Dairy farming is one the most profitable and labor intensive agribusiness activities that have created thousands of millionaires in the last decade. But the question most aspiring farmers ask is: Is Dairy Farming in Kenya a profitable venture?
Well, James Ndung’u, the proprietor of Pokea Dairy Farm located in Nakuru County is a source of inspiration to aspiring dairy farmers. His journey to becoming a millionaire farmer and a dairy farming trainer is that of resilience and hard work.
How Ndung’u Spends his Day
Being the proprietor of a 17-acre farm, the former head teacher’s ordinary day is a beehive of activities. Every Tuesday, Ndung’u hosts aspiring dairy farmers who want to learn how to succeed in dairy farming at his Njoro farm, which is 15 Km from Nakuru Town.
On an ordinary day, you will find him clad in a white lab coat and gumboots as he goes around tending to his cows. But what has made him such a prosperous dairy farmer in Kenya?
Ndung’u is one of the leading milk producers who sells milk directly to Brookside Dairy, Njoro Farmers Co-operative, and to individuals. He owns approximately 60 pedigree cows, with 10 lactating cows that produce approximately 400 litres daily.
The farmer rears Holstein-Friesian cows at his 17-acre farm some of which he sells to individual farmers looking to venture into dairy farming or planning to add improved breeds to their herd.
Most importantly, Pokea Farm is well segmented into different sections including the fodder crops farm, milking parlor and a sleeping area for the cows. He has planted Boma Rhodes grass, Napier grass, sorghum, lucerne and maize which he stores as silage. He recommends the mixed silage due to its high nutrition value, containing energy and proteins.
What Makes his Farm Unique
The father of three attributes his dairy farming success to the high level of hygiene at his Njoro farm. He has employed 20 people to work on his farm, who he trained on proper hygiene and farm management. The farmer discloses that he spends an average of Ksh. 300, 000 on staff salaries monthly.
Notably, his pedigree cows are sparklingly clean, something that is not common in the majority of dairy cows in rural areas. Ndung’u ensures that his cows are cleaned using hot water and soap powder at least twice every week. Also, the cow sheds are cleaned twice every week to prevent disease outbreaks.
The milk producer imports Friesian Holstein sexed semen from Germany that he serves his cows to guarantee him that all calves born on his farm are female. Although most farmers are reluctant to spend a lot of money on Artificial Insemination, Ndung’u discloses that he spends up to Ksh. 10, 000 for imported semen.
The award winning farmer has also diversified his business, and he now sells A.I. services to his neighbors at Ksh.500- 10, 000. He sells the Holstein heifers at Ksh. 50, 000 – 250, 000 whereas the mature pedigree cows retail at Ksh. 300, 000- 600, 000. Also, he charges Ksh.300-500 for the weekly dairy farming training.
The former head teacher maintains a strict record book and business plan for his Pokea Dairy Farm to track the progress of his business. He records the dairy cows’ details on A.I. dates, date of birth, disease and milk production.
Challenges Faced by Farmers
However, Ndung’u acknowledges that most dairy farmers fail to maintain proper records for their farm, making it impossible to track the progress of their farming business.
One of the challenges encountered by the dairy farmer is the substandard quality of cattle feeds, minerals, and salts that lower milk production. High staff turnover is another problem faced by the farmer, forcing him to train new employees continuously.
Advice to New Farmer
Although he has managed to keep livestock diseases at bay, the milk producer acknowledges that common diseases such as mastitis, foot and mouth and ECF are a menace for farmers. He advises new farmers to vaccinate their cattle and ensure a proper feeding regime.
He encourages farmers to go for quality semen from selected breeds that show functional traits such as high milk production and disease resistance.
Ndung’u won the prestigious Golden Award for Commercial Prestige (Spain) in 2014 and has also been recognized as a Top Breeder in several local trade fairs due to his success in dairy farming in Kenya.