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Dairy farming in Kenya: What you need to know before you start

  My parents need to start a small dairy farming project as their retirement plan.  I did a research to better understand the most popular dairy breeds

What you need to know before you start dairy cows in Kenya. 

Dairy farming is one of the most important subsectors in Kenya’s agriculture. According to the ministry of agriculture, Kenya has a domestic milk production of 4.7 billion kg per annum, with a corresponding per capita milk consumption of 90 kg, against a global average of 100 kg liters.

Kenya seems not to be doing bad in terms of milk production. However, many people believe that the said local production is highly overrated given that Kenya has an estimated dairy cattle population of 4.3. In normal circumstances, Kenyan farmers do not manage to get the maximum productivity from their cattle, which makes it technically hard to proof the alleged 4.7 billion kg of milk produced nationally. In addition to that, it is believed that there exist a lot of border loopholes which have made possible the smuggling of milk and milk products from neighboring countries, in particular from Uganda.

Whether this is true or not, the truth on the ground remains that milk and milk products are very expensive in Kenya compared to neighboring countries, and dairy farmers are not rightly compensated when they sell their raw milk to processors.

Having said that,

My parents are in need to start a small dairy project for their retirement plan. With two dairy cows, they will have enough milk for their consumption and to sell to their neighbors.  I did a small research to better understand the most popular dairy breeds in Kenya and their characteristics. Below is my report on the 4 most preferred breeds and why.

Breeds of dairy cow in Kenya

1. Jersey

Breeds of dairy cow in Kenya

  • Jersey breed is originally from the island of Jersey, UK. It is a British breed of small cattle. 
  • It is dark brown and weighs between 360 and 650 kg. 
  • The breed is famous for its high milk production and high butter content of 5.5%. 
  • Jersey cattle are docile in temperament and require low maintenance because it has a superior grazing capacity. 
  • They also have a good calving capacity. In addition, they grow faster and contain less body fat. Milk production is between 3,000 and 3,500 kg per lactation. 
  • The main feature is its long, slender neck with protruding eyes. It can excel in low to medium grazing conditions. This breed can adapt well in almost all climatic conditions and is known for its high feed conversion rate. It is recommended for small farmers because of its easy feeding and adaptation. 

2.    Guernsey

Breeds of dairy cow in Kenya

  • This breed is native to the island of Guernsey, in France. 
  • Its color varies from brown to almost red, with marks on the face, legs, tail and flanks.
  • The cow weighs between 400 and 700 kg, while milk production ranges between 2,600 and 3,000 kg per lactation. Its milk has a fat content of 5.0% and the breed is calm and easy to handle. 
  • It is not a heavy feeder. The animal does well in ecological zones 2 and 3 and mainly in the transition zones. 
  • It can be reared in large-scale units, semi-zero grazing, and zero-grazing. Ideal feed includes corn, silage, hay, legumes, or fodder trees as well as supplementation with concentrates, minerals licks. It lives long.

3.    Ayrshire

Breeds of dairy cow in Kenya

  • Originated from Scotland. 
  • The color varies from white marks or mute white with red marks. Some breeds are white with brown spots on the head and tail. 
  • The cow weighs about 500 to 700 kg. It is also a good milk producer, giving an average of 3,000 to 3,500 kg per lactation. 
  • The fat content of milk is 4.2%. The breed is hardy and can withstand drought. It does well in highlands and transition zones.
  •  The rearing system depends on the availability of land. If you have large land, animals can graze in the paddocks. When the land is small, zero-grazing units will be ideal. 
  • The most common feeds for this breed are grass, corn, or sorghum silage or herbs rich in crude fiber such as Brachelia and other legumes such as desmodium and lucerne.

4.    Freshien

Breeds of dairy cow in Kenya

  • It originated from the  Netherlands.
  •  It is the largest dairy breed in Kenya.
  •  The cow weighs 590 - 600 kg.
  • It is black and white and produces the largest amount of milk between 3,500 and 4,000 kg per lactation (305) days.
  • Milk has a fat content of 3.5%.
  • Fresians or Holsteins do well in highland areas.
  • Rearing system depends on land availability, it can be free-range grazing as well as zero-grazing cages.
  • Fresians mainly feed on grass like Kikuyu and Rhodes. Some farmers supplement them with corn or sorghum silage, legumes such as alfalfa or desmodium, which are rich in crude protein, and fodder trees such as calliandra, leucene, and sesbania. These are also rich in protein and vitamins.

References

1. http://www.kalro.org/Dairy_Research_Institute

2.https://farmerstrend.co.ke/the-4-major-common-dairy-cattle-breeds-in-kenya-milk-production-capacity-advantages-disadvantages/

3.    AAQ notes

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