Dairy production faces a number of challenges that have affected quality and quantity.
These include limited availability of quality and affordable feeds, inadequate infrastructure including access roads and milk cooling facilities, limited extension services, low value addition to absorb surpluses during glut, and limited access to markets and market information.
A recent dairy investment opportunity study carried out in one of the counties mid last year through the support of the Agriculture sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP) showed farming systems consist of smallholder zero-grazing with an average of two milking cows accounting for 10 per cent of the production and an average daily yield of 9.12 litres.
Then there is smallholder open grazing farms with four milking cows accounting for 88 per cent of production, with an average daily yield of seven litres per cow, per day.
Lastly, there is large-scale open grazing with more than 30 milking cows accounting for 2 per cent of production and an average daily yield of 11.7 litres.
This production is far below the global average of 24.5 litres /cow/day. With all the farming systems producing less than half of the global average, then exploitation of the enormous opportunity to increase production remains a challenge.
Key issues negatively affecting productivity include poor animal breeds/breeding, use of low quality inputs, and poor quality feeds.
Another major issue is the low and fluctuating milk prices offered by the some buyers, the regular ones being the processors.
Other contributing factors include availability of land, thus the 88 per cent of smallholder open grazing, coupled with low production costs in the said system that stand at Sh23.04 as compared to Sh26.04 in zero grazing and Sh25.36 in large scale open grazing.
The above costs take into account the price of inputs (feeds, medicine, vaccines and minerals); opportunity cost for grazing land and direct labour plus fixed costs. Fixed costs include salaries, administration, marketing and miscellaneous expenses.
CREATE MORE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The predicament of milk producers is that although milk selling is on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis, the producers always blame regular buyers who are the processors for the low prices.
To address the milk marketing difficulties, there is need for the majority of the producers who are currently practising open grazing to move away from subsistence to commercial production with an aim of at least reaching the global daily average.
This, as the study recommended, creates investment opportunities for private and public sector investors.
The opportunities include enhancing the milk yield per cow, per day, processing of quality feeds, and processing milk into value added products such as pasteurised milk, UHT milk, yoghurt, mala, cultured milk, cheese, butter and many others.
Enhancing milk yield per cow can be achieved by adopting better production systems including quality artificial insemination services, accessing quality inputs including supplemental feeds, pasture improvement and accessing better extension and veterinary services.
Investing in better production technologies further involves improved feeding system thus creating more investment opportunities along the value chain through feed production.
The study recommended that dairy cooperatives in the county come together to form a union and facilitate installation of a dairy processing plant and a feed manufacturing unit(s).
The plant will support farmers to access quality feeds and AI services as well as appropriate finance to support transition to commercial dairy farming.
This will make farmers earn more than the current prices that range between Sh28 and Sh35 per liter of milk against a background where currently half a litre of processed milk is retailing at over Sh50.
-Dr Mwirigi is the deputy Principal AHITI Nyahururu & a former Nyandarua ASDSP County Coordinator [email protected]