Dry spell blamed for dairy cows' stress, reduced milk production

A worker milks a cow at Kisii Agricultural Training Center. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

An acute shortage of milk has hit the county, with a litre now selling at Sh70, up from Sh40 last month.

Kenya National Federation of Farmers (Kenaff) said lack of pasture and increased price of animal feeds had affected milk production.

Mr Tom Nyagechaga, a Kenaff representative, said drought in the last few months had stressed dairy cows. "The prolonged dry spell has hindered pasture production, making farmers underfeed animals. This has led to drop in milk production," Mr Nyagechaga said.

Animal feed such as hay has become scarce, while the available feed is too costly. "The price of hay has gone up to Sh500 from Sh120 a bale. This is not affordable," he said.

Mr Nyagechaga, also chair of Kitale New KCC factory, said deliveries had dropped by 50 per cent. "The situation is bad. Feeding of livestock has become a big challenge. At first we were receiving 70 per cent milk deliveries, but supply has gone down by 50 per cent," he said.

In Kitale, milk vendors sell a litre of raw milk at Sh70.

Ms Jane Kemboi, who operates a milk bank in Kitale, said the shortage had negatively affected her business. "I used to get 100 litres daily from my suppliers, but I hardly get 20 litres now," she told The Standard.

Farmers interviewed said they had difficulties feeding their cows.

New KCC Managing Director Mr Nixon Sigey encouraged farmers to embrace pasture conservation to cushion themselves from high cost of feeds during dry spells. 

According to the Kenya Dairy Board, monthly production of 74 million litres countrywide has dropped by 15 per cent.

The board attributed the decrease to inadequate rains in the October-November-December season and ongoing drought in more than 23 counties.

The low production has led to increase in the price of milk, with a 500ml packet of milk costing more by between Sh5 and Sh10.

A spot check by The Standard in Kisumu established that most supermarkets and retail shops had no milk.

A few supermarkets like Shivling that had the supplies restricted customers to buying not more than three packets per person.