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Dairy farmers face high cost of feeds as drought bites

Dairy farmers are reeling from heavy production overheads, thanks to dwindling supply of maize used to manufacture feeds.

This is despite a decision by major milk processors to increase producer prices by Sh3 a litre.

The prolonged dry spell has led to shortage of pasture, making livestock farmers resort to dry expensive feeds such as bran.

“Scarcity of hay during dry spells pushes up the prices, with a bale that was going for Sh200 now selling at Sh350,” said Mr Julius Lagat from Saos, Nandi County.

Some traders dealing in animal feeds have raised the cost of fodder, with a 50kg bag of dairy meal that was selling at Sh1,800 a few months ago now retailing at Sh2,200 due to low supply.

Livestock farmers in the North Rift have an estimated 1.2 million dairy cows and between 400,000 and 500,000 heifers.

“Milk production is set to decline due to scarcity of raw materials such as maize, wheat, rice and cotton seed to produce enough animal feeds,” said Mr Jackson Too, from Moiben Uasin Gishu County.

Milk prices have increased steadily from Sh43 to Sh65 per half a litre. 

Private millers and traders in the North Rift have increased the cost of maize from Sh2,800 to Sh3,400, with some charging Sh3,7000 per bag in a price rivalry with the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which is offering Sh3,000 per bag.

Wheat prices have also gone up, from Sh3,000 to Sh3,500 per bag, due to poor harvests last season.

Maize production in the Rift Valley declined from 20 million bags to 16 million bags due to erratic rainfall during the planting season and use of poor quality fertiliser.

Farmers produced an average 4.5 million bags of wheat from 127,825 hectares of land last season.

Kenya produces an average 350,000 tonnes against a consumption of 1.08 million tonnes, forcing the country to import the deficit.

Meanwhile, more than 400,000 dairy farmers in Western Kenya are benefiting from a modern milk production programme initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and the International Fund for Agriculture and Technology. The programme offers organisational, managerial and enterprise skills.

In Uasin Gishu County, dairy farmers earned about Sh3 billion from over 186 million litres of milk last season as a result of motivation by the ministry through the Smallholder Dairy Commercialisation Programme.

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