When Margaret Kamande embarked on keeping dairy cattle in her farm in Limuru in 2014, she did not envision that the enterprise would not only provide her with returns but also creating employment for some youth in the neighbourhood.
Her farmstead, named Hakikisha Farm, is a four-acre piece of land on the outskirts of Limuru Town, on which she keeps 65 Friesian dairy cows on three acres.
She points out that when she started the enterprise, her cattle’s milk production was so low that she only sold the commodity to neighbours.
Later, she however invested in improved and enhanced Friesian cattle breeds as well as high quality feeds.
She also adopted the strip-grazing model of livestock keeping, where the cattle are rotationally allowed to roam and graze in portioned paddocks, which she says has been effective in minimising cases of mastitis as well as a number of other pests and diseases in her herd.
“This model also ensures that the livestock are comfortable and their hygiene is easier to maintain,” she adds.
This resulted in the cows’ milk production increasing over the subsequent years.
Initially, according to her, the cows produced at most seven litres of milk per cow per day, but currently she expects a minimum of 17 liters per cow daily, with the highest milk producer averaging up to 40 litres daily. (Even though Mrs Kamande did not provide numbers on her daily revneue, our calculations shows that at a price of Sh36 per litre as offered currently by some of the bulk milk buyers 65 cows could gross a minimum daily sales of about Sh40,000.)
She largely attributes this development to be the better feeding regime that the farm adopted, with feeds mainly sourced from Thika-based livestock feed manufacturer, Better Feeds Nutrition.
Mike Kamau, the proprietor of the feed manufacturing firm, advises farmers especially of dairy cattle that the way one feeds them easily manifests itself in production.
“You give them low quality feed, and the result, more often than not, is low milk production,” he says.
Mrs Kamande says her husband, Dr George Kamande, an animal nutritionist and health specialist at Diamond V, an international research and technology-driven company that develops and manufactures products to improve nutrition, health and performance in livestock, played a role in influencing her to change the livestock’s feeding regimen, if she sought to earn more from the enterprise.
With more milk production, in 2017, Mrs Kamande, who had hitherto been selling the milk she got in small quantities to neighbours, as well as a nearby shopping centre, decided to venture big and set up a processing unit.
Within the farm in Limuru, together with her husband Dr Kamande, they established a dairy processing plant specialising in churning yoghurt and making ice cream.
The firm also makes other dairy products such as cheese, and butter, albeit in small quantities, with the main focus being on yoghurt and, to an extent, ice-cream.
Their dairy products, for instance the yoghurt, sell under the brand name Daileys.
It comes in four distinctive natural flavours, which she says are all shipped in from Arizona in the US.
“Our yoghurt flavours are vanilla, strawberry, mango-strawberry and pineapple-banana,” says Mrs Kamande.
She also mentions that that the ice-cream they make comes in three different flavours: vanilla, peanut-butter and mango.
The Limuru-based cottage industry dairy processor produces a minimum of 450 litres of yoghurt per day.
They supply the produces they make to a number of mini-supermarkets in the neighbourhood as well as retail outlets in Nakuru, Kiambu, Nyeri and Imara Daima in Nairobi, among other nearby towns.
“We have not yet been able to well penetrate the market. This is particularly due to the competition coming from the more established manufacturers of dairy products. But with time, we will break even and have our products on the shelves of the country’s major supermarket chains,” Mrs Kamande says.
They package the yoghurt in 100ml, 250ml, 500ml, 1ltr and sometimes 5ltr packs, whose prices, they say, are slightly lower than the other yoghurt brands in the market.
The enterprise which runs under the name Terrestria Foods Ltd, currently has about 10 employees on permanent basis; five on the farm, and the other five in the processing plant.
The farm’s manager, Monica Mwaura, adds that they occasionally employ additional employees, but on casual basis, which is mainly whenever there is more work to be done such as when working on their pasture farms.
The farm manager further cites marketing and competition in the available markets, rogue breeders supplying them with bogus artificial insemination material, and sometimes pests and diseases as challenges they have to contend with.
“Feed provision and to an extent controlling pest and diseases have been improved as we cultivate our own pastures and source more from our supplier, Better Feeds Nutrition. And the fact that the cows hardly interact with others outside the farm, plus the biosecurity measures we have installed here, ensure pests and diseases are no longer a challenge,” she says.