Jimson Kambale has always dreamt of being a dairy farmer, but the challenge was lack of finances. To actualise his dream, he saved up while he was still employed. So impressive is his craft, in 2014 one of his cows emerged the overall winner at the annual Mombasa Agricultural show.
Thanks to his prowess in dairy keeping, his homestead is a beehive of activity as farmers across Taita-Taveta County come to benchmark.
“I train other farmers on all areas of dairy keeping from feeding to breeding and feed making, preservation and storage. I charge a small fee for these services,” he says.
The farmer learnt this skills after undertaking a training by Kenya Promotion Marketing Company (KPMC) on dairy keeping.
Though now established, his journey has been a learning curve.
After quitting his job, he used his savings to buy a dairy cow at Sh22,000.
“I started with one cow, now I have five and they give plenty of milk. I sell milk and make biogas for lighting and cooking,” he tells Smart Harvest at his 1.5 acre farm in Kese village in Werugha, Taita Taveta County.
Step by step he improved his craft. Currently his highest milk producer gives 42 litres of milk a day. Others average 28 litres.
The farmer sells his milk in Voi town at Sh40 per litre which gives him Sh2,800 a day and Sh84,000 per month.
In his homestead, Kambale stores about 1,500 bales of hay and chaff cutter machine. He buys a bale of hay at Sh200 at Kishushe and sells the same at between Sh350 to Sh400. One dairy cow requires six kilos of dry grass a day.
In 2015, he improved the genetics of the cows and his milk production improved from 14 litres to 27 litres per day.
Ever the risk-taker, in 2016 he started keeping poultry to supplement the dairy project.
He produces six trays of eggs every day which earns him about Sh100,000 per month.
So what is his secret to running a thriving farm?
Kambale keeps the cow sheds and dairy cattle clean to manage mastitis.
He uses a milk machine to ensure all the milk is drained from the udder.
At the same time, the dairy farmer uses qualified livestock extension officers tho vaccinate his animals. He uses a thermometer to measure the temperature of his animals and when he detects any problem, he calls a vet immediately.
To manage costs, the farmer grows his own napier grass on his 1.5 acre farm.
Further, Kambale has good working relationship with county and national government officers who he consults regularly to improve his milk yields.
He also uses quality semen to improve his breeds.
Every so often, he travels to Central and Rift Valley to benchmark on how to improve milk production. Mixing the ration of hay, napier and salt also enhances milk production.
KPMC Holdings director Bilha Maina says dairy farming has the potential to improve livelihoods of more than 10,000 households in the region.
She says low milk productivity triggers a vicious cycle, with farmers earning too little to afford quality feeds and mineral supplements.
She says dairy farming is the only way a farmer can make consistent income compared to crop farming that is seasonal.
Maina says Mombasa City is the largest consumer of milk with a demand of about 350,000 litres daily. CEC for Agriculture Davis Mwangoma says the county has about 27,000 dairy cattle.
He says the county government has revived extension services and farmers field days to not only help improve livestock production but also boost food security.
Dr Mwangoma says the county administration has partnered with the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre to provide subsidised AI services from as low as Sh200 to local farmers.
“The high prices of AI services have forced farmers to use local bulls for breeding purposes which has resulted to low milk and meat production.”
On average AI services cost between Sh1,000 to Sh1,500.