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Kisumu farmer urges residents to embrace dairy-goat-keeping

For over 20 years, Musa Ibrahim Juma, 45 years, has been breeding dairy goats to eke out a living and he is set to become the beacon of change.

In his 1/8 acre home compound tucked near Kondele Primary School located in Migosi Ward-Kisumu Central Sub-County, Musa is earnestly urging area residents to take a cue and follow in his footpath for economic sustenance.

As he ushered KNA journalists into his home for the exclusive interview, a vivid picture of a hardworking farmer hits us. Five men were performing different roles on the newly harvested bags of maize which were spread for drying in the compound.

Musa said began by keeping 30 local goat breeds but one day, only three came back after herding in the evening. He promptly decided to keep them and do zero grazing within the compound.

“I used to look around for leaves to feed them because I didn’t want to see my goats loitering around and that’s when the idea of keeping dairy goats cropped up in my mind,’’ he revealed.

Determined to maximize profits, he ditched the local breeds which were less profitable and began mixing dairy goat breeds like Alpines and Toggenburgs in 2003. But he later switched to purely dealing with Saanen which he received from the World Vision who had imported them from South Africa.

“As a caregiver,” he explained; “I became a beneficiary of two goats (a female and a male) to support one child who was enrolled in the organization’s programme. I immediately sold the local breeds and fully embraced the dairy goats.’’

He further clarifies that he switched because if a farmer needs a typical Saanen you are out of the market. After all, when you mix a typical Alpine and Saanen, it will come out either brown or grey. The mixed breed will betray you as they produce low milk, the same as a typical Alpine which produces two to three litres of milk daily. These are some of the reasons why he decided to realign the same breed of Saanen.

He recalls that there was a time when the county gave him some Toggenburgs. The breeds are greyish, with the hind side; the nose and legs being white. In terms of milk production, they range between three to four litres a day.

Musa clarified that a typical Saanen is white, and has pink skin, its demand and milk production are very high. The first Saanen which was imported to Kenya was taken to Homabay, Siaya and a few to Kisumu (Nyanza), while regions like Eldoret, Nakuru (Rift Valley), and Kirinyaga (Central) are now buying from them.

The dairy goats do well in dry areas, and for the animals to survive in cold regions, he offers that a farmer should buy the ones between three to six months, adjust the temperature in the units and reduce ventilation for them.

“If you take a mature one, chances are that they will not survive. The dairy goats always shade their skin to adjust to the given area they are reared. In cold areas they are always bushy to adjust to the temperature,” he remarked.

“Why did I choose a dairy goat and not a dairy cow?’’ he posed the question as he demonstrated to us how to milk a dairy goat.

 Musa informs that unlike the other two breeds, the exotic Saanen produces between five to six litres per day after normal milking in the morning and evening.

At the age of three to six months, quality Saanen goes for Sh15,000, while those that are over six months fetches between Sh20,000 to Sh25,000.

Alongside the age which is used to determine the pricing, other factors include whether the females and males are already mature and served. The market, he says, is there but like any other business, you need to be smart and organized.

This, however, led him to secure a deal with Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC-Kitale) to offer a good Buck (Male) for their new programme known as ‘Goat AI’ and to also market them.

“You know you can’t be selling semen and you don’t have the quality animal to showcase to the farmers. So, you can get a mature buck like that one which goes between Sh 30,000 to Sh 50,000,” Musa observed as he pointed to one kept in a pen.

He offered some insights that a Goat AI is an Artificial Insemination procedure whereby experts extract semen from a Buck and get a Billy (female goat). They do proper timing and through special equipment, they plant it into the Billy during the heat cycle period lasting 17 days.

“I always sensitize people and build other farmers. Some will consume this kind of milk. Like in our compound here, I normally invite my neighbours and prepare tea for them to drink. Voila! Next time they buy a half or a litre and I continue to receive referred people from different areas,” he happily narrated.

Similarly, he has been invited by institutions and groups like one in Kajulu Hills Area-Kisumu East where he has created more awareness on the benefits of using Saanen compared to Alpines which they were breeding.

In this way, he also convinced a lady neighbour who is currently doing dairy goat farming and initially, she used to produce about five litres daily. In collaboration with the lady doctor, they put their milk products together and supply them to nearby health facilities like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).

“There are patients who were told to take goat milk because they are very nutritious and heavy compared to cow milk. Cows consume only grass, but goats are browsers who consume different kinds of leaves which contain herbs. They are good for the old, the young and for the sick,” Musa assured as goats continued to bleat in a chorus.

Some of the leaves he mentioned the goats preferred included desmodium, mulberry and wild leaves. To satisfy his goats, he normally fetches his feeds from the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Showground-Mamboleo, and he then stocks them up.

His sister runs a hotel and she normally serves her happy clients goat milk. A litre of goat milk is sold at Sh200 during the rainy season but it goes up to Sh250 or Sh300 during dry spells.

As a member of Kenya Saanen Breeders Society of veterinarians and farmers, they always share useful information and possible solutions to emerging complications in their dairy goat breeds.

“The group’s social platform has been of great help to me as I normally post and supply my excess milk stock to different parts of the country where the demand is high,” Musa informed.

With a big smile, he noted that the uptake was now steadily rising among the locals and he usually takes his goats to the August Kisumu ASK exhibitions.

The process of getting high-quality milk production, Musa advises, starts from the date you start to serve the female after nine months. It will have a good womb and height, and chances of twinning would be very high due to adequate space.

What will happen if it’s served before nine months? Chances are that this interference would highly lead to stunted growth and low milk production and the womb which is still growing will offer less space for another baby to mature in it, he says.

“Immediately after serving, you begin milk training immediately because you have to tame it early. As a farmer, you need to gently touch those teats as if you are milking it and train it on how to walk on top of the milking parlour,” he emphasized by adding; “Climb it up and bring it down. So that after five months when it delivers, it will be very comfortable and no kicking. But, if you wait after five months, that animal will be kicking and turning around and you won’t even milk it!”

He offers tangible tips that one needs to be passionate and committed to do dairy-goat keeping.

“My father used to tell me that if you can’t speak their language then you will fail. You must love or like them. A good goat farmer must communicate with a goat; I know when they want water, I know when they are on heat, and a goat will communicate with you. I know it is a bit tricky to explain but they have a special language to communicate and once you learn their language, everything will be smooth and easy,” Musa, who hails from Kendu Bay, offered with hearty laughter.

As a chip from the old block, his father was a farmer at their ancestral home, who used to keep poultry and cows and grow cabbages, but with him, he decided to rear small animals.

Admitting that he picked a cue from his father, he advises that; “If you want your child to be a good farmer, you start moulding that child right from the tender age. Prepare the child, it’s also a way of building the passion in them and that spirit of farming you have to bring it from down.”

After going to Kondele Primary School and completing high school (Kisumu Days) in 2002, he decided to fully venture into farming, although he had already started to do it.

To avoid underfeeding, Musa said that a mature female dairy goat should eat properly between 14-15kgs daily. But for the males, a farmer needs to control them in order not to be overweight because they need to perform.

“I feed them three times a day by adding water, salt and supplement the females with the commercial feeds. The young ones between two to three months are fed calf pellets,” he advised.

According to Kikwatha and Kyalo, 2020, statistics indicate that Kenya has about 400,000 dairy goats with 80 percent being reared in the Mt Kenya region. Nyeri County has the highest population with 84, with 800 goats followed by Murang’a County with 51,116 goats (Mbindyo et al., 2018).

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) avers that compared to cow milk proteins, goat milk proteins contain higher levels of certain amino acids such as tryptophan and cysteine while maintaining similar nutritional properties.

Research has shown that goat milk proteins have several health benefits, including immunomodulatory effects, allergy management, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, as well as antimicrobial and anticancer properties.

One of the challenges Musa faces is the unavailability of feeds which occurs during the ASK-Kisumu shows which are annually held in August.

“They normally clear everything and at that time, finding feeds is a bit tricky. Also diseases like pneumonia could at at times turn out to be chronic,’’ he lamented.

To address this anomaly, he practices good Animal Husbandry; housing, feeding and management, resulting in fewer droppings and urine, no external pests will interfere and the animal will remain clean.

According to Musa, urine and droppings are also sources of good folia feeds and manure respectively.

“When I mix 10 litres of urine with 20 litres of water, then I do top dressing because I also have a farm where I grow vegetables. Instead of buying folia feeds from the Agrovet shop, I use urine. Once you mix it and top dress, you will see the leaves are very fresh and brown,’’ he explained.

In addition, without the use of fertilizers, Musa avers that the droppings from the dairy goats offer a very good source of manure.

For dairy-goat-keeping starters, he informs that buying them and putting up structures would be costly but once you have settled all these, then you are good to go.

He urged both tiers of government (national and county) to ensure that there are enough agricultural field officers who could sensitize and offer quick solutions to various problems facing the farmers.

On a future progression in his alternative Kibos farm, Musa wishes to have around 100 female dairy goats to provide enough milk and also do value addition.

“Apart from just selling milk, once I do value addition there will be more money. I will venture into making yoghurt as some of my colleagues are doing,” he said.

In his parting shot, he contends that “dairy goat farming is good as long as you have the right breed; so long as you do it the right way and start it small. As a farmer, I promise you won’t fail. Don’t always say that you want to begin big with 10 or 50 goats, start small then grow as you learn. In that way, you will succeed,” Musa assured.

 By Rolex Omondi

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