General Manager Brookside John Gethi. (Photo: Jonah Onyango/Standard).
Income from dairy in Nyandarua County rose to Sh2.5 billion last year on the back of better animal husbandry practices and investment in feed production.
This reflected an 11 per cent rise of earnings in 2015, said Brookside Dairy’s Director of Milk Procurement John Gethi.
He said a vibrant dairy co-operative movement also contributed to increased production, with farmers coming into groups to sell their milk in bulk, thus benefiting from economies of scale.
Records at the county livestock office indicate there are 317,000 heads of dairy cattle in Nyandarua with an annual milk production of 234 million litres valued at Sh7 billion.
Mr Gethi said dairy had become a leading income earner for many households. “The growth of the dairy enterprise in Nyandarua is attributed to sustained investments we have made in the training of smallholder farmers on best practice in dairy stock husbandry,” he said during a field visit to Brookside milk collection centres.
“The existence of a number of dairy co-operative societies and self-help groups has also played a role in the growth of raw milk volumes procured from the county,” he added.
Brookside partners with a number of major dairy co-operatives in the area including the Nyala Multipurpose Dairy Co-operative Society, which operates milk collection points in Ndaragwa, Wiyumiririe and Shamata.
It has also set up major raw milk cooling stations in Engineer, Olkalou and Nyahururu. “Dairy has become the economic mainstay of Nyandarua County after many farmers moved away from potato farming due to assured payments from raw milk sales to processors,” said the official.
He said Brookside will continue to train farmers on livestock disease identification and management as a measure to sustaining milk production. “We have set up a demonstration farm in the county where farmers learn best practices in animal husbandry. We want to play a role in the growth of milk volumes by targeting smallholder farmers for training at the demo farm,” said Mr Gethi.
Many livestock ailments are preventable, while early detection is key to managing the diseases when they occur.
“All our farmers are being trained on how to prevent diseases such as mastitis, which affects both the quantity and quality of milk,” said Mr Gethi. “Diseased cattle are unable to produce optimally. Control and prevention of diseases is, therefore, a must on a well-looked-after farming operation,” he said.
Mr Gethi challenged farmers to establish pasture grasses and fodder crops, in addition to forage conservation during the season of abundant growth. “Inadequate feeding in both quantity and quality is to blame for reduced milk production in livestock. It is important that dairy farmers acquire knowledge on animal feed preparation,” he said.
Seasonality of milk production in the country, said Mr Gethi, was due to farmers’ dependence on rain-fed agriculture.