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To ensure enough feeds, I no longer rely on rains

Stephen Muriuki at his Fortune Farm at Marurui, Ntumburi location in Buuri Sub County, Meru. (Phares Mutembei, Standard)

There are farmers and there are good farmers. Stephen Muriuki, from a semi-arid area in Meru, is a perfect example of a good farmer.

What is most remarkable is his economical use of resources and how he has embraced modern technology at his Fortune Farm in Marurui in Ntumburi location.

“I do not bank my hopes on nature like rainfall patterns. I also do not depend on commercial feeds entirely. I go out of my way to look for workable solutions,” Muriuki says.

Silage system

Instead of depending on rain-fed agriculture that is rarely seen in the arid area he resides, he has invested in drip irrigation to grow his vegetables and napier grass for his dairy cows.

This way, he has a constant supply of feeds year in year out.

And to ensure that he has constant supply of water season after season, he has invested in a mini dam.

“The biggest problem we face here is water and to practise agriculture, I had to find a way to get constant water supply. That is why I built a 300, 000 litre dam that helps sustain my irrigation. When I get enough funds, I want to build another mini dam that can hold millions of litres of water.”

To manage the cost of feeds, Muriuki also makes his own.

“Animal feeds are expensive and they eat into profits. To manage that cost, I had to plant my own maize for silage, lucerne, napier and pumpkins. They supplement the dairy meal.”

The silage which he mixes with green maize and molasses can last three months.

“I plan to construct another silage system with enough food to last the cows for a whole year,” says Muriuki.

“The pumpkins are a rich source of proteins and energy. But they are mainly for the calves because they contain a lot of nutrients good for their growth,” Muriuki explains.

When the animal feeds demand increases during the seasons of rapid growth, he buys hay from neighbouring Laikipia, at between Sh180 and Sh200 per bale.

Another admirable investment on his six acre farm is a biogas production system that allows him to enjoy affordable clean energy.

These unique blend of technologies have enabled the farmer to boost production on his farm under minimal costs.

At the moment, Muriuki has 12 cows with the most productive one giving at least 32 litres of milk per day.

Does drip irrigation

“I sell the milk at Sh35 a litre to Meru Dairy Union through the Buuri Society. But I also sell directly to neighbours at Sh50 a litre.”

And how does he manage diseases on the farm?

“Diseases are not a major problem. As long as I observe proper hygiene the cows are safe from attacks. I do zero grazing which also reduces chances of picking diseases around. Cows that walk long distances in search of feeds tend to pick diseases and lose a lot of energy resulting in low productivity,” he points out.

Play cool music

Another strategy he uses to boost yields is having the cows sleep on mattresses and listen to music.

“I play them some music to boost milk production. When we play cool music it helps with milk letdown. Research supports this,” he says.

Muriuki is one of the local farmers who have benefitted from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology through its Water, Research, and Resource Centre (Warrec).

Warrec Director Prof Bancy Mati says the innovation and ‘personal touch’ Muriuki has deployed in his farm is commendable. Little wonder farmers flock his farm everyday to learn about best practise.

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