The Demand for milk and its related products such as yogurt and butter has made dairy farming a lucrative venture in Kenya. If you are an aspiring dairy farmer, below is the process of how to start and run a successful dairy farming business in Kenya.
Kenyans are big consumers of milk due to their love for tea. Hence, this demand has made dairy farming a destination venture for investors aiming to fill this need.
The country’s total output for milk is far lower than the demand by about 50%. The production averages 4 billion liters out of a demand of 8 billion liters. Hence, this is the first indicator of a ready market for milk producers.
Benefits of dairy farming in Kenya
- Ready market– as per the earlier discussion, with a net deficit in milk production, there is a huge ready market that makes the selling of milk easier. Mostly, dairy farmers sell their milk through dairy co-operatives that operate across the country.
- Minimal skills – Dairy farming doesn’t need very advanced skills to practice. You only need to learn the basics and gain the rest through experience. This makes it easier to get into the business for almost every Kenyan who has some interest.
Challenges facing dairy farming in Kenya
- Price fluctuations– the prices of milk are highly volatile due to the element of uncontrolled production. Hence, this may affect the planning and profitability of the business
- High startup capital – Setting up a dairy farm may need a huge amount of capital in form of buying the right cow breed, building the cow sheds, and buying the dairy feeds. This requirement may become a challenge for those investors without this capital level.
Dairy Cow Breeds
Successful dairy farming requires you to get the right cow breeds. This is one of the factors that are key to determining your success in this venture.
Various factors determine the right type of cow breed such as the location of farming and cost. Some of the most common dairy cow breeds in Kenya include;
1. Friesian Cow Breed
This is the most common dairy cow breed in the country whose origin is the Netherlands. It is preferred due to the ease of availability and high milk production.
These cows are mainly found within the central and rift valley parts of the country due to the favorable weather. Friesian cows produce on average 40 to 50 liters of milk per day.
However, they are also heavy eaters with an average daily consumption of 100 kgs per cow. Due to the high levels of milk production, the cow is susceptible to some diseases such as mastitis. Hence it needs extra care in milking to protect it.
A Friesian heifer costs on average 100,000 to 200,000 shillings while a pedigree cow could cost up to 500,000 shillings.
2. Ayrshire cow breed
Ayrshire breed is not big in milk production as Friesians with an average of 30 liters per day. However, they are hardy and can survive in dry areas.
You can mostly identify them in the typical dark brown colors. One key advantage of this breed is that they can free graze as opposed to Friesian.
An Ayrshire heifer costs on average 80,000 to 150,000 thousand shillings while a pedigree cow could cost up to 400,000 shillings.
3. Guernsey cow breed
Guernsey dairy cows produce an average of 25 liters of milk per day. With an origin in Guernsey island in France, these cows are less costly to maintain as they consume less food and have leaner bodies compared to other breeds.
4. Jersey cow breed
Jersey cows consume less food compared to other breeds making them ideal for small-scale farmers. This makes them the most profitable dairy cattle due to the low food costs and high milk production.
They have a smaller body and are best suited for dry areas such as coastal regions. The cow costs on average 100,000 shillings to buy.
After identifying the type of dairy cow breed to farm, you should proceed to build proper housing for your cows.
Building a Cow Shed
Dairy farming business in Kenya requires you to have proper and adequate housing for the cows. Some of the factors that will inform the right housing include the number of cows, weather conditions, and budget.
As an example, more cows will require bigger housing. On the weather, if you are farming in a cold area, you should consider having a heating system to keep the cows warm.
It is advisable to engage a professional when constructing the cow housing to ensure it meets the required standards.
Some of the key facilities you need when building a cow housing include;
- Composite bran
- Food and water space
- Milking pen
- Calving box
- Isolation pen
On average it could cost 100,000 shillings to build a shed that can host 4 cows. However, this could rise depending on the size and integration of other facilities such as heating.
Cows Health Check
Dairy cows are very fragile and hence require constant checkups to ensure they remain healthy. Remember that it is only through having healthy cows that you can get optimum milk output.
Normally, they should get checkups at least 5 times a year. However, this number could rise if there are emerging needs.
Some of the reasons for these checks include;
- Vaccination drive
- Nutritional evaluation
- Hooves trimming
Hence, you need to get a veterinary professional to do the checkups for you regularly.
Milking is a key aspect when doing dairy farming. A good milking approach helps the cow to produce more milk and is also cost-effective. Good milking practice is also key in preventing infections that could end up affecting the cow’s health.
You can either milk manually or through a machine depending on the scale of farming. For a small-scale farmer, manual milking is more cost-effective while large-scale farmers require a machine to do the milking.
If you are using a machine, focus to get the right type and ensure there is regular maintenance.
Marketing is a key factor in the dairy farming business in Kenya. This is because it determines the business returns. One of the most common ways to market your milk is by joining one of the many milk dairies available in the country.
Most of these dairies do milk collection daily making it easier to sell your milk. However, you should be aware that most dairies pay at the end of the month. Some of the leading milk dairies in Kenya include Brookside dairies and Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC).
Alternatively, you can source for the market from either an institution or a hotel. Mostly, in this type of arrangement, you will have to do the delivery. However, you can negotiate for higher prices compared to the dairies.
Milk value addition
As a dairy farmer, you can opt to value-add your products to fetch better prices in the market. Some of these include;
Opening a milk shop-This helps you to sell directly to consumers at a higher price
Increasing the products -By making products such as yogurt and butter, you can get higher prices from your milk farming.
Factors that affect milk production
Now that we have established milk is the key product in dairy farming, let us review the factors that affect milk production.
Weather plays a role in determining the type of dairy cows to keep and the milk production levels. Hence, the need to provide heating if you are doing dairy farming in cold areas.
The healthier the food the higher the milk production. As a farmer, you should ensure your cows are fed the right amount of food both in quality and quantity.
In case you are not sure about the mix, seek the services of an expert to ensure you get it correct. Feeding is one of the biggest costs in dairy farming. Hence, target to grow your fodder to reduce the costs of buying it.
- Heath status
Always ensure to check your cow’s health status regularly to ensure they are healthy. Don’t miss important health checks such as vaccination.
Healthy cows tend to produce more milk than unhealthy ones.
- Cow breed
As discussed earlier, there are different types of dairy cow breeds. Each breed has its unique characteristics such as milk production.
Some will produce higher milk levels than others. Hence, it is key to understand this before venturing into dairy farming business in Kenya.