In the underbelly of the sleepy and chilly Sachangwan Location within Molo Sub-County, 12 youthful women are sweating it out on some tiny farm feeding dairy goats.
The members of Saki Youth Group are beneficiaries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries’ National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) dairy goat rearing programme that seeks to improve the livelihoods of women and youth groups in rural parts of Nakuru.
Members of the youth group according to the Chairperson, Ms Ruth Namale, have also received training on home based manufacture of value-added goat products such as pasteurized milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese.
“Goat milk production is a good source of income and an avenue to improve rural areas’ economy as consumer acceptance of goat milk and its products was growing with a litre retailing at Shs 140. We are also venturing into value addition” explained Ms Namale
Saki is one of the 20 youth groups in Molo Sub-County, with a total membership of over 500 that have received funding for the dairy goat rearing venture.
Ms Namale said the youth group kicked off its operations early this year after procuring superior Kenya Alpine dairy goat genetic material from Nyeri and Murang’a Counties.
“The genetic material that most dairy goat farmers are using today was imported from South Africa many years ago. Farmers are reusing the same bucks for breeding and this has resulted in inbreeding, low production and stunted growth in animals,” she said.
Ms Namale said most members of the group are small holder farmers who cannot keep a cow due to their small land sizes or cost of feeding the animal and now prefer to rear dairy goats.
The programme she said has equipped the youth group with knowledge on the different goat breeds, feeding, pests, prevention and cure of most probable diseases and housing.
Molo Sub-County Dairy Production Extension Officer Mr Samuel Kinyua, said the project opted for Alpine goats as they were the best milk producers and that lactating rarely reduced milk output until they are served. An Alpine goat he stated can be milked for up to eight months after calving.
Mr Kinyua observed that the breed is tough and adaptable to various climatic conditions and yields more milk with proper breeding, good nutrition, appropriate housing and management of diseases and pests.
Other goat breeds kept in Kenya are Toggenburg, Oberhasi, Galla, Small East African Goat and Boer. Most farmers keep Alpines and Toggenburgs mainly for milk.
Members of Saki Youth Group have also been trained to construct pens that shield the animals from wind, direct sunlight and rain and must have adequate resting areas if they are to produce more milk.
“A good goat shed should have separate feeding and resting areas. And it should be raised two feet from the ground, should be properly ventilated, well-lit and kept neat, clean and dry as dampness attracts pests and diseases,” says Ms Namale.
Currently, the youth group has five pedigree dairy goats, each producing a maximum of three litres and which constitute breeding stock.
She said that sanitation, decontamination and ventilation in the pens are necessary to rid mites off goats, which cause both health and economic losses.
“We opted for zero-grazing systems as it limits the dairy goats’ exposure to parasites and infectious diseases as compared to those in free-range. Minimized movements lower their risk of coming into contact with disease causing organisms”.
She, however, noted that poor ventilation in zero grazing units may cause respiratory diseases, the leading cause of death in goats.
The Chairperson said goats kept under zero-grazing feed on Napier grass, Rhodes grass, Kikuyu grass, maize and hay.
They also love Lucerne, calliandra, leucena, desmodium, mulberry, sweet potato vines, cotton seed cake, sunflower cake and soy bean cake for proteins, feeds that are, however, harder to come by.
Ms Namale, whose target is to have 100 dairy goats, said among the challenges the youth group contends with are expensive food, supplements and medicine for the animals.
She said demand for goat milk is growing as it is easier to digest and has higher quantities of amino acids such as tryptophan and calcium than cow’s milk which are crucial for health teeth and bones.
A cow’s milk explained the chairlady, trails in fatty acid content at 17 percent compared to goat milk’s 35 percent making it more nutritious. It has lower levels of cholesterol making it a safer option for those seeking healthier lifestyles.
Mr Kinyua said both levels of the government are to ensure all youth and women groups that benefit from the project, start- off with the best genetic material from a breeder who has done proper selection and has registered his animals, has records of diseases, lineage, date of birth and milk production, among other factors.
He said that the County Administration was ensuring that the dairy goats were dewormed and vaccinated on a regular basis as they are sensitive to pests and diseases.
On value addition, the Dairy Production Extension Officer noted that, several experiments to manufacture mozzarella cheese from blends of cow and goat milk are being made.
National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) is also working on a strategy that targets to have dairy cooperatives in the county come together to form a union and facilitate installation of a dairy processing plant and a feed manufacturing unit(s).
It is envisioned that the Union will support farmers to access quality feeds and Artificial Inseminations (AI) as well as appropriate finance to support transition to commercial dairy farming.
Nakuru is one of the 21 counties that are beneficiaries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries’ National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) that has been allocated Sh 22.6 billion.
It aims to increase agricultural productivity and improve food security in 420 selected wards in the country. The project is targeting 360,000 people countrywide.
Various women and youth groups in 20 selected wards within Molo, Njoro, Kuresoi South, Bahati and Naivasha Sub- counties have received funding from NARIGP
By Anne Mwale/Dennis Rasto