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

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

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

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Rapidly growing global livestock sector

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a keynote presentation this week at a three-day Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE2013), which came to a close today at Safari Park Hotel, in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 20 minutes, Smith made a powerful case for making significant investments in Africa’s livestock sector, which is growing rapidly. Such investments can, he said, ensure that livestock enterprises on the continent are economically profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. By making such investments now, he said, we can ensure that indigenous livestock enterprises are not shut out of the rapidly increasing livestock markets by imports of animal-source foods.

Key messages

  • The global livestock sector is growing rapidly.
  • The global livestock sector is growing in developing—not developed—world countries.
  • The developing world is where the livestock sector will continue to grow for the next decades.
  • The livestock sector continues to receive significant under-investment; we must transform that.
  • Growth in the global livestock sector is demand-led—driven largely by rising demand from rising numbers of consumers with rising incomes.
  • In most developing countries, animal-source foods are both produced and consumed in the countries of origin, so most attention should be paid to within-country/-region livestock trade rather than international trade.
  • In Africa and other developing regions, most milk, meat and eggs are produced by smallholders and family farmers; researchers, policymakers, development workers and business people should thus focus their attention on Africa’s small-scale livestock keepers and herders.
  • Enabling environments, market access, rural infrastructure, risk-based approaches to food safety, livestock research and delivery services will all be needed.
  • The question—and opportunity—for those working for Africa’s development is:

    Can we act now, together and coherently, to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the smallholder livestock sector so that it becomes a major instrument for reducing poverty, feeding and nourishing people and protecting the environment? 

Some of the series of slides Jimmy Smith presented to make this case for a vibrant African smallholder livestock sector are posted below. Go here to view the whole slide presentation online: Opportunities for a sustainable and competitive livestock sector in Africa, Jun 2013.

And be sure to check out this earlier post on the same subject: We would love to know what you think: Please use the comment box that follows this post to post your response.

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

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Major opportunities for Africa's livestock sector

Slide from presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition 2013 (credit: ILRI/Jimmy Smith).

Yesterday, Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), briefed Felix Kosgey, Kenya’s new cabinet secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, who was guest of honour at the opening of the African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE), on key messages delivered during the opening session of the conference.

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith took the opportunity at this conference, being held this week (26–28 Jun 2013) in Nairobi, Kenya, to speak about the enormous opportunity, as well as special challenges, the livestock sector presents Africa at this particular moment, with the sector’s many direct current and potential twin benefits in terms of both agricultural prosperity and agricultural sustainability.

‘The theme for this conference and exhibition is Towards a competitive and sustainable world-class livestock sector. This theme addresses the global concern, even anxiety, about how the world will feed itself by the time the human population is expected to stabilize at over 10 billion by about mid-century. By then, with about 2.5 billion more people than there are now, 60–70% more food will have to be produced on a fixed land base that some argue is reaching its ecological limits.

The livestock sector must play a major role in meeting our food and nutritional security here in Africa and the world over. I say food and nutritional security because one can be fed but not be nourished; the livestock sector contributes to both.

‘The livestock sector in the developing world is growing very rapidly. In these regions, the sector contributes between 30 and 40% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), with this growth driven by increasing population, urbanization and, in particular, incomes.

‘This rapid growth in demand for animal-source foods will continue well into the future because per capita consumption of milk, meat and eggs is still quite low in the developing world. Here in Africa, for example, per capita consumption is only about 10kg a year, whereas in the USA it’s about 100kg. As incomes continue to rise in Africa, which has some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, so, too, will demand for animal-source foods.

Little known or appreciated is that more than 50% of the world’s supply of animal-source foods comes from small-scale livestock producers. Here in Africa, some 70% of the supply of milk, meat and eggs is produced by smallholder farmers and herders.

‘Also here in Africa, consumption of animal-source foods will increase greatly between 2000 and 2030. The total percent increases between actual 2000 and anticipated 2030 figures are dramatic:

Africa’s consumption of poultry meat will increase by 200%, beef by over 100%, pork by 150% and milk by about 100%.

In Africa in 2006/07 (base years), the value of all animal-source foods consumed, excluding eggs, was USD33 billion.

Around the time population growth is expected to stabilize on the continent, in 2050, the value of animal-source foods consumed is projected to reach USD107 billion.

A critical part of our deliberations at this conference will be how to facilitate full participation of smallholder producers in this rapidly expanding livestock market.

‘There is a sobering side to this livestock growth story; increasingly, a larger and larger share of this rapidly rising demand for animal-source foods in Africa is being met by imports, despite the fact that the continent is extremely well endowed with livestock resources and the potential of the sector is vast.

Despite the importance of the livestock sector, it remains largely neglected, with discussions on agriculture by policymakers and others invariably still focused on crops.

‘The neglect of the sector, and in particular the potential of 200 million small-scale livestock producers, not only condemns the continent to steeply rising import bills but also ensures that we will miss an enormous opportunity to meet the need for food and nutritional security while also creating prosperity and transforming rural economies.

‘Here in Kenya, I’m happy to say, the livestock sector receives more attention than in most other countries and we can see its commensurate growth and development.

‘I know that there are many powerful voices out there who say that the neglect of the livestock sector is justified because livestock contribute to global warming, and high levels of meat consumption contribute to obesity and the poor health that often comes with it.

‘Regarding the livestock and environment issue, we can make livestock systems much more environmentally sustainable and we are working to do so. For example, we can cut the carbon footprint per unit of livestock product as aggressively as we can increase the productivity of cattle, sheep and goats.

Regarding the meat and obesity issue, I would argue that there is no moral equivalent between those who make poor a choice of food and those who have no choice of food.’

Jimmy Smith made his presentation to Kenya cabinet secretary Felix Kosgey on behalf of all the co-organizers and co-hosts of ALiCE, including:

  • African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal resources (AU-IBAR)
  • Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF)
  • Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA)
  • Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed)
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
  • Kenya Livestock Producers Association (KLPA)
  • New Kenya Co-operative Creameries (New KCC)
  • Unga Ltd.

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.