A simple barbed wire fence rings the farm in Mengwet village, Bomet County. Rows of banana, sunflower and vegetable plants greet visitors. Napier grass, sorghum and lucerne grass dance to the tune of a light wind.
It is on this land that Wesley Bett also keeps chickens and 15 zero-grazing dairy cows, the mainstay of his business.
He started the farm in 2015 with two indigenous cows that produced a total of nine litres of milk a day.
Bett later sold the animals. He bought a cross-breed for Sh50,000. The animal could produce 10 litres of milk every day.
“After a while, I bought a pure Friesian cow for Sh100,000. It was a good investment as the animal produced 15 litres of milk daily. At the time, I had not yet started inseminating the cow artificially,” he said.
Most of the calves produced by the cow were bulls. Bett sold three and donated one to a church.
“I was not happy so I sought the advice of a livestock expert, who helped me formulate a herd expansion plan,” the farmer said.
“I approached Co-op Bank for a Sh1 million loan, which I used to buy eight cows in December 2007. One went for Sh100,000.”
The five cows produce 100 litres of milk daily. The farmer, alongside many of his colleagues in the area, takes his milk to the Olbutyo Dairy Cooperative Society, which buys a litre at Sh35.
“I keep Friesian and Ayrshire cows and have fully adopted artificial insemination. I take advantage of the subsidised AI service that was launched by the Bomet government some years ago. The county Agriculture department sells sexed-semen at Sh1,000 while the unsexed is Sh200,” Bett, an ICT trainee, told Seeds Of Gold.
He grows Boma Rhodes grass on an acre and has leased 10 where he grows maize and other fodder for making silage.
FOLLOW VACCINATION PROGRAMMES
At any given time of the year, Bett has silage that can last six months. He feeds his dairy animals at 6am, 10am, 3pm and 7pm. Water is readily available throughout the day.
“My dream is to start a commercial dairy feeds enterprise. I want to be self-sufficient and be able to sell the feeds to other farmers through our cooperative society,” said Bett, who has already bought a feed mixer.
He sells his sunflower seeds to an oil processor and uses the cake to make animal feeds at home. The feeds Bett makes supplement the commercial ones he buys. Bett has employed four people, with three attached to the dairy unit and the other dealing with poultry.
“I have 120 kienyeji chickens. A hundred of them are hens. On average, I get 80 eggs a day, selling one at Sh15,” he said, adding that the income from the birds runs his home. To avoid tragedies that come with diseases and pests, Bett works with vets and agronomists.
“I started engaging experts two years ago when I almost lost one of my animals to foot-and-mouth disease. I realised my herd had not been vaccinated,” the farmer said.
Robert Langat, a veterinarian, says Kenyan farmers should follow vaccination programmes if they want to have healthy animals.
“There is an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in this part of the country every year,” said Langat. He advises farmers to maintain high levels of hygiene in their dairy units. The units, he adds, should have proper drainage and be cleaned regularly to keep the floors dry.
Sh35: The price of a litre of milk at Olbutyo Cooperative Society.
120: The number of kienyeji chickens that Wesley Bett has.
2015: The year Bett started his farm. It is in Mengwet village, Bomet County.
Sh50,000: The cost of the cross-breed cow Bett bought.
Sh100,000: The price of the pure Friesian cow that Bett bought. It produced 15 litres of milk daily.