On the beautiful highlands of Bomet County in Kisabei village, off the Mogogosiek-Kapkoros Road, sits Goshobu Dairy Farm.
The two-acre farm owned by Dr Dan Koros hosts a 160 by 44ft dairy unit, feeds stores, various kinds of fodder, 29 Friesian cows and his home.
On the face of it, the business looks like any other, after-all the dairy unit is partitioned into four sections for high and low producing cows, dry cows and section for calves and heifers. And each cow has sleeping mat.
But that is where perhaps the similarity with other smallholder dairy enterprises ends. This one owned by the Nairobi-based epidemiologist is one of a kind.
Koros runs the farm using an app called Smart Cow Dairy.
“Everything on this farm is here,” say Koros, pointing at his mobile phone. “The app helps me control the entire business from breeding to feeding to selling. With the system, I am able to manage and track records of the 29 dairy cows, 12 which I milk, two in-calf and the rest heifers.”
The farmer has trained his staff on how to key in the data on their daily activities on the farm in their smart phones.
“Once the workers input data, for instance, on milk, it is processed and I can monitor the information wherever I am,” says the farmer, who has used the mobile app by Intersoft Eagles System for three years.
To track the milk sales, he has in the app records of all the hotels, tea estates and milk coolers that he supplies milk to, thus, at the end of the month, it is easier to know his earnings.
“With the data, I normally print out and send invoices to the clients easily,” says the father of four.
The system further automatically calculates total milk production from the cows, highlighting the highest and lowest producers.
ARRAY OF USES
From the 12 cows he milks, Dr Koros gets an average of 200 litres with the high producer offering 30 litres while the lowest 15 litres per day which he sells at Sh50 a litre.
The app also helps him to keep an inventory of feeds, their nutrition value and total cost.
“With the system, we do our calculations, a kilo of dairy meal translates to about three litres of milk. For example, if a cow is producing 30 litres, we give about 8kg of dairy meal per day while the one producing 15 litres we give it 3kg of dairy meal,” says Koros, adding that he buys commercial dairy meal and mixes with maize, maize bran and cotton seeds cake.
He also grows lucerne (alfalfa) and purple vetch, which are sources of protein while yellow maize, napier grass and oats, which he also farms, offer carbohydrates.
His secret to raising healthy animals is in good management of in-calf cows and calves as well.
“Timing is crucial in serving the heifers or the dairy cows. The app automatically creates a breeding calendar once you enter all the records of served cows. It does the automatic calculation of the first heat check, second, pregnancy diagnosis date and due date,” explains Koros, who started the farm in 2009 after buying three heifers at Sh40,000 each and added two more heifers in 2010, which he acquired at Sh140,000 each.
Once a cow shows signs of being on heat, he leaves it for 18 to 24 hours before it is served.
“You need to study your cows because each has different fertility. Some are easy to conceive while others are difficult even if they are on heat,” says the 40-year-old farmer.
The software further alerts the farmer about the drying and steaming dates.
“Last year I had six straight calvings between July and December, thanks to the app. At the end of the year, I always make an analysis of the calving system to know where I need to improve.”
Further, monitoring of the animals’ health has never been easier for Koros as the software keeps records of treatment, including diagnosis and medication.
EMBRACE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
“The app also gives deworming and vaccination dates for each dairy cows. It gives me the cost incurred in treatment, the dosage of drugs, bills and the vets enabling me to track how much I spend on the animal,” says the farmer.
The app then calculates his daily, monthly or annual expenses against the income, thus, breaking down gross profit or loss.
“I can easily check the expenses in terms of feeds, disease management, breeding cost and their trends. I tabulate the information in graphs and analyse on Powerpoint presentations. The system enables easy identification of the loopholes that one can therefore correct,” he explains, adding the app is user friendly.
He keeps a database of his workers, advance payment made and the salaries using the software.
Koros acquired the software at Sh60,000, which was a one-off payment but he says there is an option of monthly subscription of Sh500 for the mobile app.
“The system uses Google servers, therefore, the information you cannot lose any data in case of virus attack since you will retrieve the data from the cloud,” says Koros, noting initially he relied on manual records which were tedious.
However, challenges still abound despite the efficient management. Mastitis recently affected four high producing cows causing a sharp decline in milk production.
“We had four cows producing at least 24 litres per day infected by mastitis, cutting production to about a litre from each.”
Prof Matthews Dida, a lecturer at Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture, says today’s farmer must embrace information technology for better management of their farms.
He further notes that mastitis is caused by several factors that include bacteria and physical injury.
“Cows that develop mastitis will die if severe and no correct treatment is given. It is one of conditions that can be prevented. Use California Mastitis Test after three days of calving and before drying off of fresh milk,” says Prof Dida, noting early detection of the bacterial disease can reduce the transmission to other cows.