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Woman turns love of grass to dairy farming

Saline Omuto loved nature and planted all sorts of trees in a bid to make her home beautiful.

Then she discovered napier grass. While people planted the grass for contuour in their farms, Ms Omuto surrounded her home with the grass, only trimming it to get the desirable shape.

Then a local extension officer visited one time to inquire how her ‘animals’ were doing.

“I had no animals, so I was surprised why he picked on my home and started inquiring about my cattle without ascertaining if I had any,” said Omuto.

It was then that the officer informed her the grass was the main feed for dairy cows, and proposed to give her one.

The officer asked Omuto for a few identification documents, and within a few weeks, all the processes were done and a cow was delivered to her. Unfortunately, the cow died two years later, leaving her with an empty shed, before her son came to revive the business.

“My son had seen how dear the cow was to me, and he thought I could not just sit idle here at home, so he bought me two cows in 2013,” she said.

Today, Omuto has 14 dairy cows and three workers who help her take care of them, and she is not thinking of stopping despite her age.

When the Smart Harvest team visited her Magunga home in Suba, Homa Bay County, another shed which can hold 14 cows was being constructed adjacent to the current one.

“I plan to expand this business. By December, I should be having not less than 20 cows,” said the 74-year-old mother of eight.

She attributes her success to proper feeding, early detection and management of disease parasites, as well as being there to ensure everything goes as planned.

As opposed to the common practice where most farmers feed their animals twice or three times a day, Omuto has constant flow of feeds and water.

Plenty of grass

The feeding trough is ever full, and the animals can feed any time they want, and take water before retreating to their neatly spread mattresses to chew the cuds.

“With this feeding, I maximise on milk, and I reduce cases of underfeeding, because it is not me to determine what each cow should consume, but the cows themselves deciding on the amount that satisfies them,” she said.

With a 250-litre water tank next to the cow sheds, Omuto has ensured the watering troughs are ever full. Every time a cow drinks, the pipe connected to the water tank replenishes the trough.

“The cows can eat and drink even at night. We only close the taps when cleaning the watering troughs,” she said.

Due to availability of private practitioners in animal care, Omuto has identified veterinary doctors, who do regular checks on her animals to manage diseases as well as spray them against pests.

Apart from the feeds from the agrovets, she has a good stock of dry matter from napier grass, maize stocks, bean plants and hay, which are alternatively fed to the animals.

If she feeds them napier grass in the morning, she alternates this with bean plants during the day, before providing maize stalks in the evening.

“Sometimes we mix all the feeds together and shred, and give the animals at once,” she said.

At any one time, five animals are actively being milked, providing at least 80 litres of milk per day.

Omuto does not sell fresh milk, but has ventured into value addition through making “mala”, which she supplies to clients in retail shops, packaged as ‘QC Homeland Mala’.

Good neighbour

She sells one litre of mala at Sh110, but once in a while offers to sell fresh milk to neighbours, who visit especially when in need of big volumes of milk.

“We have to be good neighbours, so if someone tells me that he or she has visitors and needs some 10 litres of milk, I don’t turn them away. But they have to come early before we begin processing the milk,” she says.

Omuto says she has to rely on other farmers to learn how to make her business a success. They meet at each other’s farms to learn new skills.

“During our youthful days, extension officers would visit farms and help in one way or the other. These days it is tricky as farmers are left on their own,” she says.

Prof Mathews Dida, the Dean, School of Agriculture at Tom Mboya University College in Homa Bay County, says legumes provide protein which is quite essential for cows.

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