August 31 was just another ordinary day for Sidik Sumra, a dairy farmer, who was attending the Mombasa International Show that ended last week.
Sumra had entered four of his cows into different categories.
Boti, a six-year-old cross-breed of a pure Friesian cow and a pure Brown Swiss bull, was one of them.
The farmer had entered the 450kg animal in the cross-breed category for large and small scale farmers and had crossed his fingers.
Boti, his favourite animal, not only ended up being declared the winner in the two categories, but was also declared the overall winner when it participated in the overall ‘Cow of the Show’ category.
And to cap to the win, his three other animals won in their respective categories.
His bull scooped the second position in the Friesian bull category while his cow took the second position in the Friesian cow category.
Another of his cow took third position in the Friesian cow category.
“It was a dream come true for my animals to win at the event. I could not believe that I was also the overall top dairy farmer as I was participating in the Mombasa Show for the first time,” a beaming Sumra, 42, said.
His crowning moment came the next day when he was presented with the top honours trophy by President Uhuru Kenyatta after he officially opened the show.
“It was a huge win for me as I took only a month to prepare the four animals for the show,” the farmer told Seeds of Gold this week on his Sumra Dairy Farm situated at Kikambala - Amkeni in Kilifi County.
“I dedicate the trophy to my father for showing me the way in this business and supporting me.”
Boti, the champion cow, has delivered thrice and produces a maximum of 30 litres of milk per day.
According to him, the animal won because the judges found it had the desirable figure and had only three lactations, compared to others that had many and that it was a good crossbreed from a pure Friesian cow and pure Brown Swill bull.
To prepare for the show, Sumra trained the animals on how to move and when to stop during display.
“Each animal knows its name, if called by the herder it responds. They were well-fed and groomed.”
The farmer keeps a total of 400 animals, 150 of which are mature dairy cows while six are bulls. The rest are in-calf heifers and calves.
“I buy breeding bulls from top farms across the country for servicing the cows. Occasionally I also do artificial insemination.”
His animals are kept under the semi-zero grazing system, where they free-range from 5am to 10am before they are taken back in the sheds in readiness for milking at noon.
Before milking, the animals are fed on napier grass, cassava leaves and amaranth (mchicha) – all which he grows on 15 acres.
During milking, Sumra said he feeds the cows on a mix of maize germ, wheat bran, sorghum bran and mineral salt.
“Currently I milk 145 dairy cows that produce between 1,200 and 1,500 litres every day. The cows produce between 10 and 33 litres each,” he said, attributing the low milk production of some animals to the 4km they walk to graze due to inadequate fodder and the warm weather at the Coast.
The dairy business, according to Sumra, was started by his great grandfather Sidik Sanjar in Mombasa in 1912.
“Then he used to do zero-grazing but we had to relocate the cows to Kibarani on the West of the island as Mombasa town was growing faster.”
Some 12 years ago, the family relocated the enterprise to the current location where they leased 200 acres.
He took over the management of the business from his father Anwerali Mohamed three years ago.
“The business is worth over Sh50 million. We have employed over 70 workers.”
He sells 80 per cent of their raw milk as high as Sh70 a litre to consumers in Mombasa and its environs, where they do home deliveries.
The other 20 per cent is processed into mala, yoghurt, cheese (panir) and mawo, a product made by stirring milk till it becomes solid. The products go at between Sh100 to Sh900 a piece.
“We sell them at our shop in Mombasa where there is big market,” said Sumra, who reckons that he has not done any other job apart from farming.
He sells in-calf heifers at Sh120,000, second and third lactation cows at Sh140,000 while breeding bulls are sold at between Sh25,000 and Sh120,000 depending on the age.
His day at the farm begins at 6am, ensuring that the animals are well-fed, the cows are milked on time as well orders from customers are met.
Some of the challenges he faces include expensive dairy feeds and difficulty in getting qualified workers.
Doing the business on a leased farm, he added, is an expensive undertaking, but he declined to reveal what he pays annually for the land.
“Sometimes diseases like East Coast Fever also attack the animals but we have a vet who is working to manage that.”
Theft of animals is also another challenge. “Two years ago, my two cows were stolen and slaughtered just near the farm,” he said, noting he has hired several watchmen to guard the farm at night.
QUALITIES OF EXHIBITION COWS
His plan is to acquire own land where he will transfer the animals and increase the herd.
Felix Opinya, a livestock expert from Egerton University, noted cows going for shows must be well-trained to ease parading and marching in the cattle ring.
The cows should also be well-groomed, which involves brushing her hair smoothly to give her a neat and admirable appearance for presentation purposes.
Cutting short her hair and clipping the hair under the belly make part of the good grooming, which enables the animal to stand out during exhibition.
What judges look out for
- The frame of the cow which constitute the rump and front legs should be well separated, stature of the animal and the breed characteristics. The loin should be strong and broad and show more proportionate height at withers and hips.
- Dairy strength looking at the characteristics that support production and longevity. They are width of the chest, well sprung ribs, chest, pliable skin, neck and the general body condition that is appropriate with the stage of lactation. Ideally, the cow should show more dairyness throughout.
- Movement of the animal is also examined. Her walking should be with ease such that the rear feet nearly touches the front feet.
- Udder traits. These attracts most of the marks since they directly reflect high milk yield and the productive life of the cow. The udder depth, balance and teat placement tells everything. The animal should have firm teats, not too small, not too large to suggest difficulties during milking. The udder should not be pendulous and it should be well balanced, showing a clear symmetry. The teats should be properly placed and have uniform size. Clear strong suspensory ligaments should be evident. The udder should be well attached to the body wall and show prominent milk veins and mammary veins.