AGRIBUSINESS: How farmers in Makueni double milk production, revenue
As you arrive at Matthew Musau’s homestead in Makueni County, you’d be mistaken to think that the names he’s calling out are those of his farm hands.
That’s because for Matthew, he has a unique way of naming his livestock. I meet Matthew loudly shouting Judy, Judy, Judy…
To my surprise, one of the cows responds and comes forward to eat the hay this 60-year-old farmer is holding in his hands.
“I have cows named Judy, Jane , Sylvia, Nyeri, Tel Aviv and so on …” Matthew says in a boastful way.
But I wonder, why does Matthew, a graphic designer by training, address his cows by name?
“They respond when you call them by those names… it starts when the calf is born so that she will know her name,” Matthew explains.
But as I later learnt, there is more than just names involved.
Matthew is one of the farmers who have benefited from a subsidized dairy farming project in Makueni.
“I started in 1986 with about five to six cows, we realized good business was in Fresian breeds. In those days a cow would cost Sh2000, I did not spend more than Sh50,000 to start,” Matthew said.
Today, Matthew has a herd of 30 dairy cows on his five-acre farm, thanks to an improved version of artificial insemination technology introduced by the Makueni County Government over five years ago.
He gets an average of about 20 litres of milk from each of his 30 dairy cows daily which he sells in Makueni and surrounding counties.
“Our county government is helping us, they have introduced this system of subsidizing semen and giving us Artificial Insemination people who can provide the services, we only pay Sh300 and they pay the rest,” he said.
The technology works by increasing the chances of getting more female calves or heifers, as David Musyoki, Makueni County’s director of Livestock explains:
“We have some farmers who have large herds, so for them, we phase the flock so that they don’t calf all at once and the farmer can have milk throughout the year. For such we advocate something called synchronized control where you can prepare about 10 animals to go on heat at the same time so that you can inseminate them. You can also choose the semen you want,” said Musyoki, adding that there is a higher likelihood of getting a female calf if desired.
This not only increases the chances of getting more female calves but also leads to higher milk production as David explains:
“When you use a bull with a potential of 40 liters per day and you are doing it on an animal with a potential of 10 liters per day, the animal that will be born out of this two will be the average of the two, around 25 and sometimes better, all these are subject to management.”
The adoption of the new technology is seen as an answer to the growing demand for dairy products which is yet to match the available supply.
Farmers now pay only Sh300 for a service that would have cost ten times more in the past. This also means that the cost of getting a heifer locally should in the coming years be cheaper for farmers like Mathew.
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