It is noon and 50 Maasai women sit quietly inside an iron-roofed shed, keenly following demonstrations by Raphael Shololoi, a Livestock Production Assistant from Kajiado County on best practices.
“Before you start milking, make sure the cow is clean, especially the flanks, udder or the belly, because much of the dirt that might contaminate the milk comes from these areas,” explains Shololoi, during field visit organised by Brookside to empower the women group that supplies them milk in Kumpa area of Kajiado County.
He continues that clean and good quality milk should be free from hair or dust, has no oduor and is white.
“Most of the locals have been used to handling cows the traditional way and now, we are empowering them with best practices when milking and handling milk to avoid contamination. Contaminated milk will lead to rejection and eventually losses,” Shololoi says.
Next, the group is shown the process of baling hay using makeshift equipment and then, where the baled hay is stored.
This training is taking place at a model farm owned by Ms Judith Ntangenoi, who is also the secretary of Esupuko Women Dairy Group.
Ntangenoi is happy with the training saying it is empowering members to produce more and quality milk. She recalls how women started the group in 2011 to sell milk but failed due to lack of market.
“We have suffered as hawked milk is sold at throw away prices. At times, people would take milk on credit but declined to pay,” she recalls. But now they have a secure market with Brookside Dairies.
So, how did they land the deal? Ntangenoi says last year in one of the group meetings, they resolved to visit Brookside and inquire if the company could buy their milk.
Three officials visited Ruiru where the company is located. “We were introduced to leaders of the company and after a lengthy talk in which we stated we were looking for market for our milk, they promised to visit and see what we are doing,” she says.
Officials from the company visited a week later.
Brookside’s General Manager for Milk Procurement Emmanuel Kabaki says the group had little milk because they reared local breeds and without proper management. The company then invested in model farms in one of the selected areas where members would go to learn during trainings.
The group says it has learnt dairy management practices among them planting, harvesting, preparing and storing fodder to be used during dry season, feeding, milking and detecting diseases. Most members are in the process of upgrading their dairy cows, and most have Sahiwal. Ms Margaret Natuu from Olongosua narrates how she ignorantly suffered with local breeds.
“We had 50 local breeds and when droughts came, had to travel to Narok or Ngong where we stayed for days in such of pasture and water. At that time, lactating cows gave less than a litre in a day,” she says.