“Auction at Ostrich Farm. We are selling our dairy cows, 30 calves, heifers and lactating animals by public auction,” read a signpost last week at the junction leading to Ostrich Farm, a short distance from Kampi ya Moto trading centre in Nakuru.
The owner of the farm, Humphrey Njoroge, was selling the Friesian and Ayrshire cows in bid to destock his herd.
Njoroge’s records showed his animals produced an average of 20 to 30 litres of milk daily.
Unlike the normal auction where bidders outwit each other by quoting the highest price, Njoroge had a reserve price for each animal.
Once the buyer identified the animal he was interested in, Njoroge would then inform him the price.
The farmer said he took the approach to attract serious buyers since it was not a one-day event.
“I had a reserve price and the auction was not restricted by time. The flexibility thus allowed people to stream in anytime as long as the cows were there,” he says.
The kind of auction further does not put pressure on the owner to sell the animals.
“This method saves one money as you don’t need to pay a professional auctioneer. Auctioneers are paid a certain percentage at the fall of the hammer depending on their charges. Again, the method of shouting can make people buy the animals at an outrageous price and scare other buyers,” he observes.
Some 20 of the 50 animals up for grabs were sold during the auction last week, with majority going for between Sh70,000 and Sh160,000.
Njoroge, a former military man who retired at the rank of commandant lieutenant-general, served as the head of the National Defence Training College.
The farmer said he decided to sell some of the animals to destock his herd, which had increased to over 100.
“This is the first auction I have done. I had kept these animals for more than 10 years. My aim was to reduce the herd.”
He noted that he had bought some of the animals from Gicheha Farm in Rongai, Nakuru while others he had acquired them from Embori Farm in Nanyuki.
EVALUATE THE LIVESTOCK
“The cost of production in a large-scale farm is high, by scaling down the number, I was also seeking to reduce my expenses.”
Dairy farming has been exciting for him since he retired in 2004 and was gifted a heifer by the then Kenya Air Force commander-general, Julius Karangi. Karangi went on to become Chief of Defence Forces.
“From this heifer, I built my dairy empire, getting at least 200 litres of milk from my cows at any time,” recounted Njoroge.
His passion in agriculture saw him be selected to join Egerton College to study Dairy Technology. However, while he was in Form Five at Kagumo High School in 1966, he was recruited as a cadet trainee.
“If I did not end up at the army, I would have joined the agriculture sector and that is why I still love farming.”
He had plenty of advice to those who bought his cows.
“Before you think about dairy farming, think about the feeds. You must know the source of your feeds. Bad feeds can make this venture very unprofitable. Grow your own like yellow maize, hay and lucerne and only buy the concentrates.”
Water is a critical component while hygiene of the animal is paramount. “I have a visiting veterinary doctor who checks my animals at least once a month and deworm them regularly,” he added.
Joel Kangogo, a farmer from Nakuru who bought one of the animals, said he went for it because of its high-yields.
“I’m not new to cows from this farm. I once bought an animal from the farm two years ago and the returns were good, the reason I came back for another.”
For a good auction, David Njoroge, an Agricultural Society of Kenya approved judge, said that one must first evaluate the animals by knowing details of each like when it was born, when it was inseminated, when it calved and whether it is a bull or a heifer calf.
“The daily milk record is also critical. One must check the record when the animal approaches the rest stage before it goes for the next calving. Critically, look the record of milk production for the 305 days. Also check the animals if they have been recorded at Kenya Stud Book as pedigree or a grade,” he offers.
Selling your cows through auction
There are no licences needed when a farmer wants to auction their animals because it is willing buyer willing seller.
To sell the animal, you must involve a veterinary surgeon and the valuer to give you the reserve price and then group the animals according to category of high yielder, middle yielder and lower yielder.
Then you group them on a number of lactation, heifers and bulls.