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Crush pens give livestock farmers renewed hope

By Isaiah Gwengi | October 26th 2021

An abandoned cattle dip in parts of Siaya County. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

Three decades ago, Michael Obondo would take his father’s cows to the nearest communal cattle dip every week.

At the cattle dips, subsidised acaricides were available. Acaricides are chemicals used to kill ticks and mites. Farmers contributed towards the maintenance of the cattle dips.

According to Obondo, there was a rota that ensured cattle flowed seamlessly.

“Dip managers were reputable livestock farmers,” says Obondo, adding that managing the dips would be assigned to village elders or civic leaders.

The weekly visits have become history, with livestock farmers resorting to self-spraying or construction of community crush pens.

In Ran’gayo village, Alego-Usonga sub-county, Michael Omole leads more than 30 livestock farmers in spraying at the community crush pen.

For over four decades, Omole and other villagers have toiled and prayed for better production from their livestock in vain.

However, in the last four months the farmers have realised improved milk production, thanks to sensitisation and construction of crush pens courtesy of the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council (KENTTEC).

The tsetse-fly emergency eradication drive is being undertaken in Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay counties.

The initiative also promotes dairy farming which has been a challenge in the area because of the presence of tsetse flies.

“We used to spend a lot of money in treating our animals but since we built a crush pen, we’ve seen an improvement in terms of what we can now save,” said Omole.

For Monica Awino, crop farming has been affected by climate change and livestock farming has therefore remained their alternative economic activity.

“Tsetse flies displaced most of the villagers in 1950s and most of the diseases being treated in this area are tsetse-related,” said Ms Awino.

Her sentiments are echoed by Paul Olela, the secretary of Ran’gayo crush pen. Olela says the most affected villages are Ndisi, Malunga, Upanda, Uyemba and Mur Gwen’g.

“I started rearing livestock more than 30 years ago but I decided to dispose of my herd after it proved unviable. But four months ago after training and establishment of crush pens in our area, I am back to animal farming, and I do not regret,” he said.

And just like fellow farmers, Olela says the health and value of their animals have improved. They have now embarked on breed improvement through Artificial Insemination (AI).

"Before this programme, it wasn't easy for farmers to get even a litre of milk from the local breeds. But today, we've started seeing some improvement," added Olela.

Speaking to The Standard, KENTTEC Nyanza Regional Coordinator Bernard Chemweno said they have initiated groups where farmers register before getting trained.

He said after training, farmers are issued with a spray pump and insecticides.

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