Kenya is one of the largest producers of milk in Africa. Large scale dairy farming in Kenya accounts for 20 per cent of national milk production and small scale farming 80 per cent.

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 practised 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:-

  1. Commercial dairy farming.
  2. 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:

  1. Highland commercial dairy fanning.
  2. 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

This is carried out in some parts of the Coast Province. Lowland dairy farms are at Marakwet and Kikambala in Kilifi and Matuga in Kwale produce high dairy yields.

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 the Jersey, Guemsey and Alderney. They are commonly reffered to as the Channel Island cows because their origin is around the English channel in Western Europe.

(iii) Jersey

The Jersey cow has colours 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 are therefore the most numerous and widespread dairy breed in the world.

 (iv)  Guernsey

A Guernsey is brown in colour 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, th’e 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 Sakiwal Cow

This is the most suitable breed in the 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.

Dairy Farming in Kenya – Conditions Favouring Dairy Farming in the Highlands

  1. Low temperatures – The region experiences low temperatures averaging 18°C. This is ideal for the survival of exotic breeds.
  2. High rainfall – The highlands recieve high rainfall well distributed throughout the year. This can ensure that there is abundant supply of water for the animals and adequate natural pasture throughout the year.
  3. Fertile soils – The fertile volcanic soils in the highlands have ensured that there is high quality nutritious cover of grass. This implies high quality pasture throughout the year.
  4. Infrastructure – The region has a well established infrastructure e.g. roads which enhances the quick traspoitation of milk from the fields to the processing plants.
  5. 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 a 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.

Dairy Farming in Kenya

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 privatising 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

Since milk is perishable, it needs quick efficient marketing. In Kenya, marketing is done by the Dairy Board of Kenya and Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC).

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 produce. 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 litres 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 her milk products to the ‘neighbouring countries like Uganda. Other private milk processors have entered the market e.g. Brookside Dairies, Tuzo and Kitinda.

Dairy Farming in Kenya – Problems Facing Dairy Farming

  1. Small scale dairy farms like those in Central Kenya face stiff competition from other cash crops like tea, coffee, pyrethrum, passion fruits and vegetables.
  2. Farm inputs are very expensive. This has minimised mechanisation of dairy fanning in the country.
  3. Roads become muddy and impassable during the rainy season in some major dairy farming areas like Nyandarua county.
  4. Extensive and abrupt droughts lower production. This at times leads to temporary milk shortage.
  5. Dairy cattle face the risk of cattle diseases.
  6. This has restricted dairy farming to Kenya highlands.
  7. Poor management of dairy co-operatives at the grassroots results to delayed payments. This kills the farmers’ initiative and morale.

Dairy Farming in Kenya – Measures by the Government to Improve Dairy Farming

The Government of Kenya has laid emphasis on dairy farming through:-

  1. Improving extension services. Every administrative division in the country is covered by
  2. Extension officers who from time to time update the farmers on ways of improving their stock.
  3. Extending credit facilities to farmers through co-operatives.
  4. 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.
  5. Investing in recherche and availing training opportunities.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. High standards of living – Through selling of milk, the farmers are able to generate income. This has helped them to raise their standard of living.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Provision of Proteins – Dairy products are rich in proteins, fat and vitamins which are essential for human health. They thus contribute towards 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 yorghut, 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 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 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 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:

  1. Restructured and improved capacity building of the Kenya Dairy Board
  2. Revived and strengthened New KCC and other farmer organizations like Agricultural Finance Corporation and cooperatives
  3. Reviewed dairy policies and regulations
  4. Improved milk producer prices and payment of milk producers
  5. Encouraged the private sector to mobilize resources
  6. Monitored dairy imports

The interventions resulted in stronger producer organizations, which were able to market dairy produce and increased access to extension services among others. This made the sector a much sought-after investment destination.

Consequently, production and marketing of dairy produce increased, with the annual milk production rising from 2.8 billion litres in 2002 to four billion litres in 2009 and intake by processors from 143.5 million litres in 2002 to 406 million in 2009, representing a 180 per cent increase.

Some key legislative measures undertaken during the period include the review of import and export procedures for dairy produce 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 kilogrammes 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 litre in 2003 to Sh25 a litre in 2009, an increase of 213 per cent. 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 litres 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 a 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 Feed

A farmer should  feed the cows as required in order to improve production. Many farmers end up with diminished milk production after spending a lot of money buying quality breeds but fail when it comes to feeding them.

Good Breeds

Having quality breeds helps a lot when it comes to milk productivity. Farmers can get these cows from big farms that sell off heifers. This almost assures you of good milk produce provided you feed the cows right. It is therefore advised that farmers learn as much as possible about the cow when they but it. You wouldn’t want to subject it to totally different conditions to the one it is used to as it may affect production.
 Having a good bred means that you can also rear your own herd and also improve on it through artificial insemination.

Affordable Feeds

To gain maximum profits from from a dairy venture, make sure you drive the cost of feeds down. Reports have it that the main cost in dairy farming in kenya is from animal feed which accounts to is between 40%-60% of the total costs.
There are several ways in which farmers can drive the costs down for example planting their own food if there is enough land available. Farmers can also make their own concentrates such as dairy meal. This will significantly reduce the cost of farming. There are new technologies that help reduce the cost of feeds for dairy farming in kenya such as hydroponics fodder where fodder is planted without water and is ready in just 6 days.

Good technical support

Every farmer requires good technical support to be successful. Having a qualified vetinary doctor to visit your farm regularly can save you lot of costs amounting from medical expenses. It is also important that a farmer has a nutritionist visit the farm once in a while to advice on the feed to give the cows in the different lactation stages. Soil analysts are also important because if your soil lacks certain nutrients needed for cow development, then the crops grown on it will most likely also lack the same.

Dairy Farming in Kenya – Video