“I rear my goats on a small space. Less than an eighth. If l was to keep dairy cows on this space, l would probably manage a maximum of three. But I keep over 30 dairy goats on a small space comfortably,” Oduny tells The Smart Harvest during a visit to his dairy goats’ Toggfarm.
Oduny says the goats also eat significantly less compared to cows and even drink less water.
“Cows require a lot of feeds. If l had them here, l would have faced a lot of challenges feeding them. Perhaps, l would have abandoned the project long time ago, especially now that the price of commercial feeds is very high.”
Simple makeshift storey house
At the farm, the goats are housed in a simple makeshift storey housing made of timber remains, under zero grazing. Oduny opted for a storey structure to accommodate more goats, something that is not practical with dairy cows.
Oduny says the zero-grazing system limits his livestock from exposure to parasites and infectious diseases.
“Controlled movement lowers the risk of goats coming into contact with disease-causing organisms. Diseases and parasites cause huge losses in livestock production, and also leads to deaths,” says Oduny.
So what inspired him into dairy goat farming?
Oduny who has lived in Huruma Estate for years, says he ventured into goat rearing in 2015.
At that time, he was a member of a group called Huruma Town Youth Group that was involved in community projects among them garbage collection, cleaning activities, and agricultural income generation activities.
Demand for goat milk
Before he started, Oduny got several inquiries from people interested in goat milk.
One day, he sought more information from a neighbour who had developed interest in the milk.
“She told me a doctor had recommended goat milk to her baby to manage some chronic illness. The milk was nutritious and improved the baby’s health,” recalls Oduny.
Oduny also learnt that several people were searching for the same milk. It was then clear that goat milk was rare and on high demand. It was also expensive. That is what piqued his interest in dairy goat business.
Around that time, he says the government was spearheading Njaa Marufuku ‘Alleviate Food Insecurity' Project and grants were available for agricultural entrepreneurs.
Oduny applied and got a grant of Sh150,000.
“Before receiving the grant, we were trained and taken to a dairy goat farmer in Dagoretti to learn how he was managing the project. I got basic knowledge on managing dairy goats,” he says.
He also learnt about different goat breeds, feeding, pest management, and disease prevention and control.
He keeps Toggenburg, Saanen and Alpine. He feeds them on hay, leftovers from nearby markets and this reduces the dependence on commercial feeds. ?
The journey, he says, has not been a walk in the park.
He started with three goats, one died, leaving a male and female that was pregnant.
The goat later gave birth, and started providing around two litres of milk every day.
“Immediately the enlightened neighbour started coming for the milk. But it was not enough. It became a challenge when more people started to make orders,” he says.
Oduny added two more dairy goats, and after they gave birth, milk production increased.
He says the high demand of dairy milk became his push for expansion of dairy goats farming.
Today, he has 27 dairy goats, seven kids and counting.
He reveals the highest producer gives out 3.4 litres and lowest 1.9 litres of milk. Right now, he is getting at least 15 litres in a day, and each litre goes for Sh300.
Having tasted the benefits of rearing goats, he has started spreading the message.
Surrounded by slums where youth unemployment is high, Oduny is creating awareness in the slums on the importance of goats’ milk given that nutrition challenges are common among children under five years.
To create awareness, he also runs several exhibitions and goat soccer tournaments.
“Our crowd puller is soccer but we use the opportunity to tell the young people to consider investing in such projects. The idea is working very well.”
To attract the numbers, during such events, Oduny and his team prepare and serve tea made of goat milk.
In the beginning, many complained that goat milk is smelly.
“The milk is smelly when it is handled poorly. If you handle it properly, the milk is clean with no smell,” he says.
In a bid to tap into the benefits of value addition, in 2019 Oduny and his team started value addition after being trained on the same.
“The organisation trained us on how to pitch, market research and business plan and also investing in value addition,” says Oduny.
At the moment, Toggofarm processes yoghurt, butter and cheese on order.
He gets many orders from people who have been advised by their doctors to take goat milk to manage lifestyle diseases.
Blow of Covid-19
Though he has broken even, he still faces some hurdles. One of the challenges was disease outbreaks which he came to learn was a result of a dirty environment.
“I learned keeping environment clean, proper feeding, deworming helps to keep the goats healthy,” he says.
He explains the high cost of commercial feeds is hurting his venture. Of late, prices of commercial feeds have hit the roof.
This has forced Toggofarm to increase the price of milk, against the wish of clients.
For those interested, he has several take-homes.
“If you rush into it because of high prices of milk, you will fail, terribly. There is a lot that contributes to good quality milk, before they fetch you good prices.”
Oduny shares that though the pandemic affected his sales, it has taught him importance of selling online and through social media platforms.
What he is producing is not enough. The demand still very high. He fears outsourcing because of quality control issues.
“If I sell bad milk to my clients, I will destroy the market which I struggled to build. Trust is everything in this business. There are so many cases of adulterating milk and we must be careful. I would rather give the little l have, but of good quality,” he says.
He, however, reveals he’s joined hands with other youthful farmers who are also investing in dairy goats.
Together, they will ensure adherence to good practices so that the milk they produce is quality.
His future plans is to expand the stock and increase the production, and venture fully on value addition.