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Where cows sleep on mattresses

By Phares Mutembei
Stanley Kiambati a dairy farmer who has 67 dairy cattle at his zero-grazing farm in Maitei, Meru displays his milk cooler. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

From mattresses for his cows to a resident vet, Stanley Kiambati’s farm tucked in one of the semi-arid areas in Meru County, is a model farm where neighbours and aspiring farmers from other counties troop in for lessons.

When he set up the farm in 2014, Kiambati wanted to do things differently. “I wanted to run this farm as a business venture and for any business to succeed, you have to make sure everything runs as it should. In my case, my cows are my business partners, so I have to accord them the comfort they deserve,” he says. 

The resident vet, he says, is always on stand-by 24 hours to ensure the cattle are in good health.

“The cows underwent an ultra-sound examination the other day, those that needed medical attention have already been attended to. We have also installed CCTV cameras to monitor the animals,” he adds. 

One of the other unique aspects of the farm is that all pregnant animals are secluded in one place where they are given special attention.

“This is where we take care of the pregnant cows just as you would take care of human beings. We make sure they do not suffer any deficiency when they are pregnant, otherwise the health of the cows and the calves is not compromised,” he said.

He said the ‘maternity wing’ is secluded to offer a quiet environment to afford enough rest for the pregnant ones.

“We pay close attention to cows in the maternity as a deficiency can lead to health conditions, including compromising the immunity of the new breed,” he explains.

Due to the impossibility of planting fodder to feed the large herd in Buuri as a result of erratic rainfall patterns, Kiambati has leased 20 acres at Kiirua where he cultivates rose plant, which is a good source of vitamins for livestock.

He also has two acres in Nanyuki under lucerne which has ensured he has a good supply of dry matter for the animals.

“I want to have another eight acres in Nanyuki by December. I have leased the land to grow the feeds because getting enough is quite a challenge,” he adds. His plan is to have at least 100 cows at the farm.

In addition to chaff cutters to cut the hay and grass straws into small pieces for the cows he has also invested in a feeds meal, where he mixes different ingredients to make meals.

In addition to providing hay because of fibre content, Kiambati buys maize jam, sunflower, soya, wheat pollard, maize grain, cotton seeds and other ingredients and these are used to produce a balanced diet for the cows.

“We buy the ingredients and formulate the feed ratios ourselves. We want to make sure the cows are fed with high quality products,” said Mr Mwiti, the vet.

Apart from exploitation by commercial feed outlets, Kiambati says prices of feeds rise whenever there is a shortage which eats into farmers’ profits. 

“The cows have to have every nutrient required to yield high amounts of milk. I make sure they never lack, including good amounts of minerals” he says.

The cows are also fed on aflatoxin binders to safeguard against poisoning.

There is restricted access to the areas holding the different groups of cows and he says it is to protect them against anthrax, lumpy skin, foot and mouth, black quarter and other potential risks.

He said with the imported sexed semen which costs Sh5,000 per straw, they are always 90 to 95 per cent sure the new calves will be female.

“But on rare occasions, a male calf is born, we rear it to maturity and slaughter it for farmworkers,” he adds.  

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