Small-scale dairy goat farming is transforming lives in Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County by giving farmers financial independence.
For Mary Wachuka Gachunia, her journey into dairy goat farming began in 2000 when her firstborn son fell ill with pneumonia.
“I started dairy goat farming when my firstborn son was diagnosed with pneumonia, and as part of the treatment, he needed goat milk,” she said.
She started with just two goats, and today, her farm is home to 22 goats and currently has 11 dairy goats, yielding five litres of milk, which earns her Sh400 per day.
What sets dairy goat farming apart is its cost-efficiency in comparison to traditional cattle farming.
Goats are versatile grazers, consuming various vegetation, even leaves from fences and footpaths, thus keeping feeding costs low.
“With a gestation period of five months, goats require a short recovery period before conceiving again, and a single goat can give birth three times in two years, each time to a pair of young ones,” Wachuka insisted.
This ensures a consistent stream of income. Currently, a young dairy goat fetches a handsome price of Sh15,000.
Wachuka has gained knowledge through training provided by Caritas, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and the County Government, which equipped them with skills in hybrid dairy goat farming and the importance of maintaining hygiene.
On her part, Alice Muthoni Thuo started dairy goat farming in 2001 and today, she oversees a flourishing herd of seven dairy goats, occasionally selling some during dry seasons. Her goats yield three litres of milk, of which she sells two litres at Sh80 each.
Another farmer, Joseph Maina reveals he turned to dairy goat farming as a supplementary source of income, utilising the limited space available at his home.
“Seven years have passed since I initiated my journey, starting with just two goats and now managing a total of seven,” Maina, the farmer, noted.
Maina sustains his goats’ impressive four-litre milk production capacity by feeding them with a modest amount of leaves and market leftovers.
The three farmers have achieved economic stability by embracing dairy goat farming, a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional livestock farming.
As a result, dairy goat farming is a cost-effective venture that ensures a consistent income stream.
These farmers’ stories are a testament to the transformative power of dairy goat farming, offering an inspiring example to the youth and the community of Icamara Village in Mukurwe-ini.
Nyeri County’s animal welfare officer and veterinary doctor, John Maina, said the county has the highest number of dairy goats in Kenya. Every year, over 1,000 goats are sold from Nyeri to other farmers in the country. Dr Maina noted that Mukurwe-ini has the highest number of dairy goat farmers in the county.
“Since the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya started, farmers in Mukurwe-ini have embraced the association, yielding great impact with the introduction of the Kenya pine dairy goat breed,” Dr Maina said.
However, several challenges are facing dairy goats. They include diseases brought by foreign goats, like contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP).
“This respiratory disease affects the respiratory system and can cause death. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, frothy nasal discharge, coughing, and grunting due to pain,” the animal welfare officer explained.
Maina said the county government vaccinate goats in February and March of every year.
Pink Eye or Kerato-Conjunctivitis, an infectious and contagious disease transmitted through contact with infected dairy goats, insects carrying organisms, or dust, is another disease affecting dairy goats.
“When the goat is infected, its eye swells and bulges out, the conjunctiva grows a spot in the middle of the eye, the cornea bursts if not treated, and blindness can occur,” Dr Maina said.
He insisted that mastitis is a bacterial infection characterized by inflammation of the udder, clots in milk, mucus in milk, a swollen, hard, and painful udder, and reduced milk production. It’s caused by poor hygiene,
Maina said despite these challenges, goats are manageable animals and their coat is effective.
“The gestation period of a goat is between 145 to 155 days (five months), with a lactating period of two to three months. The probability of a goat giving birth to two or more young ones is high,” the animal welfare officer explained.
Dr Maina observed that goat milk is nutritious and can boost immunity, especially in children and the elderly.
He urged people to embrace dairy goat farming for food security and income-generating projects.
According to Dr Shaban Saidi, Deputy Medical Superintendent at Nyeri County Referral Hospital goat milk has a high protein value, making it suitable for a child’s growth and an immune booster for the elderly.
Researchers also say that goat milk is good at promoting heart health, improving the immune system, helping fight inflammation, strengthening bones, relieving anxiety, and treating anemia.
However, it may also cause side effects in some people. Goat milk may cause allergies due to its casein.
Researchers also say that goat Milk tends to be thicker and creamier than cow milk and it has other health benefits, including more nutrients than cow milk and plant-based “milk” products.
Other health benefits include easier to digest, and less risk of milk allergies it is also an excellent source of protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamins.