Breeding cows and growing onions, get the basics

Friday July 04 2014

The farms at Maporomoko, Mavuno area on June 25,2014.William Oeri (lamu)

I am Joe Gachoka, a small-scale dairy farmer in Lari, Kiambu County.  
1)  What causes milk clotting in cows after milking even if the animal is not pregnant, and what is the cure?2) What is the name of the drug used to test pregnancy in cows?
Joe Gachoka

Milk is virtually sterile when it is synthesised in a healthy cow’s udder. However, it may become contaminated with bacteria during or after milking since the mammary glands of cows can become inflamed due to a bacterial infection called mastitis.

The infection is usually caused by poor hygiene. For instance, disease-causing organisms can be shed through cow dung and may contaminate the outside of the udder and teats, bedding and milking equipment leading to spoilage.

This could also be due to chemicals in milk handling equipment. Treatment of the animal with relevant antibiotics if the cause of spoilage is mastitis is necessary. Long-term measures include adhering to proper hygiene, sanitation, milking procedures and techniques.

Second, pregnancy diagnosis can be done using progesterone or specific protein testing chemical procedures. The latter is more accurate and utilises Elisa (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) technology.

Common test kits include Genex and Biopryn. However, the easiest and most accessible is diagnosis by an animal health expert through rectum palpation, usually not earlier than 60 days after service. We are hopeful you will soon milk gold from your seeds (cows).


Felix Akatch Opinya and Ronald Kimitei, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University. [email protected]  and  
[email protected]

I am interested in rearing bulls commercially under zero-grazing. I really need some guidance on how the market works.

Just like in any commercial undertaking, one needs to do cost-benefit analysis to make the right investment decisions. The other consideration is the market. Most of the people rearing bulls do it for beef production. The most obvious market is local butcheries in your area but they cannot fetch good money.

Depending on your locality and the scale of production, Kenya Meat Commission can be your alternative market, but consider the logistics involved such as transportation.

The other challenge is the choice of your production system. I think zero-grazing is not economically viable for rearing bulls since majority of beef production in Kenya is done by pastoralists, whose cost of production is low. Some ranches also keep bulls and they enjoy economies of scale.

Charles Kairu Wanjohi, Egerton University Animal Sciences Department
Email: [email protected]
or [email protected]

I am a poultry farmer and would like to know whether there is a way I can use biogas to produce heat for brooding chicks from day one since it’s very costly to use charcoal.


Maintaining the proper environmental parameters during brooding, particularly correct temperatures is crucial for chicks’ survival, especially the first seven to 10 days. During this stage, heat regulation mechanisms in chicks are not well-developed and, therefore, they rely on environmental factors to maintain optimal body temperatures.

Chilling or overheating at this stage can, therefore, result in poor feed intake, reduced growth rate, stress, and impaired disease resistance or in severe cases mortality. Biogas is used as a source of heat for brooding chicks, among many other uses.

However, several modifications are needed to ensure brooder efficiency in biogas use. You must also have adequate supply of biogas to ensure success.

Wangui, James Chege, Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University [email protected]  


I have seven acres in Kirinyaga, specifically Marurumo, which is on the outer Mwea rice-growing region. The soil is partially black cotton, and partly red loam.

Water for irrigation is available from River Thiba. I need sound advice on what crops to grow profitably and sustainably since the land is currently idle.

Angela Mburu

For every agribusiness venture, one should start critically by looking at the market. Before venturing into growing crops, look critically at what people need, market demand and the marketing channels. Since you are accessing water for irrigation, you also need to invest in profitable and sustainable systems thus you need professional advice. Before you embark on planting your crops, I would suggest that you invest in a good long-term irrigation system. Choose crops that take a short-time to mature like cabbages, onions, and indigenous vegetables. You can also install a greenhouse on one section of the farm to grow tomatoes and capsicum.
Seeds of Gold Team
Egerton University

I would like to venture into pig and goat farming. How can I start, that is, what is needed, and where can I market my products?

Starting a livestock enterprise requires four basic components. These are animals, feeds, housing and proper husbandry practices. The choice of each component and associated derivatives requires a keen study to come up with a well-guided business plan for implementation. Kindly consult an animal scientist who will help you develop an informed work plan and advice on the best breeds of pigs and dairy goats you can keep in your area, which you didn’t mention. Such experts are found in your sub-county livestock production office and at Department of Animal Science, Egerton University. However, on market, Seeds of Gold has a section where buyers meet sellers, and you can get contacts from the page.
Seeds of Gold Team
Egerton University

I have a small piece of land in Ngata, Nakuru, and I am interested in agribusiness. I am thinking of growing garlic. What is your advice? Can garlic do well in this region and which is the best time of the year to plant if so?

Garlic does well in medium to high altitude areas of 500 to 2,000 metres above sea level. It requires little amount of rainfall and it does well in deep fertile and well-drained soils. Very high humidity would lead to poor vegetative growth and bulb formation, hence the crop should be grown at a period when the rains are little.
Lilian Jeptanui
Crops and Soils Department
Egerton University
[email protected]


Please update us on pyrethrum industry as the last and current governments have been very silent on their promises. Let them liberalise this important industry. It should be willing buyer, willing seller and we will surely get back to 1980 tonnages.


The Pyrethrum Regulatory Authority (PRA) has enough planting materials for all farmers in the country. There is also technology to harvest, clean, grade and blend pyrethrum seeds using specialised processing equipment. We have 9,000 packets of certified seeds for established commercial nurseries. The authority has cleared all farmers’ debts. 

Alfred Busolo, PRA Managing Director


Kindly share the process of in-vitro fertilisation in cows and the cost implications. Also the contacts of service providers. Any assistance offered is greatly appreciated.

There are a number of technologies that have been developed to assist and improve breeding. Among these technologies is artificial insemination, embryo transfer and somatic nucleus transfer. Embryo transfer involves two procedures, in-vivo fertilisation and in-vitro fertilisation. In-vivo fertilisation involves super ovulation of a donor cow to release several (eight to 12) ova, which are fertilised within the donor cow.

Immediately the zygote is formed, they are harvested, stored or implanted to surrogate dams, which carry them to term. In-vitro fertilisation (also referred to test –tube conception) involves collection of ova from the uterus of donor dams, maturing them in a solution and fertilising them. The embryos developed are either stored or implanted to surrogate dams.

The use of hormones to super ovulate the cow is not necessary and the donor dam can also be used to carry an embryo. The two processes have been used extensively to increase the number of off-springs born from a superior dam over its life time. The later has additional advantages as it can be used in harvesting embryos from either young heifers or cows destined for slaughter.

The real cost of embryos depends on the procedure involved, the donor dam, the semen used and the technicians involved. Estimated cost of embryos is between Sh25,000 and Sh30,000. For more information, contact Maurice Cherogony, the CEO of East African Semen and Embryo Transfer through their website. 
Duncan Musyoka Mbai Animal Science Department Egerton University Njoro [email protected]

I went searching for the best chicken breeds and came across India’s Kuroiler and our Kari Kienyeji breed, which unfortunately the Mtwapa branch doesn’t have.

All local breeders don’t have them and I don’t have enough funds to get to Kari Naivasha or source for Kuroilers from Uganda. It’s now six months and I still haven’t found either. Please direct me to where I can get either of them here in Mombasa.


Kindly contact the local livestock production office for assistance or call Kari Naivasha to organise how you can get the chickens.
Francis Kigen

Department of Animal Science Egerton University- Njoro [email protected]

I live near Mtwapa, Kilifi County. I want to engage in turkey farming. I need advice.

Like chickens, there exists turkey hybrids for meat and eggs. Turkey meat and eggs market has gradually risen, particularly in the tourists resorts. The changes in lifestyle and migration to urban centres can also be attributed to the expanding market for turkey products.

It is also wise to note that, unlike rearing other poultry, a farmer should help turkeys (0-3 weeks) to drink water since at this stage they usually don’t know how to take.

This helps to avoid high mortalities. Disease control should also not be overlooked and vaccination schedule for turkey should be adhered to. Otherwise, other management practices are not very different from the ones used in commercial chicken hybrids.

Seeds of Gold Team
Egerton University