Jul 042013
 

Participants at last week’s (26-28 June 2013) Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013) were offered field visits to Kenyan livestock farmers, producers and industry experts in and around Nairobi. Staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) took this opportunity to visit a dairy farm, a livestock breeders’ show and a livestock genetics resource centre.

Tassells Farm

ALiCE2013: Dairy cows

Dairy cows in Tassells Farm in Ruiru, near Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Alexandra Jorge).

One of the visits was to Tassells Farm, a dairy smallholding owned by husband and wife Kenyan farmers Moses Muturi and Susan Kasinga in Ruiru, just north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Muturi and Kasinga started dairy farming, separately, when they were young, after seeing the many benefits of selling milk from other farmers who were able to take their children to good schools and live comfortably from dairy incomes.

When they married and joined their assets (16 animals), they were determined to succeed as dairy farmers and committing themselves to learning all they could about the dairy business. Today, some 16 years later, what began as a fairly small-scale dairy farm is now a thriving dairy business, with nearly 400 cows kept on five farms across Kenya. On their three-quarter-acre farm in Ruiru that ILRI visited, this couple’s visible passion for their family, their community and their dairy cows is an inspiration.

On this farm, the couple manages 70 Holstein-Friesian cows in a ‘zero-grazing’ system with the help of four farm workers. Apart from daily milking, the farm also breeds and sells high-grade dairy cattle.

‘We had little knowledge of dairy farming when we started’, says Kasinga, ‘but we gained experience by observing successful farmers, what they do and how they do it; we learned how to make the right decisions’, she says.

Their 5 farms produce about 3000 litres of milk each day.

‘On this farm, we produce 15 to 25 litres of milk per cow, about 1000 litres in total. We sell this milk to the Brookside Dairy, says Muturi, who says the following factors have been critical for their success.

Choosing and improving breeds: This is the first step towards getting cows that are well adapted to the farm environment, which guarantees high milk yields.

High-quality feeds: These should be affordable but also of good quality. The couple maintain a barn full of hay. They also grow forage and buy hay cheaply during the rainy season (sometimes by offering to cut the grass in their neighbours fields). Muturi says it’s important for dairy farmers to buy high-quality feeds and not store them for too long, which lowers their nutritional value. Their cows consume 30-32 kilos of hay each day in addition to molasses, concentrate feeds and mineral supplements. It’s crucial also, he says, to have an adequate supply of water and to collect grasses from areas free of parasites.

Managing diseases: This includes ensuring appropriate veterinary support and learning about animal diseases (they have lost 40 cows to foot-and-mouth disease). The farm now has in place a strict and regular de-worming regime, which, they say, seems to control 70% of diseases. Access to the farm is also restricted to prevent contamination.

Capacity development: Ensuring farm workers are educated about animal management and farm operations has also been key to their success. Workers from other farms now regularly visit their farm to learn with and from them.

‘Taking advantage of economies of scale is very important in the dairy business’, says Muturi. He suggests a minimum of 10 cows as a starting point for small-scale dairy farmers who want to move into wider-scale milk production and sales. ‘The more animals a farmer has’, he says, ‘the better their chance of negotiating better prices for feeds and veterinary services, increasing their profit margins.’

In future, the couple hopes to expand their business through some ‘added value’ ventures and to join like-minded farmers in setting up a milk processing facility.

Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Livestock Breeders Show

Dairy cows at the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Held 26-28 Jun 2013 at Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park, the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show & Sale is an annual event in Kenya’s livestock sector calendar that brings together livestock breeders and industry players from across the country to exchange information in seminars, presentations and demonstrations. The event also doubles as an animal auction. This year’s exhibits included breeds from well-known ranches in Kenya, such as Ol Pejeta and Solio, north of Mt Kenya, and an association of goat breeders from Meru, east of the mountain.

Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre

ALiCE2013: Field visit to Kenya Animal Genetic Research Centre

One of the bulls at the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu)

The Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre is located on a 200-acre piece of land in Nairobi’s lower Kabete area. Started in 1946 by the Kenya Government, the centre produces and distributes bull semen for use by the country’s livestock farmers. With time, the centre’s mandate has grown to include providing artificial insemination (AI) training to farmers and supplying equipment for AI services in the country.

‘We also serve as a genebank for livestock tissues, semen and DNA of all the important livestock and emerging livestock breeds in Kenya,’ said Henry Wamukuru, the centre’s CEO.

Currently, more than 120 Ayrshire, Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Sahiwal and Boran bulls are reared at the centre to supply semen for the country’s AI needs and for export to other countries in Africa and the Middle East. The centre works closely with Kenya’s livestock ministry and the Department of Veterinary Services to improve national herds and productivity.

About the conference
ALiCE is the largest convergence of stakeholders in the livestock sector in Africa. This is a platform specifically aimed at stimulating trade in livestock and livestock products in Africa and beyond and facilitating technology and knowledge transfer and sharing. The event brings together producers, processors and traders of livestock and livestock products and suppliers of technology, solutions and services in the entire value chain.

This post was written by Alexandra Jorge and Paul Karaimu.

Read other ILRI news stories from the ALiCE2013 conference.

Livestock present Africa with huge – ‘right now!’ – opportunities for food, prosperity, environment

Attention entrepreneurs: Your livestock business is growing–but only in Africa and other developing regions

  16 Responses to “Kenya livestock ‘on show’: A thriving dairy farm, a breeders show and a national resource for improved genetics”

  1. this is the kind of farming kenyans should adopt.not rearing thousands n millions of cows without benefits.

    • Please put me in contact with a dairy farmer with good quality freshian cows. Am looking to buy some already lactating and good quality breeds to boost my herd.
      Mu contact is 0733364529 and am located in Nyandarua.

      • Please contact the Kenya government (KARI). We are a livestock research institute and don’t deal directly in livestock purchases. Thanks for your comment and interest! Susan MacMillan

  2. Hallo,the cows from Tassell farm near Ruiru look wonderful.Can you connect me with the family to allow me visit the farm on 1st October,2013.Iam in Nairobi county.Thanks.Juliet

  3. Wow, I must say the bull at the resource center looks awesome, I would like to know what is the breed. Also the dairy cows in Tassells farm look very impressive. Such cows will get first prize in Dairy Expo, really happy to see Kenya developing in dairy farming.

  4. HALLO
    MY ARE DAVID RUBAAKA FROM WESTAN UGANDA HOW GET CONTACTS OF MR MOSES MUTURI AND SUSAN KASINGA I WOULD DO LIKE TO VISIT THEIR FARMS AND LEARN SOME TIPS
    OF DAIRY FARMING I HAVE 50 ACRES OF LAND IN LYANTONDE BEFORE YOU MBARARA .

  5. Its really a good lesson which teaches many people on the opportunities that are there. Its beneficial to all farmers like me. This is a step to success for every farmer. KUDOS ILRI, ALiCE, kasinga family and everyone who has shared the info

  6. Hello,
    am kenyan from maasai land,who is a graduate for diploma in Animal health.i hereby request for consideration to serve in a work position.

  7. am happy with the innovation and determination of tassle farm in ruiru.i come from riftvalley(molo) nakuru county and i need to buy breeds from u guys.av built the unit and collected all the required facilities and i do lack the breed that can do well in ma place.my contacts 0724847287

  8. THIS IS LIKE A DREAM, VERY INSPIRING ACTIVITY. I HOPE THEY ALLOW OTHER ASPIRING DAIRY FARMERS TO VISIT THEIR FARM, COZ I’D LIKE TO SEE THIS FOR MYSELF.

  9. this realy a good venture, the youths need to learn this and invest in agricultural enterprises that are rewarding. good work by tussel farm

  10. I NEED VERY GOOD BREED OF DAILY COWS.KINDLY GET IN TOUCH WITH ME. AM AT NANDI.MY NO IS 0724444010.

    • Please contact Julie Ojango at j [dot] ojango [at] cgiar [dot] org for research information on breeding. We do not supply breeds at ILRI. Thanks. Susan

  11. I have read read your visit in tassel farm i am from Ethiopia we do have a dairy cattle production for the last 30 years in Addis ababa bu still we didn’t progress and i would like to visit the tassel farm how you can arrange and invite the visit.

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