When he took a flight from his native home in India in search of a job in Kenya, he never thought that one day, he would fully be assimilated into a community in addition to adopting its tradition of livestock keeping.
Kesses MP Swarup Mishra has perfected his skill in dairy farming two decades after settling in Uasin Gishu County.
Dr Mishra currently produces an average 450 litres of milk daily from his White Gold dairy farm, an enterprise he started 19 months ago in the outskirts of Eldoret town.
When he’s not in the National Assembly, Mishra spends time in his two-acre farm at Madonna village feeding and inspecting his livestock.
Residents are amused seeing a man of Indian background roll up his sleeves as he dirties his hands caring for his grade cows that total 81. More interestingly is that Dr Mishra is locally identified in Kalenjin names – Kiprop arap Chelule and also speaks the community’s language fluently.
Kiprop – a person born during a rainy season and Chelule – one who has been accepted and assimilated in a community also identifies his pedigree dairy cows in Christian and Kalenjin names, with his farm records indicating names of cows as Belinda, Koech, Jeruto, Jepchumba, Agnes, Linet, Eliza among others.
His dairy farm runs in the sideline of his ongoing implementation of pre-election pledges where certified breeds of heifers are distributed to needy women who have been vetted by a team of coordinators for self-empowerment in rural locations of Kesses Constituency.
“I came to Kenya in search of greener pastures and got a job at Moi University’s School of Medicine as a lecturer in the reproductive department. Residents in the Kalenjin nation have given me three lives – academics, business, politics and now farming,” said Mishra.
He says his passion for dairy farming dates back when in his primary school days in his native Odiasha home in Eastern India when their family farm manager left without a notice.
“As a boy, I was left with the responsibility of overseeing our herd of 24 cows – feeding, washing and ensuring they get enough water for drinking. It was a role that gave me a lot of fulfillment, satisfaction. I developed a passion for cows,” he says.
He adds: “When I came to Kalenjin land in Kenya, I was exalted to find a community so attached to livestock."
His White Gold farm produces an average 450 litres of milk daily and is yet to hit his dream target of 3,000 to 4,000 litres daily.
“We are far from our success targets. Currently, we have only achieved an average production of 16.5 litres of milk per cow but this does not discourage us because we are only one year in existence and we learn from our failures. We are slowly turning our project into a professional venture with our objectives envisioned at achieving our set goals of 4,000 litres,” he pointed out.
Mishra, also chairman of Mediheal Group of hospitals, said the 450 litres produced from the farm is entirely absorbed by the facility’s Eldoret branch hence reducing operational costs in provision of health services.
“Greater plans to boost milk production and value addition are on the pipeline. We have acquired 50 acres of land in neighbouring Ngeria area towards production of feeds and also value addition facility for milk products including Yoghurt, cheese, mala, and butter among other packaged products,” he said.
He says the investment on value addition will also provide a ready market for dairy farmers.
“We are focusing at between 200,000 and 300,000 litres of milk daily once the plant is complete and we will encourage local farmers to supply their produce for better earnings,” said Mishra.
Mr Reuben Karenga, the farm manager said the farm priorities feeding, which carries the lion’s share of the budget.
“Each cow uses a bale of hay daily, plus three kilos of dairy meal concentrate to maintain productivity. We do our own dairy feed formulation since we have a blender,” he said.
Karenga added that the dairy has its own Artificial Insemination (AI) kit, that allows them to make their own breeds.
The farm currently has 29 milking cows, 10 are expectant, 11 heifers and 31 calves.
He says high hygiene is observed with all milking cows tested for temperatures to ascertain if they have any infections. Those found with anomalies are isolated while the health ones are milked thrice daily – at 5am, 1pm and between 7 and 8pm. A veterinary official has been hired to carry out routine checks.
Automated milking machines have been procured but are yet to be fixed for operations. Currently, a portable milking facility is being used.