Sunday, May 26, 2024

Inside US dairy farm producing over 9,000 liters daily that employs Kenyans

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Sassy Cow Creamery, located in Columbus, Wisconsin, is among the 6,000 dairy farms in the city. Owned by brothers James and Robert Baerwolf, the farm has become a considerable employer for Kenyans working in the dairy industry in the United States.

The farm is home to over 1,000 cows, divided into two sections. In the organic section, cows eat grass-rich diets and are allowed to heal themselves if they fall ill.

However, if the illness becomes severe, they are moved to the non organic section, where medication is administered by trained vets as needed and get fed modified feeds.

In the organic section, there is a daily production of 9,000 liters. The farm owner noted that this production is used for making milk products and ice cream.

“Wisconsin has a lot of good weather. So we have the rain, the sun, the land…so then we can have the cattle,” said one of the farm owners.

Sassy Cow Creamery has hired over 15 Kenyan workers who receive decent wages for their contributions to the farm. The farm owner fondly recalls hiring the first Kenyan employee back in 2002.

“That’s over 20 years, right? So for 20 years, the only people that have worked on our farms are Kenyans,” he added.

He mentioned that Sassy Cow Creamery provides dairy milk to nearly 100 grocery stores and restaurants each.

On the farm, some Kenyan workers have dedicated almost a decade to their roles, while others have been employed for just a year.

Daniel is among the farmworkers, specifically assigned to the organic cow department. He comes from Kapsabet. Upon his arrival in the US, Daniel started his employment at Sassy Cow Creamery at the milking department.

He explained that he had to undergo training before assuming his duties independently. Daniel’s responsibility involves milking over 300 cows in two shifts: one in the evening and another in the morning.

Daniel mentioned that the starting salary for such a position is Sh. 2,000 ($16) per hour. He expressed his desire to return to Kenya in the future, equipped with the skills gained from his experience at the Sassy Cows and pursue dairy farming.

Another Kenyan, Charles, who previously worked at the farm stated that Sassy Cow Creamery operates on a zero-waste philosophy. He said that all resources are maximized efficiently.

For example, feeds are cultivated in expansive crop lands and stored in silos. The cows are provided with ample feeds and water to ensure they produce abundant milk whilst generating waste. After collecting the waste, it is transported back to the farm where it is laid as manure.

If a cow unfortunately passes away at the farm, it is sold to a nearby company that manufactures dog food. At Sassy Cow Creamery, prices for cows may range between Sh. 500,000 ($4000) and Sh. 650,000 ($5000).

The non-organic farm section, which houses over 600 dairy cows, has also employed Kenyans. Another Kenyan, John, shared that he arrived in the US as an athlete but due to financial constraints, he had to join Sassy Cows in 2013. However, he chose to resign in 2014.

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He disclosed that all dairy cows on the farm must be milked twice every day. Mungai, a Kenyan worker from Kinangop, mentioned that he has been an employee at Sassy Cow for the past 7 years, a job he wholeheartedly enjoys.

Mungai puts in 13-hour shifts daily and earns approximately Sh. 2,600 ($20) per hour. Another Kenyan, from Baringo but now works at the US milking station, advised his fellow citizens to embrace any work opportunity that comes their way.

In a day, the Kenyan pair ought to milk 1200 cows (600 cows in each of the two shifts). One specializes in cleaning the udder, while the other fits the pressurized milking machine onto the cow’s udder. 

A third Kenyan works behind the scenes, ensuring that all the cows pass through the milking stage before proceeding to rest.

The Kenyan workers at the farm noted that their employer treats them well and continues to provide more opportunities for Kenyans to work at the Sassy Cows Creamery. 

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