Some of the goats bleat, others munch the fodder placed in their feeding troughs endlessly oblivious of our presence.
Standing in the goat shed and dressed in a white overcoat and a pair of gumboots, Hellen Kamba, the manager of the farm named Shambah Dairies in Kangema, Murang’a, offers instruction to a worker on how to feed the animals.
“We keep 40 dairy goats in total,” says Hellen. “The adults are 22 and the rest are kids, two of which were born two days ago. Of the mature goats, we milk 15.”
The brainchild of Kiringai Kamau, a programme lead at the Centre for Agricultural Networking and Information Sharing, and his wife Jane, Shambah Farm is a thriving enterprise.
The couple based in Nairobi own the 5-acre venture that also hosts their second homestead.
The farm has three breeds of goats namely Alpine (German, British and French), Toggenbergs and Saanens.
“The Anglo-Nubians aren’t common in the region which is why we don’t have them at the moment,” says Hellen.
Their star goat is a German Alpine named Alice, who has Saanen genes in her lineage. She produces three litres of milk daily, a major feat.
Embu, another of their star goats, albeit less glamorous, averages 2.5 litres daily.
“Five of our 15 milkers are drying up in preparation for their next kidding, and sometimes those five produce a litre each. We get 16-20 litres of milk a day and sell each at Sh100.
We deliver 80 litres after every five days to Kibidav Dairies, which specialises in goat milk products such as yoghurt and fresh milk under the brand name, Toggs Dairy Goat Milk,” says Hellen.
TO ACHIEVE MAXIMUM PRODUCTION
The rest of the milk is sold fresh to locals and other customers in Nairobi.
“To achieve maximum production from your goats, 50 per cent of your efforts should go to feeding, 25 per cent to their general care and 25 per cent to proper breeding,” offers Hellen, adding that they feed their animals on hay and premix daily.
Other feeds they offer them include proteins such as desmodium, lucerne, calliandra, green leaves and nutritious salt lick, which is constantly in their cages.
“We grow these feeds ourselves and only have to buy the premix and salt lick,” says Hellen.
They plant the fodder seedlings first inside seedbeds in greenhouses and later put them in small plastic bags where they grow before they are moved to the main field.
“We have most of the seeds of the fodder on the farm, what we don’t have we buy from agrovets in Murang’a. The seedlings take five to seven days in the greenhouse, where we grow them due to the cold climate in the region. The greenhouse also helps to make the seeds germinate.”
They are harvested for the first time at four months after which weekly, and then dried and shredded and the premix added, then fed to the goats.
“Each goat eats a little over 3kg of all the feeds per day, showing how economical and easy it is to rear them. We feed them thrice a day.”
Mr Kiringai recounts that they began the venture in 2013 after fortunes in coffee dwindled by buying four goats at Sh12,000 each in Nyeri.
Goats are now the main attraction on the farm that was initially populated with coffee and bananas.
Mr Kiringai currently has only an acre of coffee, which he grows for sentimental reasons because the crop contributed to his education.
“Goats need special care, which is why we have a footbath at the entrance to this housing unit to keep pests and diseases away,” she says.
According to Hellen, there are three main diseases and pests that are a constant threat to goats.
“The first is the Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), which is a livestock disease capable of killing the entire flock in a short time.”
Mastitis is also dangerous to lactating goats, while worms contribute to poor health.
“We deworm our goats after every two to three months.”
Shambah Dairies has also started to venture into value addition. It has a small yoghurt processing unit fully dedicated to goats’ milk yoghurt production.
They make the yoghurt for interested customers on order, selling for Sh100 per half litre.
The farm makes an average of Sh20,000 each week, from the sale of goat milk products and fresh goat milk, according to Mr Kiringai.
Away from the goats, the farm also has a zero-grazing unit housing six Friesian cows, one which is a heifer and two are calves.
The three mature cows produce 54-60 litres daily, which is delivered to Kenya Cooperative Cremeries in Murang’a at Sh30 per litre.
The cows are milked thrice per day and fed on Total Mix Ration (TMR); a mixture of fodder, pastures, yellow maize, proteins like calliandra and lucerne, and maize germ, after each of the milking sessions, according to Harrison Githaiga, an intern on the farm.
Felix Opinya, an animal breeding expert from Egerton University, says goat rearing is shunned yet it is one of the most profitable livestock ventures.
“They require less space and feed less than cows. They are much easier to invest in considering the initial capital investment and time you need to attend to them. They are generally browsers, if you plant more of fodder trees you are good to go.”
Get It Quick
Goats vs Cows
- Watch out for wet areas, goats do not do well in dumpy conditions. You can easily create a goat barn out of materials like timber off-cuts.
- Compared to cow milk, goat milk is much more superior, the reason it is recommended for patients. For instance, people with lactose intolerance can use goat milk as it has less of the sugar than cow milk making it easily digestible by the body not to mention the smaller fat globules it contains.
- The same space one requires to keep a cow can hold three goats. Simply put, investing in goats is a sure way of getting higher returns after a short period of time.
Goats are more prolific compared to cows. The chances of getting multiple births in goats is higher compared to cows, if well managed, which is another avenue for income.