Dairy farmers in Nakuru County are raking in an average of Sh 1.6 million daily in raw milk sales to processors. One of the leading processor reaping from the increased production is Brookside.
Last year, Brookside paid over Sh610 million to farmers in the county for raw milk deliveries, with supplies growing six per cent after small scale farmers opted to join dairy co-operatives in order to supply milk in bulk to the processor.
The growing fortunes of dairy have seen nearly every household in the area, especially those in the rural areas, keep at least one dairy cow, as families seek a regular source of income.
Farmers cite regular and guaranteed payment for milk delivered to processors as the reason behind their renewed interest in the dairy farming.
Four years ago, Ms Alice Chebet, a smallholder farmer in Keringet, used to grow potatoes on her two-acre farm, with high expectations of huge profits from the investment.
However, her dream was shattered after brokers invaded the area, offering throw-away prices.
The fluctuating market prices made Ms Chebet shift to keeping two cows, each producing five litres of milk daily. She delivers the milk to Kuresoi Self-Help Group, which sells it to Brookside.
“The shift to dairy farming was worth the gamble. For the past four years, I have never missed payment for my milk,” said Ms Chebet.
An aggressive farmer empowerment programme by Brookside has seen it partner with over 30 co-operative societies in Nakuru County.
Group leaders of the societies undergo regular training on governance to ensure that the societies are run effectively. The processor has also been working with farmers to increase year-round availability of quality feeds and water for their animals. Farmers are trained on preparation of quality fodder, besides preserving the feed for use during the dry season.
“Nakuru is reaping the benefits of one of the most vibrant dairy co-operative movements in the country. The dairy groups have contributed to the success of the sector, with an increasing number of farmers opting to take up the enterprise for generation of regular family income,” said Mr John Gethi, Brookside’s director of milk procurement and manufacturing.
Mr Gethi said Brookside had set up dairy demonstration farms where local farmers benefited from per-to-peer training on animal breeding and fodder preparation and conservation.
He underscored the importance of records as a tool for tracking performance of the dairy farms.
“We are encouraged that a good number of our farmers have embraced record keeping as one way of monitoring optimum performance of their farms. Farm records are a must, regardless of the size of the individual farm,” added Mr Gethi.
According to the farmers, supplying milk in groups has reduced their cost of production, with the co-operatives accruing the benefits of economies of scale.
“Unlike in the past when we used to supply milk as individuals, our societies provide transport for the milk from the farm gates to the Brookside cooling centres. This has reduced our spending on transport,” said Mr Elphas Kemei, a member of Soitaran Dairy Farmers’ Co-operative Society in Kuresoi South.