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Feedback: Which is more profitable; Dairy or beef farming?

Wednesday August 14 2019

Sahiwal cattle at the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute (Kari) in Naivasha, in this past photo.

Sahiwal cattle at a farm in Naivasha, in this past photo. Whether to venture in dairy or beef value chain is dependent on one’s interests and objectives. Any livestock venture will depend on the owner’s interests, location, market and resources. However, both dairy cattle and beef cattle are profitable. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

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Kindly write more on beef cattle, their feeding habits and the common diseases. I would also like to know, between dairy and beef cattle, which one is the best for business?


Beef cattle can be kept on four different management systems. These are nomadic pastoralism, agro-pastoralism, feedlot system and ranches.

The system will be dictated by the resources at your disposal. The most developed and predominantly practised system in Kenya is ranching.

It is practised within a defined unit of land. Ranches strive to maintain optimal stocking rates, conserve and preserve pasture and develop livestock support facilities such as dips and water points.


In some instances, the ranches carry out slaughtering and chilling within the farm. Feedlots, on the other hand, are units where immature cattle are intensively put on a concentrate feeding regime purposely for fattening to attain a specific market weight before selling.

Keeping the beef cattle confined and on concentrates makes the feedlot system a very expensive management programme.

Pastoralism is practised in both arid and semi-arid areas. With the animals being kept on pasture in fields, major diseases are tick-borne.

Whether to venture in dairy or beef value chain is dependent on one’s interests and objectives. Any livestock venture will depend on the owner’s interests, location, market and resources. However, both dairy cattle and beef cattle are profitable.

Ochiel Alvine,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



I am Stephen Macharia. Kindly educate me on the various macadamia issues outlined below:

Do they do well in semi-arid areas with clay soil on irrigation?

Macadamia can do well in marginal areas and in most soil types as long as they are well-drained. However, poorly drained clay soils should be avoided.

In Kenya, macadamia farming is carried out in Embu, Murang’a, Thika, Meru, Taita Taveta, Tharaka Nithi, Baringo, Bungoma, Laikipia, Kakamega, Nandi, Kiambu, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Machakos.

Which is the best variety to grow?

There are many varieties and they include Murang’a 20, Murang’a 23, Taita Taveta 1 and 2, Kirinyaga 15, Ex-Embu, Ex-Kiambu, Ex- Murang’a and Meru 23 and 24.

Murang’a 20 is a good variety and is adapted to a wide range of ecological conditions.

Do ungrafted macadamia seedlings have advantages over grafted ones?

You cannot go wrong by choosing grafted macadamia because they mature in 2-31/2 years and they produce 50-200kg per season by the time they are five years.

On the other hand, ungrafted macadamia takes seven years to start bearing and they produce 7-10kg in the first year and 50kg per season by the fifth year of bearing. Therefore, grafted macadamia has more advantages than ungrafted.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Crops, Egerton University.



I need your help in finding a farmer who is successful at wheat and Irish potato farming.


Agriculture has been devolved. You have not told us where you are but kindly visit the Ministry of Agriculture offices in your area and they will give you the information you want.

Carol Mutua,
Department of Crops, Horticulture, and Crops, Egerton University.



I am interested in keeping fish in Homa Bay along two permanent rivers with a group of educated but unemployed youths willing to soil their hands.

Kindly guide us on the requirements, possible costs per pond of 2,500 tilapia fingerlings, the feeding and any other incidental costs. We intend to fill the first 20 ponds soon as well as have a cold room for storage.


You will need to identify the system of production, whether semi-intensive or intensive as well as the types of ponds to be used in rearing the fish.

The cost of constructing the fish pond will depend on the type. For more details, call Agro Science Park, Fish Farm Egerton University on 0716573291.

The cold room for storage can either be solar or electrical. Please call 0726128779 for more information.

Janice Kimuli,
Department of Biological Sciences, Egerton University.



My name is Romanus Mungmha, a graduate and an unemployed youth. I am in the process of drafting a business proposal to the Ministry of Youth in my country (Namibia) on fish farming and having read your online article, I have no doubt that your are well equipped to advise me on this regard.

Please contact +254718636413 for the advice.

Janice Kimuli,
Department of biological sciences, Egerton University.



Where can I source poultry laying white eggs preferably White leghorns?

Willy Koskei

Buying mature birds can be expensive especially if less than 300. This is because of the high cost of maintaining them for about five months.

There is, however, the option of buying either day-old or month-old chicks from reputable companies. There are several in Kenya, just check online — chick suppliers and create time to visit them or their outlets.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of animal sciences, Egerton University.



I have interest in starting a biogas project at home. Please share information on how to go about it

Biogas production is an excellent way of using animal waste to generate energy for cooking and lighting. One then uses the slurry to grow various crops.

The main components of the biogas system are the digester where fermentation takes place and the gas holder. The source of fermentation substrate can be your farm or neighbouring ones and consider the cost of establishment depending on the system’s capacity.

The Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University is willing and able to offer technical support. Make efforts of visiting when you have time.

Dennis Kigiri,
Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University.



My name is Winnie. I wish to know which is a profitable agribusiness that one can start on a small space and with Sh200,000.

With that amount of money, there are quite a number of enterprises you can start. However, this requires critical business planning, which I can help you with.

Other factors may also come into play such as your interest, experience and location. Since all these information is not made available, then it is not easy for me to suggest which enterprise is the most viable for your case.

For a professional business plan, please send me an email via [email protected] I will also help you with the process of design thinking for viable agribusiness ideas. You need to start from somewhere.

Dickson Otieno
Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management



I liked last week’s article on dragon fruits, which I am growing in Ukambani and they are doing well. I got my first fruits this year.

I am now planting more and hoping to attain 500 plants by the end of this year. Kindly link me with the writer of the article, Faith Ndungi.

Waweru Murimi

Thank you for showing interest in dragon fruit farming. Our country can produce its own supplies if more farmers are encouraged to pursue the crop.

For those who need the seedlings, please contact Dr Matu from Nanyuki on 0722229364. You can send me an email at [email protected] for more information.

Faith Ndungi,
Department of Human Nutrition, Egerton University