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Retrenchment pushed us into dairy farming

By Kevine Omollo
Florence Atieno 67, a retired teacher at her farm in Kabonyo village Kisumu County. (Collins Oduor, Standard)

Ten years ago, Florence Atieno was faced with a harsh reality when her husband — the main breadwinner — was retrenched.

With little children to feed and educate, the couple had to think fast of another reliable source of income.

“We could no longer afford the kind of life we were living. We could no longer afford rent and had to think fast before we were kicked out of the house,” Atieno says.

To make ends meet, they made the painful decision to move back to their village home in Nyando. And here, they started dairy farming.

At first, she thought the animals would only be a source of milk for the family but little did she know she was setting up a solid investment and an excellent retirement plan.

“We were just testing the waters but to our surprise it transformed into an agribusiness. So far so good, we are happy with the progress, we are happy we did it,” says Atieno.

Today, Atieno has five dairy cattle, which produce between 30 to 40 litres of milk in a day.

Delays in payment

With a litre of milk sold at Sh60, Atieno says she makes a kill, as the entire village gets their supply from her home.

“Milk has high demand here, and at no given time have I been left with unsold milk in this home, sometimes I don’t even manage to meet the high demand,” she notes.

Previously, she supplied the milk to hotels in the region and neighbours who paid on a monthly basis, but she changed her mind after people began to disappoint her, by either delaying payment or disappearing with he money.

“I realised people can take advantage of someone’s business so nowadays for one to get my milk they have to pay up front. I make sure the money is deposited into my bank account daily. My savings have been consistent, and I use the money to pay fees and expand my business,” she says.

Her anchor project, the dairy farm remains at the centre of her heart, especially since she retired from her teaching profession in 2012.

So passionate is she about farming she calls her cows by name. One is named Kapsabet, from where she bought it, another is called Choge, the name of the farmer who sold her the cow.

Then there is Koru, also named after Koru Town in Muhoroni Sub County where it was bought from, while one is named Akelo, after her daughter as it was paid as her dowry.

The last one is named Awuor, her other daughter who bought her the cow as a gift and motivation when she started the dairy farming.

Though it started as a survival plan, she now finds fulfilment and satisfaction in dairy farming.

Milking time

“This is so much fun. When my grandchildren are here, they help me with milking, and making of the feeds, but when they are away I do it myself,” she says.

She feeds her cattle twice a day; once before the morning milking time, and in the evening just before milking.

She also has a two-acre farm where she plants maize, whose stalks she feeds to the cattle.

Her proximity to West Kano Irrigation Scheme gives her easy access to rice stalks which she mixes with other processed feeds for the cows.

“I have cotton cake and milled soya which I buy from the feed stores in Kisumu town,” she adds.

To avoid mastitis

To avoid mastitis, she applies some medicine on the cows’ teats after every milking, but regular check up by her veterinary doctor also helps.

And with proper care, Atieno says she milks her cows for nine months, just few months to the next delivery, meaning the cows have a resting period of between two to four months.

Due to the long dry season experienced in the area, Atieno has five water tanks, each with a capacity of not less than 10,000 litres of water, where she stores harvested rain water.

She recently ventured into poultry and dairy goat farming and the rewards are evident.

Thanks to income from farming, six of her nine children are graduates.

Like all ventures it has challenges but she says they are manageable.

“The only challenge I find with dairy farming is sometimes associated with premature drying off, which means reduced milking period,” she adds.

Atieno’s greatest advantage is having ready market from her neighbours.

She also minimises the cost of production by making her own feeds.

After research, she realised that other than milk, she could also tap into biogas production from the cow dung. Since she started making biogas, she no longer buys cooking gas. She also uses the sludge from the cows for horticulture farming.

“Everything the cows produce is useful on our farm. Nothing goes to waste,” she says.

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