Farmers are one of the key contributors to economic growth. But they face many challenges. So, how can different value chain players support dairy farmers to run a profitable agribusiness? First, the transformation agenda calls on all processors, manufacturers, regulators, and dairy investors to collaborate with dairy farmers to address key industry bottlenecks.
In Kenya, this includes the type of cow, dairy farming practices, land size, feeds, climatic pattern in a specific area, route to market accessibility, cooling facilities, and, most importantly, price per litre of milk. With the intervention of these stakeholders, only profitable dairy farms with a clear route to a market plan can produce healthy and safe milk in adequate quality and quantity. Carrying out the dairy transformation agenda is a good risk management strategy.
Dairy farmers should also adopt ‘proactive’ preventative practices rather than waiting for problems to arise. Stakeholders can help by ensuring that the dairy transformation agenda is implemented at the farm level.
Second, a good feeding plan understands the nutritional needs of a dairy cow. Feeds ingredients and diet formulation need to be balanced for a healthy, fertile and high producing cow. The sustenance of feeding habits promotes optimal performance and also reduces year-round feed costs. In feed planning, farmers should ensure, just like for human beings, a balanced feed for the cows consisting of fibre, energy, protein, mineral and water. To secure quality fodder, farmers need to plan a year ahead with proper storage facilities to reduce chances of aflatoxin contamination. While the initial investment cost is high, the plan is sustainable and increases chances of productivity with the cows. Healthy fertile cows, give birth to healthy calves whilst maintaining high productivity. A healthy and balanced nutrition, at the right time and the right quantity, increases dairy fertility rates in the life span of a cow.
Finally, farmers must consider producing high-quality milk all year. Happy cows produce high-quality milk. Cow happiness includes things like knowing the cow, milking hygiene practices, feeds and water, cow health, clean comfortable stalls, and aeration. In Kenya, we have processors who pay a premium for the cleanest and highest-quality milk.
The journey to a thriving Kenyan dairy sector is long, but it is doable and attainable. Bio Foods Products Limited, recently held their annual farmers summit that hosted their dairy farmers, on a rigorous training on sustainable and profitable dairy farming practices, with the theme, “Sustainable Dairy Farming in Kenya ‘Future Focused’”.
For a profitable dairy venture, dairy farmers need to understand how to feed for profit. Feeding for profit, ensures adequate feeding of cows year-round with consistent and safe feeds, increasing productivity, understanding calving and the lactation cycle of a cow, and maximising margin over feed cost. Feeding for profit calls for finding the perfect balance.
[Jemmimah Ella Waigi is the Digital Media and Communications Manager, Bio Foods Products]