Milk producers want feeds fund to cushion against biting drought

Lack of feeds is the biggest threat to dairy farming when drought hits.  FILE | NATION
Lack of feeds is the biggest threat to dairy farming when drought hits. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

Milk producers are asking for a scheme similar to the country’s strategic food reserves to enable them stock sufficient animal feeds to cushion them against effects of dry spells.

The farmers said slaughtering animals is not a lasting solution to the perennial drought that ravages Kenya’s arid zones.

The producers noted that constant supply of feeds will stabilise the industry and motivate fodder farmers to venture into the enterprise because there is a ready market.

“For long, we have factored human food but I think it’s high time we also considered the animal survival since most farmers spend a lot of money to improve the quality of the breeds through embryo transfer technology,” said Mr Kipkorir Menjo, an official of the Kenya Farmers Association.

Stock fodder

The Kenya Dairy Farmers Federation (KDFF) said the government should set up a scheme to stock animal fodder.

“We believe the solution to the dry spell is not slaughtering the cows but coming up with strategic reserves for feeds to ensure that farmers can access them,” said Mr Richard Tuwei, KDFF chairperson.

He said the move will also encourage farmers to diversify into commercial fodder production.

“It would be disastrous if farmers lose their herds due to shortage of feeds. These animals are very expensive. It is important that more farmers are encouraged to increase fodder production. Such a move will motivate more hay farmers,” said Mr David Chombet, a dairy farmer from Uasin Gishu.

Currently, the food reserves store milk powder and grains such as maize. But farmers now want bales of hay to be stored.

This comes at a time when dairy farmers are reeling from heavy production overheads, thanks to dwindling supply of raw materials such as maize used to produce feeds.

Milk prices in both formal and informal markets have gone up and now retails at between Sh48 to Sh60 per litre. Some vendors are selling at Sh60 a litre in parts of North Rift.

Rising prices

Shelf prices of milk have also started rising as the ongoing drought continues to take its toll on the cost of production and raw material supply. Consumers are paying an extra Sh3 and Sh5 depending on the brands.

A 500ml long-life milk packet that has been selling at Sh50 is now going at Sh55 while fresh milk that used to retail at Sh43 is now selling at Sh48 in major supermarkets.

A number of processors have recorded a reduction in milk supplies by between 20 and 30 per cent.

Major milk processors have, however, increased the producer prices by Sh3 a litre due to high cost of production.

The prolonged dry spell has led to shortage of pasture, making livestock farmers resort to dry expensive feeds.

“Scarcity of hay during dry spells pushes up the prices, with a bale that was going for Sh200 now selling at Sh350,” said Mr Julius Lagat from Nandi County.

Some animal feeds traders have raised the cost of fodder, with a 50kg bag of dairy meal that was selling at Sh1,800 a few months ago now retailing at Sh2,200 due to low supply.