Dairy farmers in the North Rift are increasing the acreage under animal fodder to cushion them against perennial feed shortages.
Stung by the recent drought that cut milk production by nearly half, a number of milk producers who spoke to Smart Company said they are growing different fodder to avoid what they went through during the start of this year.
Although the most recent data from the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that Kenya’s dairy industry has recorded an increase in production after onset of rains, milk producers are leaving nothing to chance.
Mr Julius Kitur, a dairy farmer is one of those, who reduced the acreage under white maize to grow yellow maize on his 52 acre farm in Turbo, Uasin Gishu.
“The cows like the fodder. . . I want to improve on my dairy so that is why I planted the crop,” says that farmer who owns 20 cows.
A number of farmers said their cows recorded drop in milk quantities during one of the worst dry spells in the recent past.
In July, the government waived tax on importation of yellow maize to help control skyrocketing cost of animal feeds and also ease pressure on white variety.
Mr Shadrack Moimett, a farmer from Kesses, Uasin Gishu said although he planted wheat on his 10 acre farm last season, he has opted for maize and pasture this time round.
“This year, I decided to plant five acres of pasture for my cows because of the good prices in the market and then the other for maize,” says the farmer.
Mr Julius Kiptarus, director of livestock production in the Ministry of Agriculture said Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties have recorded an increase in milk production by between 40 to 50 per cent.
“However there are pockets of arid and semi-arid areas, which have recorded rains below average and as such are yet to fully recover from the effects of drought.
“The Met department has projected that the short rains are expected by October 20 and hope this will improve milk production across the country,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
He said a large number of farmers are increasing acreage under fodder.
“We want to encourage that. . . What we are seeing is that farmers are actually balancing while others have fully gone to dairy agri-business also increasing the number of acres even of the maize crop for silage production,” said Mr Kiptarus.
“We want to ask farmers that if they have 50 acres, they can grow maize for commercial purposes and about 10 acres for fodder,” said the official.
According to Mr Nixon Sigey, New KCC Managing Director, poor feeding regime and breeding had contributed to low productivity at the farm level.
“We want to encourage farmers to take advantage of the short rains to grow pasture and other fodder and store them in the event of dry spell. The six month drought was the most painful to farmers. We had cushioned them against drought effects by increasing the producer price by Sh10,” he adds.
In March, the country’s major milk firms -Brookside and New KCC increased milk producer prices, known as farm gate prices, to an all-time high of Sh42 and Sh43 per litre respectively in a bid to shield farmers against effects of drought.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich in May scrapped duty on imported powder milk to ease the shortage that had resulted to a sharp rise in consumer prices.
The drop was attributed to a severe drought that affected most parts of the country starting October last year.
The price of a half a litre of milk had risen to an all-time high of Sh65 following one of the longest dry spells recorded in the recent past. Processors cut the price in May after a marginal increase in production.