Some boast big farms while others have small parcels, but the farmers all trooped to the Mombasa Agricultural Show last week with their cows, goats, sheep, bulls and poultry confident of winning in the various categories of the livestock competitions.
Many of the smaller farmers entered a single cow or goat in the competition and the top ones over 20, but what mattered the most was the quality of their animals.
At the end of the international show, the best of the farmers won, some twice, after they sold their prized animals for up to Sh450,000 to various dignitaries.
The Seeds of Gold team caught up with some the farmers whose animals emerged tops at the show. We share their stories.
The father of three from Taita Taveta County saw his Ayrshire named Squta emerge top in the breed category at the Mombasa show.
He later sold it at Sh450,000 during an auction. Kilambo says he started the business with Sh50,000 after quitting employment. But before buying his first animal, he sought lessons at the Farmers Training Centre in Ngerenyi, Taita Taveta.
The cow calved thrice before he disposed of it. Today, Kilambo is a zero-grazing farmer in Wundanyi and owns six dairy cattle; three cows, two bulls and a heifer.
The winning cow was offering him 30 litres of milk a day, which he sold at between Sh45 and Sh60 per litre to locals.
“I am happy that I have beaten large-scale farmers to win in this category. My cow was competing with 80 others,” he said.
The challenges he grapples with include high cost of feeds and diseases such as foot and mouth, mastitis and East Coast Fever. The latter is rampant in the region.
He advises that one must keep the right breed that is resistant to diseases to earn more.
“Feeds are also important. I farm napier grass, maize and other fodder crops on my two acres to ensure my animals are food sufficient,” he says.
During the auction, his target price for the animal was Sh150,000 but he is happy that it was bought at thrice the amount.
“I didn’t know I would win in this category. Squta is two years old. I dispose of my cow after calving three times. Farming pays,” he said, adding that with the money, he will buy two more animals.
He was awarded Sh10,000 for the win and a trophy. He hopes the win will bring in more opportunities.
Anthony Maina, 37
He runs Mavuno Farm, which is located in Kakuyuni, Kilifi County, and has some 50 dairy cattle.
His dairy cow of the Jersey breed christened Tiger emerged the best overall cow at the show.
Maina said he started keeping dairy cattle in Kilifi due to affordability and availability of land. “I am happy with Tiger, which has done me proud. I came to the trade fair with 20 cows and many won in different categories,” he said.
Tiger won the overall tag due to its quality, breed and presentation. “To succeed in farming, you must have the best management, set targets and work hard,” he added.
Maina milks 35 litres per day from Tiger that has so far calved thrice. The farmer, who resides in Nairobi and farms as a side hustle, has employed 12 people who help him manage his farm.
“Sometimes I employ up to 30 people especially when making feeds. I feed my cattle on silage and hay, which I get from Nakuru.”
“I always have a stock of hay that lasts me two years for better planning because dairy animal feeding is all about feeds,” added Maina, who also sells the feed at Sh250.
He sells some milk raw and adds value to the rest by making yoghurt and sour milk (mala) that he sells in Malindi town.
“Every Sunday, I make 200 litres of yoghurt. I used to make cheese but it was uneconomical,” said the holder of PhD in strategic management.
Boniface Tole, 22, Farmtrama
A dairy animal from Farmtrama emerged the best Friesian cow at the show.
Tole said his family started keeping cattle six years ago in Mwatate, Taita Taveta County. Currently, they have 10 dairy cattle. “We get 30 litres of milk from our three-year-old Friesian, which won. It has calved twice,” he said.
According to him, their animal won due to good udder space, placement of the legs, backline, high milk production and cleanliness.
"We feed the animals on napier grass, maize silage and hay.” Tole said to win at the show, one has to have quality cows.
“Don’t interbreed, feed them well (proper feeding and nutrition), ensure hygiene, don’t over-milk and use artificial insemination,” he says.
ASK chief executive Bartram Muthoka, who spoke on behalf of the judges, said to enter the trade fair, one must have a healthy cow that is free of diseases.
“They are inspected by the ASK judges along other parameters. The judges visit the farm before you are allowed to enter the competition,” he said.
In the dairy sector, especially in milk production, they keenly looked at the ‘dairy-ness’ of the cow. “This includes teat placement, length of the cow and progeny (parenthood or genetics). Your livestock must be a show material; it should be well prepared,” he said. Muthoka elaborated that a cow must be trained before it is paraded at the trade fair.
According to the Mombasa ASK boss, the best teat placement of any dairy cow yields higher milk production.
“The longer the backline, the higher the milk production. A good dairy cow will be very long; you will not get a very good dairy cow that is short,” he said.
Muthoka, who keeps poultry, said in the dairy goat categories, judges were looking at the milk production. “The farm that won in the category had a Toggenburg that is producing 3.5 litres per day,” he added.
The trade fair attracted over 420 livestock from the region unlike last year’s 370. “This year we had a lot of livestock improvement because we went for farmers from the six counties in the region,” said Muthoka.
All the winners got a trophy, certificates and Sh10,000 for all the winning livestock.
Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council regional coordinator Moses Cheruiyot said almost 80 per cent of Coast region is infested with tsetse flies.
The flies bite the cow’s udders and sides. He said cattle that are not protected from the tsetse flies will be infected and if they are not treated on time, they succumb. Cheruiyot said acute infection kills a cow within 10 days.