Dairying is a type of livestock farming whereby cattle are kept for milk production with sole purpose of selling the milk to the consumer. There are two types of dairy farming in Kenya, namely:
(a). Commercial dairy farming.
(b). Domestic dairy farming.
Commercial Dairy Farming
Commercial dairy farming in Kenya is practiced in both small and large scale farms. There are two types of commercial dairying in Kenya, namely:
(i) Highland commercial dairy fanning.
(ii) Lowland commercial dairy farming.
i. Highland Commercial Dairy Farming
Highland commercial dairy farming is practiced in the Kenya highlands. The major highland dairying areas .
ii. Lowland Commercial Farming
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
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.
Types of Dairy Cattle Kept in Kenya
(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.
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.
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.
Conditions Favouring Dairy Farming in the Kenya Highlands
- Low temperatures – The region experiences low temperatures averaging 18°C. This is ideal for the survival of exotic breeds.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ready market – The high population in the highlands has offered a ready market for the dairy products.
Breeding for Milk in Kenya
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.
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.
Milk Processing and Marketing in Kenya
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.
Problems Facing Dairy Farming in Kenya
- Small scale dairy farms like those in Central Province face stiff competition from other cash crops like tea, coffee, pyrethrum, passion fruits and vegetables.
- Farm inputs are very expensive. This has minimised mechanisation of dairy fanning in the country.
- Roads become muddy and impassable during the rainy season in some major dairy farming areas like Nyandarua District.
- Extensive and abrupt droughts lower production. This at times leads to 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.
Steps Taken by the Kenya Government to Improving 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
- xtension 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 wananchi on the importance of good dairy farm management.
- Investing in reseraze 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.
Signiﬁcance of Dairy Farming in Kenya
- 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 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 towards a healthy nation.