I lost Sh. 280,000 when I started dairy farming

Dairy Farming Challenges: How about losing four dairy animals in one year, never giving up and deciding to still continue with dairy farming? This is the story of Dan Onyango, a dairy farmer in Nyahera, Kisumu County, who is now reaping Sh. 75 for every litre of milk from just one dairy cow which is about to calf. It has not been a smooth ride.

From formal employment straight into farming, Onyango learnt a valuable lesson after the dairy farming business failed terribly in just one year. He had to re-strategise and start all over again. Onyango was an employee of the Kenya Postal Corporation when he decided to take early retirement and venture into dairy farming at his home in Nyahera, Kisumu County.

“I had started farming back in 2004 when still employed but the big decision to venture into commercial farming came in 2014 when I took early retirement and got all my terminal dues from the corporation,” says Onyango.

He then bought four dairy cows at a cost of Sh. 70, 000 each and ventured into dairy business. But three of the animals died within a year. The fourth one turned out to be barren and Onyango sold it. That was Sh. 280, 000 down the drain plus all that he had spent in setting up the farm. Onyango says, “This was a bitter lesson that I learnt and I decided to take time and get to know a few things about dairy farming.”

In the second try, due to lack of enough cash, Onyango bought another in-calf dairy animal on loan from a neighbouring farmer and undertook to pay in installments. “I did not have enough money to buy more animals so I got this for Sh. 65,000 with an agreement to pay for a certain period of time,” he says.

Onyango says that after the initial failure, the change came after he attended a training organized by the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises Project (KAVES) funded by USAID.

After the training, he bought the Holstein Friesian pedigree which calved in late December last year and produces 14 litres of milk each day. This means that at its peak, Onyango earns Sh. 1,050 each day.  “Right now, I am drying it off because I expect it to calf in the next two months,” says Onyango. When it calves, the farmer will now have three animals from just one step that came after a monumental stumble.

In his area alone there are currently five serious dairy farmers. Dairy farming is relatively new concept in Kisumu West where Onyango resides but KAVES is running a project to encourage more farmers to get into dairy farming. Joyce Mutua, KAVES technical director for dairy says that currently there are 20,000 dairy cows in Kisumu County and that with a guaranteed market; it is a worthwhile opportunity for farmers.

One of the lessons Onyango says he learnt is the need to get information before plunging into dairy farming. Coupled with this, there is need to know where to get feeds because that was one of the greatest challenges that he had. Vagaries of weather also affect dairy animals and it is one of the things Onyango says affected his first batch of animals.

He also says dairy animals need intensive care and a hands-on approach. This comes with constant contact with veterinary officers due to the fragile nature of the animals especially in areas with relatively high temperatures like the Lakeside region “My plan is to have ten cows for milk at any given time and I believe that will be a reality soon,” Onyango states.

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