Prices of livestock in drought-hit areas have dropped by nearly 90 percent as farmers rush to dispose of their animals before they starve to death.
A mature cow that would have fetched a farmer more than Sh50,000 six months ago at the Kajiado Ilbisil Market, for instance, can only sell at Sh5,000 leaving most herders counting losses as drought hits hard.
The drop in prices follows a predictable pattern that gets farmers and policymakers flat-footed every drought season, which ends with farmers selling their livestock at throw-away prices, raising concerns about the country’s disaster preparedness.
This year promises to be even more severe after annual rains failed for two consecutive years due to climate change that has diminished pasture and dried up seasonal rivers.
Frantic efforts by a section of herders to relocate their livestock to the neighbouring counties have also not yielded much.
Stephen Nkabash, a herder from Kajiado Central told the Business Daily on Monday that the situation is dire and pleaded with both the national and county governments to supply human relief food and pellets for animals.
He said a mature animal fetches Sh5,000 after a farmer has paid more than Sh500 for transport. A handful of animals die on the way, forcing owners to dispose of hides at Sh150.
“We feed animals unable to stand on their feet with acacia tree leaves. We are watching our animals die helplessly. We are requesting both levels of government to intervene urgently,” said Mr Nkabash.
The livestock deaths set the stage for a surge in beef prices in the coming months due to a shortage of supplies. It is also likely to complicate plans to increase Kenyan livestock exports to 500,000 annually.
James ole Nkapapa, Ibisil slaughterhouse chairman, said low livestock prices had affected meat supply.
He said most herders are ferrying their animals to the slaughterhouse, which also serves as a livestock market every Friday, in large numbers against few customers.
“The most drought-affected animals are selling between Sh3,000-Sh5,000. Herders are grappling with persistent drought killing their animals. If it doesn’t rain soon, mass livestock deaths will be witnessed,” he said.
Mature goat and sheep prices have dropped marginally, selling between Sh5,000-Sh7,000 from Sh9,000 six months ago.
However, hay traders are enjoying a boom selling a bale between Sh300-Sh500. Dozens of lorries selling hay are placed in strategic locations in the vast county. Most herders are unable to buy grass for their large herds.
“It’s untenable to be able to feed more than 200 herds of cattle with the expensive hay. We are at the bleak of losing our pride- livestock,” said John Toimasi, a livestock farmer while pleading to the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) to fast-track the livestock offtake program.
The pasture shortage witnessed in the region has prompted livestock-wildlife conflict over the little pasture. Wild Animals are roaming freely across the villages.
Attempts by herders to invade Amboseli, Chyulu hills and Tsavo East game park for pasture have been met with resistance by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Recently, Kajiado KWS warden Vitalis Ochola said no herder will be allowed into the park because of drought insisting the parks will be highly protected.
"No livestock will be allowed into the parks. Even the head of state cannot order livestock to be allowed into the back. I have worked in many parks and it has never happened," Mr Ochola said.