Urban Dairy Farming Reaping Rewards for Young Couple
Peter and Fancy Ng’eno are not your ordinary youth. They are familiar with going against the grain in order to benefit from opportunities. In this case, practicing dairy farming in a zero grazing unit in an area dominated by open grazing.
Prior to this, the couple barely produced enough milk for home consumption, let alone for sale, when they grazed their cattle in their family’s fields in a small town near Bomet, Kenya. The situation worsened during dry seasons when cows lacked pasture.
Fodder is critical in dairy production because it constitutes 70 percent of the daily cow feed requirement, while feed supplements comprise the other 30 percent. Shortage in fodder results in poor cow health, low milk production, low fertility, and vulnerability to diseases.
With support from the Feed the Future’s Kenya Agricultural Value Chains Enterprises (KAVES), which provides extension services in collaboration with county departments of agriculture, the couple learned the importance of good animal nutrition and its significant impact on milk productivity.
“We previously fed our cows to fill up their stomachs but now realize cows need nutritious feed that is well chopped up for ease in feeding and which provides both green and dry matter. We are saving on costs of buying feeds by growing our own fodder at home in Chebole. I harvest and bring to town for my cows,” said Peter Ng’eno.
The couple astonished the community by growing grass, instead of the traditional maize. They have no regrets however, as within the year, milk production increased by 5 liters per cow and they now collect 25 liters per cow per day.
“Dairy farming has earned me a respectable name in this neighborhood and everyone knows me as the dairy man,” boasts Ng’eno. “Selling in town fetches more money at KES 45 per liter up from KES 25 to 30 back home. Currently I am selling a liter at KES 70 during the dry season and it is good business.”
His wife Fancy reiterates how they take good care of their cows, a job that is done jointly. “We have been improving the zero grazing unit for the comfort of the cows, they have mattresses to sleep on and we keep it well-lit and clean and even play some music for the cows during milking to increase milk let down. We have also been improving the herd’s breed through AI, and established a separate calf pen.”
Over the last four years, KAVES has been working with famers to increase fodder establishment, conservation, and marketing and there is now a growing interest in commercial fodder farming as individual farmers, farmer groups, and investors recognize this critical gap. As a result, 36,320 acres of fodder and pasture has been established or rehabilitated since 2013, while 60 hay collection centers have been constructed or rehabilitated trading in more than 800,000 bales of hay.