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Dairy farmers at pains to keep livestock alive as drought bites

Charles Mutwiri, a dairy farmer in North Imenti in Meru County is sad that the prolonged drought has lowered milk yields.

Mr Mutwiri has high yielding cows, producing up to 20 litres a day but that has gone down due to the changing diet.

He said the family is feeling the pinch, since they now pay Sh2, 500 for 50kg of dairy meal.

“There has been no rain meaning fodder is hard to come by. In addition to buying bags of dairy meal every two weeks, we buy maize, molasses and other ingredients to do silage,” said Mr Mutwiri.

Mr Mutwiri said he spends up to Sh50,000 for the maize, grass and other amounts for the silage.

“To get high yields, you have to ensure the diet for the dairy herd is top. But the dry season has caused a shortage of feeds, so the cost of production has gone up,” he said.

He sells his milk to residents between Sh40 to Sh45 a litre.

Milk production has dropped by 50 per cent in Murang’a County following a severe shortage of pasture occasioned by drought.

Nginda Dairy Cooperative Society chairman Mr Jesse Maina said lack of pasture has led to the reduced production of milk thus low income to the farmers.

“We have registered low payment from our business due to drought that has affected all the farmers countrywide,’ said Mr Maina.

Despite the low production, prices of the commodity in major towns have shot up from Sh 50 to Sh 70 per litre.

In Laikipia County, farmers are struggling to get fodder for their livestock and water following the reduced water levels in the rivers.

Former North Imenti MP Silas Muriuki and a worker at Meslopes dairy feed factory. 

The farmers in Laikipia East and Laikipia North sub-counties face major challenges following the delayed rains since last year.

Mr Francis Macharia said the cost of fodder has contributed to the low production, hence increased demand for milk. “The government should come to the rescue of the farmers who are in agony due to lack of fodder and water for their animals,” he said.

In Nyeri County, Mr Peter Njoroge from the Mukurweini constituency is a worried dairy farmer since he has started rationing his feeds due to a drop in milk production from high-grade animals.

Mr Njoroge who has experienced a 30 per cent drop in daily milk production said he was relying on silage that he had prepared earlier to feed his animals.

“If I did not have silage stocks, I would have given up my cows and sold them off. It is the only lifeline left to feed my cows. I used to produce 150 litres a day but now my production is down to 110 litres only,” he observed.

He noted the cows were being affected by the high temperatures.

At Demka Dairies in Othaya Constituency, Mr Thomas Chege said the company had experienced a similar decline in milk intake from farmers who supply the processor.

“We have faced a slight challenge because production is dropping and demand is high for milk in the market right now. We have very high competition,” he said.

He observed that the cost of production had also been affected by the increase in fuel prices and the processors had now increased the price of the products by Sh 10.

“We have been forced to increase the price of our products and push the same on our clients. Market dynamics determine prices. Farmers produce less milk and the cost of production is high. There is no option but to pass it on to the consumers,” he said.

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