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Lessons on rearing Ayrshire cows for profit

 Eldoret Polytechnic dairy cows. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Healthy fine-looking Aryshire heifers grazing quietly welcome you when you visit Eldoret National Polytechnic's expansive dairy unit.

State-of-the-art housing, milking and breeding technology would impress any dairy farmer.

Owing to its excellence in breeding and rearing Aryshires, Eldoret National Polytechnic dairy unit has become a model in the North Rift region and beyond.

From being a contracted mating farm, a training avenue for agriculture-based disciplines to a revenue stream, Eldoret National Polytechnic dairy unit has become a model in North Rift region and beyond.

The Smart Harvest team visited the centre to get valuable tips on rearing aryshires for profit.

 [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

The livestock unit featured prominently during the just concluded Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Eldoret branch show where Eldoret National Polytechnic scooped the Supreme Champion award.

The institution also presented several animals for exhibition, all of which received awards during the show that was graced by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

The polytechnic's dairy farm started off from an initial breed of Ayrshire from Agricultural Development Corporation Olngatongo farm in Kitale, Trans Nzoia County, has since progressed and is lately a contract mating farm that works with Kabete for purposes of breeding high yielders.

Why Ayrshires and not Friesian?

Susan Seron, the farm manager says they focus on Ayrshire breed because of the strong and admirable traits that the animal possesses.

 Eldoret Polytechnic farm manager Susan Seron at the institution farm in Eldoret Uasin Gishu County. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

They are also members of the Ayrshire Breeders Society.

"Ayrshire is a strong breed and is more resistant to diseases and drought and lasts more in the herd. It survives in any kind of environment without needing much feeding. In our dairy, we manage through free-range grazing and zero grazing, hence much cost-effective in management," says Mrs Seron.

Seron says at the farm which hosts 48 cows, they have managed and achieved pedigree breeds over the years.

"Out of the 48, we are milking 18 and on average on daily production, each cow produces 18 kilograms of milk. The goodness with this farm is that we have bred continuously for over 20 years with the use of artificial insemination," she says.

 Workers milking at Eldoret Polytechnic. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

Semen from abroad

Semen used in the farm, she explains is imported from Finland, Canada, The United States, New Zealand to ensure the best of breeds in production, conformation and longevity is achieved.

"Owing to the best breeding done over the years, the breed at the farm has been chosen by Animal Genetic Resource Centre in Kabete as a contract mating farm," she says.

The institution rare the cows and the genetic resource centre would come on an annual basis, select the best cow in terms of production among other characteristics including health, then they use semen of their choice to inseminate the selected cow.

"They will wait for the cow to calf and if it is a bull, buy it after a month at Sh50,000 and if it is a female, it leaves it to the college. This is a good source of revenue to our institution," she adds.

 [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

It takes a lot to be a centre of excellence.

"To be chosen as a dairy farm, a farmer or institution has to have one breed, good records on the history of the cows and that is what Eldoret National Polytechnic dairy farm does. Recently, the Animal AI station in ADC farm in Kitale selected a few cows for contract mating also."

Out of the contract mating, the dairy farm has so far achieved 13 bulls for Kabete Animal Genetic Resource Centre and another bull for the latest contract mating centre at the ADC Kitale.

Conventional semen

Conventional semen is used in breeding hence chances of achieving bulls and females is at 50 to 50 basis.

The Polytechnic, located about four kilometres from the Eldoret Central Business District has dedicated some 40 acres to maintain the dairy farm. Part of it is used for free range grazing, other sections for the production of fodder for silage and also a shed and milking bays.

Characterised by the attractive white and brown colour, the breed blend the institution's serene environment in an institution that currently has a student population of over 20,000.

 [Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Apart from the dairy, the polytechnic also keeps poultry, pigs, sheep and also cultivates crops.

The manager says herdsmen have received comprehensive training on how to monitor livestock and observe indicators that could mean disease. Control measures include a dipping crush in the institution to prevent any chances of diseases.

The college offers subsidised dipping costs to its neighbours as part of its Social Corporate Responsibility programmes.

"We strictly follow livestock disease schedules on deworming and vaccination as a preventive measure against diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Lumpy Skin Disease, Black quarter among others."

Mr Charles Koech the Chief Principal Eldoret National Polytechnic says the farm is a product of hard work and persistence by institution's fraternity.

"We take a lot of pride that as an institution, we have consistently done well in the dairy sector," Koech says.

Power of partnerships

He says the collaboration with Kabete for dairy breed propagation contributes immensely towards attaining good dairy productivity in the country, hence playing a role in securing the country's food security.

"Apart from participation in National ASK events, our institution has also featured in livestock breeders' fares and has consistently done well," he points out.

"Our institution offers agriculture-based courses and the dairy farm is a training avenue for our trainees where they practice the skills they have acquired. We are also in partnership with the East African Grain Council to support sustainable agriculture."

Koech says the dairy farm has contributed as a revenue stream and supplemented government funding to the institution.

"Milk produce is used in the college while the surplus is sold to Kenya Corporative Creameries hence fetching income to supplement government support," says Koech.

Long-term plans are in place to value-add dairy produce from the farm. According to the institution, a milk ATM machine is already in place and awaiting its installation as the college eyes a good milk market in the populous Eldoret town.

Stephen Tum, a dairy supervisor at the farm says their programme starts at around 3 am when they milk and distribute the product as per college procedure. The cows are milked again at 2 pm. The workers make close observations of the habits of the livestock to detect any symptoms of diseases. In case of any, they report to the farm manager who would take appropriate action. The milk harvest is supplied to the institution, local market and KCC.

Tum says they have a staff of six who work in shifts and their core work is cleaning, milking, feeding, and distributing milk.

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