Value addition of milk key in ensuring better returns

By Bob Aston 

The dairy industry is the most developed of the livestock subsectors. It plays a critical role in the livelihood of many farmers in Kenya. Growth in the subsector has made Kenya to be the highest milk producer in Africa.

At the 1,500 acres, Kapsuswa Farm “land of Grass” located at Sugoi area of Uasin Gishu County, farmers are able to learn first-hand the benefit of investing in dairy farming. On August 14, 2015, the farm hosted 35 farmers drawn from various groups in Laikipia County.

The farmers were particularly interested in learning about value addition and increasing milk production. The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia supported the farmers visit.


Mr. Charles Boit, Group Managing Director of Kapsuswa Farm, SB. Tea Estate Group, and Ratinwet Farm informed the delegation that it had taken them 20 years to reach where they are in the dairy subsector.

The three farms specialize in cereal farming, dairy, and tea production. They employ close to 300 farm workers. Most of the cows are Friesian although there are also Ayrshire, and Jersey. 

Mr. Boit noted that success in the industry depends on a farmer’s ability to select the correct breed and ensuring good feeding and management. He urged farmers to invest in high-yield cows.

Initially, the farm used to produce 500 litres of milk per day but this has now increased to more than 2,600 litres per day. Each cow produces an average of 25 litres while some produce as much as 40 litres per day.  Milked cows are usually around 80-90 in a day. He expects the herd to grow to 400 cows in a few years.

The dairy unit houses a calving unit, resting, feeding, and milking area for the cows. The cows feed on different feedlot depending on how much milk they produce.

The farm uses a milking machine. The machine not only reduces labour requirements but also ensures a better quality milking operation. The machine can milk eight (8) cows at once.

A piping system ensures direct transfer of milk into coolers after milking. The farm has batch pasteurizers that preserve quality of milk products by destroying spoilage microorganisms and enzymes that contribute to reduced quality and shelf life of milk.  

Also installed are dispensers, dubbed Any Time Milk (ATM) machine. They can dispense 2,000 litres a day.  The piping transfer system ensures that milk does not come into direct contact with humans.

 

A calving unit in the farm ensures protection of calves against climatic stress, infections, and parasites. Mr. Boit believes that proper management of the dairy cow at calving will result in the birth of a healthy calf and prevent losses in young stocks. 

The calves will remain indoors and grow in groups until they attain the required weight for artificial insemination (AI).

 “Calves will never attain genetic potential when not looked at properly. This important stage needs proper monitoring. Males are sold within two weeks of birth,” said Mr. Boit

He said that a section of maize produced at the farm is for making silage for the dairy cows. The farm has five silage pits. They make their own dairy meals.

“Like any other agriculture enterprise challenges are there. There is a time when price fluctuation and milk glut forced farmers to pour milk due to lack of market. Value addition has now resolved such eventualities,” said Mr. Boit.

Through value addition, the farm is able to sell fresh milk between 60 – 75 kshs per litre depending on the season while fermented milk retails at between 70-75 Kshs per litre.

Mr. Boit’s parting short is that dairy farming requires huge investments. The success enjoyed at the farm has taken 20 years.  Farmers should also go for high pedigree cows, as they can be the difference between a successful and struggling dairy farmer.

 

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