It was a mid-life challenge, but dairy goats now hold future promise

Friday July 8 2016

Julius Kitur feeds his dairy goats in his farm.

Julius Kitur feeds his dairy goats in his farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu. Kitur has 20 goats of which six are milkers at the moment. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STANLEY KIMUGE
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The undulating land populated by green wheat and maize crops swaying gently in the wind on the Eldoret - Kitale road, offers a breathtaking view. It is a sight most of Uasin Gishu County residents are used to especially at this time of the year.

But at Kamagut village, before you get to the township of Soy, there is something they are not quite familiar with.

Apart from wheat and maize farming, the county is also known for its dairy cows — not exotic dairy goats that Mr Julius Kitur first introduced here three years ago.

After working as a government officer attached to the Prisons Department for a number of years, Kitur, 46, was in need of a new challenge.

In 2013, he quit his job after finding a new calling: rearing dairy goats.

“I had just visited a white farmer in Timau, Meru County, who reared dairy goats and I developed an instant interest and decided to buy the goats from him,” he says.

And so armed with Sh56,000 he got into the business.

“I bought a Toggenburg buck (male) for Sh13,000 and two does- an Alpine German and a Toggenburg- at Sh20,000 each and ferried them to Uasin Gishu,” he says.

He later bought an animal feed grinder at Sh180,000. The machine converts the grass into smaller pieces that the goats will able to ingest more with ease.

He grows maize and hay to ensure that there is a constant supply for both his goats and cows- he also keeps 20 dairy cows.

“Unlike cows that consume 10 bales of hay in four days, the goats consume that amount for more than two months. Also the price of the cow’s milk is at Sh33 per litre whereas that of a goat goes for more than Sh200,” he says.

MASTERED THE ART OF BREEDING GOATS

For a single meal of the goat, one bag of hay is mixed with 10 kilos of dairy meal.

Within the compound he has put up three structures. One of them is where he stores his feeds. The rest host the goats.

“We keep either the males or females interchangeably to avoid disturbing the feeding habits. Since, the goats require a clean place we have ensured the floor is raised with little openings for the droppings to go down,” adds Kitur, whose herd has grown to six after he added more German Alpine.

From the six goats, he gets 20 litres of milk that is sold to the neighbours and local dairies in Eldoret town.

“I now plan to increase the milk production to 50 litres a day by this year and start supplying directly to the supermarkets,” he says.

The farmer has mastered the art of breeding the goats and sells to other farmers who want to follow in his footsteps.

“One needs to be careful to avoid inbreeding. I normally keep records to ensure that one buck doesn’t serve the offspring. For instance, I either separate female offspring from the buck or dispose them off after two months,” he says.

Solomon Kiplimo collects milk, after milking goats at Kitur's farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu.

Solomon Kiplimo collects milk, after milking goats at Kitur's farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu. The goats produce 20 litres of milk daily, which is sold to neighbours and local dairies in Eldoret town. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He usually serves the goats after every four months and deworms the animals after three months to ensure that they feed well. The farmer also feeds the goats with two tins of maize grains to hasten the digestion process.

“One should, however, be careful not give a lot of grains as it will make them diarrhoea which can lead to death,” says Kitur.

The farmer allows the kids to suckle for three weeks before they are separated from their mothers before milking the goat.

“The kids use a lot of milk hence we don’t get much within the three weeks then milk for four months before serving them,” says Kitur.

SET UP MINI PROCESSING PLANT

Besides selling milk, the farmer sells a mature buck at between Sh20,000 and Sh30,000. Recently, he sold 12 goats to farmers in the area who are aspiring to rear the exotic animals. A mature goat gives birth twice in a year.

He notes that one of the challenges he has to contend with is the issue of inbreeding.

“To get a pure pedigree, you need to scout for a different buck otherwise you end up with a weaker breed,” he says.

According to Felix Opinya, a livestock expert at Egerton University, dairy goat farmers should ensure frequent change of the male goat that serves the specific herd to improve on milk production and body conformation traits.

“Farmers are encouraged to cull-off the bucks frequently for subsequent services,” he says.

He also encourages farmers to keep records to know the genetic performance or ability when it comes to breeding of the herd or improvement of the breeds.

Kitur feeds his dairy goats at his farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu.

Kitur feeds his dairy goats at his farm in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu. According to him, quite unlike cows that consume 10 bales of hay in four days, the goats consume that amount for more than two months. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“One needs to change the bucks after one or two years to realise good performance that are passed over to the next generations. One must always avoid the old bucks,” says Opinya.

Kitur has 20 goats of which six are milked.

He hopes to increases the herd to be able to scale up the milk production to about 200 litres per day in next five years. He also intends to set a mini processing plant so that he can package and sell the milk directly to supermarkets.

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Goats' advantages

  • Have a superior production capacity than a cow.
  • Can be reared in urban and peri-urban plots.
  • Require relatively smaller space than dairy cows.
  • Dairy goats are much easier to convert to money than cows.
  • Dairy goats are less vulnerable to diseases especially tick borne diseases.
  • Goats are fastidious feeders as a result they are the last animals to die from drought.
  • Goats consume a wide variety of grasses, weeds and small branches of bushes and trees.