Before you milk more, think of being in a group

Friday December 16 2016

Members of Ilkipirash Women Group deliver milk at their cooperative society in Kajiado.

Members of Ilkipirash Women Group deliver milk at their cooperative society in Kajiado. Dairy farming as a sacco, cooperative society or group comes with an array of benefits for the farmer. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By FELIX OPINYA
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Armed with information on best dairy management practices, many farmers are now getting higher milk volumes.

But this has brought new challenges that include post-harvest milk losses caused by oversupply.

It is a problem that is now being experienced by many farmers, even those who are members of cooperative societies. So how can farmers overcome this problem?

Based on our field research, teaming up is the best place to start.

Farmers should team up for collective milk marketing. Before even putting emphasis on milk price per litre, a well-organised milk marketing procedure motivates farmers to produce more, as they are assured there is market.

The groups assist farmers bulk their produce for sale, spreading risks thus cushioning individuals. The milk can then be sold to dairy cooperatives or milk processing companies at reasonable prices.

Typically, farmers pay from Sh1-Sh2 per litre for transporting milk to buyers. With high volumes, farmers are able to save on transport costs. When you have the volumes, most likely buyers can compete for the produce.

Other benefits include the groups investing in agrovets, artificial insemination services, check-off services, low interest loans from Saccos, all at the convenience of members.

The good thing with coming together is that farmers can start as a dairy group and end up a cooperative.

As a group, you have the voice to mobilise for milk coolers. Occasionally, the government targets areas with high milk potential to set up coolers. If you have the volumes and ready market, then you are a candidate group for milk cooling tanks.

With a cooler, you can bulk milk before collection by the eventual buyer. Milk is a highly perishable product and lowering its temperature for even few hours can curb spoilage.

GOOD ORGANISATION ATTRACTS BUYERS

Some farmers groups that own coolers make more money by sourcing milk from non-registered members who wish to supply them.

Good organisation can also help farmers attract buyers. When you are assured of buyers, a milk purchasing contract can be negotiated.

Some farmers groups I know have succeeded in doing this in two ways. First is milk supply by volumes and second by days.

The former involves total volume accumulated per day is divided across all the buyers to maintain regular contact.

For the latter, all the milk collected is destined to be supplied to buyers on different days, for example, Monday to New KCC, Tuesday to Brookside and so on, until each day is assigned a buyer.

In areas with limited access to milk processors or buyer cooperatives but have robust demand, such as Kakamega and Kisumu, farmers have lobbied resources together to operate a milk bar or run a milk dispensing unit.

Milk ATMs, as commonly known, are optimally operated when there is continuous supply of milk.

Common to many, farmers can scale-up from production to make products from raw milk. They can make brands of quality yoghurt, cheese, butter, mala and lala.

These products are assured of market by the changing feeding habits and consumers’ preferences in a way that creates rising demand.

As long as farmers embrace team-work, they stand to reap benefits from reliable milk market, with better prices and prompt payments for sustainable dairy production.