wider use and reach in Kenya because most farmers can no longer afford it.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Milk Processing and Marketing
KCC is a well established co-operative whose origin dates back to 1920. It was initially started by the white farmers to market their milk production. Now, it draws its members from several grassroots and secondary co-operatives.
Local co-operatives collect milk from the farmers at various collection points. This is taken to the nearest KCC creamery. KCC processing creameries are located at Eldoret, Kitale, Nakuru, Sotik, Naivasha, Nyahururu, Kiganjo, Nairobi and Mariakani.
At the creameries, the milk is weighed and recorded against the farmer’s name. The milk is then processed into liquid milk, ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk, powdered milk, butter, ghee or cheese. These products are packed ready for distribution to the consumers.
For instance, KCC liquid milk is packed in waxed paper packets called Tetra-packs, mostly in half liters for sale to consumers.
The products are then sent to KCC depots for distribution. KCC distribution depots are found at Nairobi, Thika, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Machakos, Eldoret, Kericho, and Nakuru. Kenya also exports its milk products to the ‘neighboring countries like Uganda. Other private milk processors have entered the market e.g. Brookside Dairies, Tuzo, and Kitinda.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Collection, Bulking and Transortation
At present, collection and bulking is a complex of different systems depending on processors, intermediaries, the road network, milk sheds and many other factors. The transportation of milk depends on the amount and the buyer. Major processors have their own collection, bulking and transportation systems.
Stainless steel cans, and occasionally plastic cans, are used for bulking milk from individual suppliers and delivering it to processors’ collection, bulking and cooling centres, from where it is transported in cans or by refrigerated tanks to the main processing plants.
In some areas, powerful milk intermediaries have positioned themselves between the market and the milk producers. Their presence complicates the traceability of milk and brings a risk of cross-contamination and microbial overload.
Dairy Farming in Kenya –
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Problems Facing Dairy Farming
- Small scale dairy farms like those in Central Kenya face stiff competition from other cash crops like tea, coffee, pyrethrum, passion fruits, and vegetables.
- Farm inputs are very expensive. This has minimized mechanization of dairy fanning in the country.
- Roads become muddy and impassable during the rainy season in some major dairy farming areas like Nyandarua county.
- Extensive and abrupt droughts lower production. This at times leads to a temporary milk shortage.
- Dairy cattle face the risk of cattle diseases.
- This has restricted dairy farming to Kenya highlands.
- Poor management of dairy co-operatives at the grassroots results to delayed payments. This kills the farmers’ initiative and morale.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Unprocessed Milk Trade.
Over 85 percent of marketed milk in kenya is sold raw. Recently, the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) and others in the formal milk trade have claimed that the proportion of processed milk has increased to more than 20 percent. An SDP brief provides the following as reasons for unprocessed milk being preferred:
• It is 20 to 50 percent cheaper than processed milk.
• Many people prefer the taste and high butterfat content of unprocessed milk.
• Unprocessed milk is sold in variable quantities, depending on how much money the customer has to spend.
• It is widely accessible and within the reach of many people.
• Most consumers are accustomed to consuming unprocessed milk.
Measures by the Kenyan Government to Improve Dairy Farming
The Government of Kenya has laid emphasis on dairy farming through:-
- Improving extension services. Every administrative division in the country is covered by
- Extension officers who from time to time update the farmers on ways of improving their stock.
- Extending credit facilities to farmers through co-operatives.
- Holding agricultural shows at district and provincial levels as well as the Nairobi International Show as a means of educating dairy farmers on the importance of good dairy farm management.
- Investing in recherche and availing training opportunities.
- Setting up demonstration projects such as Emali Livestock Multiplicity Project that breeds high-quality bulls to be released to the farmers.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Significance of Dairy Farming
- Employment – The dairy sector has offered employment to many Kenyans. This is in the dairy farms in various parts of the country, milk processing plants, and the dairy-related industries.
- High standards of living – Through the selling of milk, the farmers are able to generate income. This has helped them to raise their standard of living.
- Promotion of industries – The daily sector has aided the development of industries dealing in the manufacture of inputs such as animal feeds, milking cans, pesticides, etc.
- Foreign exchange – Some of the products from the dairy industry e. g. cheese, butter, and powdered milk have been exported to other countries. This has earned the country foreign exchange.
- Provision of Proteins – Dairy products are rich in proteins, fat, and vitamins which are essential for human health. They thus contribute to a healthy nation.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – The Dairy Sub-Sector
The largest single milk processor is the New Kenya Co-operative Creameries. Smaller factories do roaring businesses in Nairobi, Limuru, Nakuru, Kitale, and Eldoret. Milk production and processing of products such as yogurt, butter, cheese, ghee, and powdered milk have increased significantly in recent years.
The dairy sub-sector plays a critical role in the livelihood of many Kenyans. The sub-sector is also a significant contributor to the country’s GDP. The revival of the dairy industry in 2003 led to an improvement in milk production and marketing.
Milk production in Kenya is dominated by small scale producers mainly in the Rift Valley, Central and Eastern parts of Kenya. Various production systems, which mainly rely on rain-fed agriculture, are used. The current dairy cattle population is estimated at four million. Total milk production is estimated at about 4.8 million tonnes – cow milk estimated at 4.5 million tonnes, goat milk 150,000 tonnes and the camel about 50,000 tonnes.
Marketing milk is done through the formal and informal sectors. The formal comprises 27 milk processors, 64 mini-dairies, 78 cottage industries, 1,138 milk bars, and 757 primary milk producers. The milk marketed through the formal sector has increased in recent years. This has been a result of intervention taken by the Government and other stakeholders.
Kenya exports substantial quantities of milk and milk products to the region. Intra-regional trade in dairy products in the East African Community has continued to gain momentum and benefits the Kenyan dairy industry. The main products exported are long-life milk and powder milk. Dairy imports have gone down over time as Kenya becomes increasingly more self-sufficient in milk and milk products. However, specialized milk products are imported from New Zealand and the European Union.
Since 2003, the Government introduced several measures:
- Restructured and improved capacity building of the Kenya Dairy Board
- Revived and strengthened New KCC and other farmer organizations like Agricultural Finance Corporation and cooperatives
- Reviewed dairy policies and regulations
- Improved milk producer prices and payment of milk producers
- Encouraged the private sector to mobilize resources
- Monitored dairy imports
The interventions resulted in stronger producer organizations, which were able to market dairy products and increased access to extension services among others. This made the sector a much sought-after investment destination.
Consequently, production and marketing of dairy products increased, with the annual milk production rising from 2.8 billion liters in 2002 to four billion liters in 2009 and intake by processors from 143.5 million liters in 2002 to 406 million in 2009, representing a 180 percent increase.
Some key legislative measures undertaken during the period include the review of import and export procedures for dairy products that led to diminished imports and a sharp rise in exports. The quantity of milk and milk products exported rose from 100,000kg in 2001 to 10.9 million kilograms in 2008. But due to drought, export figures dropped to 5 million kilos in 2009.
The main milk processing plants have increased exports to the East African Community, COMESA, the Middle East and West Africa. Consequently, prices have improved tremendously from an average of sh8 a liter in 2003 to Sh25 a litre in 2009, an increase of 213 percent. As a result, many Kenyans, especially the youth have turned to dairying.
In 2008, post-election violence disrupted dairy activities in most parts of the Rift Valley, a major milk-producing area, resulting in cattle theft, farmer displacement abandonment of routine livestock management practices. This led to a sharp drop in milk production and marketing in the affected areas.
Although the country has the capacity to process about the million liters a day, a large percentage is for fresh pasteurized milk which has a short shelf-life. The market for fresh pasteurized milk is also fairly constant and cannot be easily expanded in the short run. The Kenya Dairy Board and the Ministry of Livestock Development have sought a sustainable short, medium and long-term solution to overproduction:’
The Government has given S11300 million ($3.75 million) to mop up excess processed milk. It will also give the grant to offload the expected accumulation of long-life milk stocks. The New KCC has been supported to refurbish and commission a LIED’ plant in Eldoret and a condensed milk plant in Naivasha, and to procure, install and commission an additional milk drier.
Milk powder will be incorporated into the National Food Strategic Reserve, which will help the uptake of excess produce that can be offloaded into the market during times of scarcity.
Dairy Farming in Kenya – Factors Determining the Success of Dairy Farming
Good technical support
Dairy Farms in Kenya
Erskine Enterprises Ltd
Moi South Lake Rd, Naivasha
P.O.Box: 244-20117 Naivasha
Kapiti Diaries Ltd
Vedic House, 2nd Flr, 206 Mama Ngina St, Nairobi Central
P.O.Box: 73196-00200 City Square
Kedong Ranch Ltd
Ranches & Dairy Farms
Moi South Lake Rd, Naivasha
P.O.Box: 64-20117 Naivasha
Kilifi Plantations Ltd
P.O.Box: Private Bag-
Lukenya Ranching & Farming
Ranches & Dairy Farms
P.O.Box: 18-00204 Athi River
Mount Kenya Game Ranch
Ranches & Dairy Farms
Mt Kenya Safari Club Rd, Nanyuki
P.O.Box: 288-10401 Dol Dol
Ranches & Dairy Farms
P.O.Box: 92-10400 Nanyuki
Mugie Ranch Limited
Mweiga/Nyeri Rd, Nyeri
P.O.Box: 453-10100 Nyeri
Mweiga Estate Ltd – Mweiga
Mweiga/Nyeri Rd, Nyeri
P.O.Box: 453-10100 Nyeri
Olsuswa Farm Ltd
Moi North Lake Rd, Naivasha
P.O.Box: 1131-20117 Naivasha
P.O.Box: 280-20400 Bomet
Suyian Ranch Ltd
Ranches & Dairy Farms
P.O.Box: 38-20321 Rumuruti
Taragoon Dairies Company Ltd
P.O.Box: 9319-30100 Eldoret
Frequently Asked questions about Dairy Farming in Kenya (FaAQs)
What is the main problem facing dairy farming in Kenya?
The most common problem farmers faced in Kenya is the lack of proper storage facilities. This results in heavy losses as most of the milk production goes to waste.
Is dairy farming in Kenya profitable?
Dairy farming is one of the biggest economic drivers we have in Kenya. With an estimated population of about 9,350,000 dairy cows, Kenya has one of the largest dairy industries in Africa. This makes it one of the most profitable investments for farmers in Kenya.
How much do farmers sell milk for in Kenya?
More than 400 dairy farmers have objected sale of milk to processors, saying the move will lower their earnings by more than 50 per cent. The Draft Dairy Regulations 2019 is set to restrict sale of fresh milk directly to farmers, requiring them to him to transport the produce to a cooling and pooling facility.
Majority of famers sell at Sh40 per litre, earning Sh400 in a day translating to gross month income of Sh12,000. Currently, the milk processors buy a litre from farmers at Sh26 down from Sh32. . This will cost them at least Sh200 both trips in transport expenses alone. Price paid for supplied milk will be around Sh25 per litre, if paid in time.
How many dairy cows can you have per acre?
A famer may have heard a rule-of-thumb is that it takes 1.5 to 2 acres to feed a cow calf pair for 12 months. That means we should be able to have 10 to 13 cows for an acre. It looks like our rule-of-thumb held up pretty good, 11 cows on 20 acres, is 1.8 acres per cow.