Starting Dairy Farming : A couple, in Ruiru, is setting up an ultra-modern dairy facility which will be one of a kind in Kenya. The structure, which costs Sh. 50 million, will include automation and mechanisation of dairy farming. Susan Muturi and Njoroge Muturi, the directors of Tassels Dairy Farm in Ruiru, says the structure — an ultra modern dairy facility — will be automated by April next year.
“There is no need to seek hi-tech dairy services abroad because the future is here. The facility is fabricated by locally available materials and will revolutionise the dairy industry in Kenya and Africa. There are huge opportunities in dairy sector in Kenya. Many Kenyans love milk but they know little about keeping cows,” says Susan.
The dairy plant includes a bereket milking machine (cutting-edge milking systems that improves milking automation and simplify parlour management) which comes in many sizes from one cow unit to huge automated parlours.
With such a capital-intensive project, one may assume that the Muturis have always had it easy. But it is amazing how far they have come.
It has taken hard work, resilience and determination to be where they are. From a milk hawker eleven years ago, Njoroge is today a well-accomplished dairy farmer with 400 dairy cows and the upcoming state-of-art plant. The cows produce between 6,000 and 12,000 litres of milk per day depending on their stages of development.
After completing his secondary education, Njoroge says he wanted to be self-reliant and secured employment in Githunguri as a herds boy. “I was employed by a businessman in Githunguri and I used to look after his cows. During low seasons when milk was scare, the price would go up.
To meet that need, I would hawk milk around the neighbourhood and the city. My employer discovered this and dismissed me from my job,” Njoroge says. This was a blessing in disguise. “I moved to Kiserian and rented a house with a small compound which could accommodate my two cows which I had bought from my savings.
That time, insecurity had rocked Kiserian and many people relocated to other areas. My landlord was very kind and he allowed me to rear my cows in peace. Every time I got an extra coin, I bought a cow and slowly the flock increased,” he says. While in Kiserian, he says, his day would begin at 2am by going to Githunguri to buy milk and sell in Nairobi and its environs.
At 5pm, he would start making his way back to Kiserian to go look after his cows. It was during that time he was hustling that he met his wife, Susan. Coincidentally, Susan also had an interest in dairy farming and that it why it was easy to partner as a couple. Two are better than one and once they got married, they shared ideas and put their minds together which saw their business blossom.
Through research on the Internet, they learned how to breed cows in a modern way.
“At first, we knew little about running a dairy empire but we did our research big time,” says Njoroge. Thanks to their hard work, now their one-acre farm in Ruiru is a beehive of activity since it has become a demonstration farm.
“After learning from us, most visiting farmers like to duplicate what they have seen in their farms. We allow our artisans to help the farmers set up structures like ours. We are happy when young people visit our farm and learn how we do our dairy farming,” Susan says.
The couple has employed six young men who are in charge of various sections in the farm and 14 casuals who come depending on the workload.The milk produced at the farm is sold in schools and restaurants within the town. They also sell dairy cows at between Sh200,000 and Sh300,000.
Much as they have made it, their mission is to transform the dairy industry in Kenya and beyond.
Susan says: “We want to modernise dairy farming and start a generation of dairy farmers. We believe we can revolutionise the dairy industry through modern technology and innovation.” As a way to give back to the community, the Muturis visit various schools in Kenya to offer farming tips to students. Njoroge says for the last three years, Kenyatta University animal husbandry students have been using the facility for practical lessons. At the same time, farmers from as far as Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Burundi and Zanzibar visit the farm to learn best practice in dairy farming. In April this year, the couple visited Israel to acquire more knowledge and skills on dairy farming.
And what is the secret to their success?
Keeping quality breeds and improving them, disease control, quality feeds and adequate supply of water. “It is important to collect grass from areas free of parasites and include mineral supplements in the animals’ diet. Our big secret is regular de-worming,” Susan says. Rosy as it may seem, the couple admits that there are challenges running a dairy farm. The biggest is shortage of feeds.
To address that, they advise dairy farmers to store plenty during bumper harvests. Advice to aspiring dairy farmers? “One should not have a big farm to start dairy farming. They can start small and grow. People should consider dairy farming as a journey and not a quick fix to make money,” Susan says.