Inspired by other farmer to farmer facilities in his county Benjamin Kemboi from Uasin Gishu District in Kenya manages his small scale dairy farm and also an on-site farmer to farmer training program. Benjamin started dairy farming as a young man, with help of his wife. He is a visionary and together with Emily Kemboi. They now have a very clear 2, 5 and 10 year plans for their farm. Since Benjamin left his maize plantation aside in 2003 to buy and take care of two dairy cows, the Kembois are eager to share all the training and knowledge the government through the IFAD Project, Smallholders Dairy Commercialization Programme (SDCP) and the cooperative to which they belong to, have provided. They say it has been a key to their success in dairy farming.
Mr. Benjamin Kemboi started his dairy business when he was 25 years old. At the time, he sat down to consider the most viable farming enterprise for his family and himself and realized that when you plant maize you need a lot of land, but with dairy you can have small space. What was most needed was a lot of training. Thanks to the training that he have received, he has been very successful with his farm and now has a very complete vision for his farm.
At the beginning he was using the local breed since he did not have the money to buy a good animal. His first cows used to give him a maximum of 5 litres of milk a day. He decided to use artificial insemination after attending a training about it. Now he has a very good breed of cows that can produce up to 25 litres of milk a day. It is a big difference compared to what he was getting when he started in 2003. He has also expanded the business and trains other farmers. He does it because he believes ne cannot keep a dairy cow without knowledge and training.
The trainings he has attended have brought him from having two cows to this level [10 cows]. I have even been trained as a GALS champion and as a community resource person. So now he trains farmers from different counties. Farmers pay him 2 dollars each to receive the trainings. He shows them his dairy meal concentrates and other techniques that he has learnt during the past 10 years. In addition, he also teaches them on the importance of having a vision journey that is built together each individual’s farmer family and that can help them monitor their farm’s progress.
During Procasur Africa’s 2017 Learning Route: Linking smallholder farmers to commercialization practices – the case of Farmers Organizations in the Kenyan dairy sector, Benjamin took LR participants to visit his farm explaining to them about his journey as a dairy farmer. His secret, he says, is using knowledge as the most important tool of his farm. He and his wife Emily are an example for many farmers in the district. He believes many farmers are afraid of using new technologies, such as artificial insemination, because it seems risky and many small scale farmers cannot afford to take risks. But he poses himself as an example that if you are a good “student” and apply all the methods and knowledge that are available the success rate of breeding and time saving technologies can double or even triple.
Benjamin’s valuable practical knowledge and innovative leadership has had a positive impact in his community and the dairy farmers’ cooperative he belongs to. Benjamin started as a subsistence farmer and is now a training provider. From him we can learn the relevance of supporting innovative youth within the rural contexts.
In the past 3 years Benjamin has reduced the price of producing one litre of milk, on his farm, by around 40% without reducing the quality.
He has since increased his farming area to 7 acres of land for the dairy farming and 2 acres of land for maize farming.
Benjamin reports increased incomes from the 40 litres of milk per day from dairy farming, from which he makes about USD $400 per month and increase in income from the 50 bags of maize per season from which he makes USD $1000 per season. He also makes USD 500 monthly from his local shop.
DAIRY FARMING UNDER ZERO GRAZING BEST PRACTICES:
Zero grazing as a system of commercial dairy production has many advantages compared to free grazing. In the zero grazing system, dairy animals are confined within a structure from where they are fed, milked and spend the night. With good planning, many dairy animals can be kept on a relatively small piece of land, making this system suitable in areas where a farmer owns a small piece of land.
I practice zero-grazing dairy farming so my cows are housed in sheds. These sheds also provide protective cover for cattle during periods of unusually hot weather to avoid heat-stressing the herd. This system’s benefits include significant cost reductions when compared to extensive grazing types of dairy farming because you do not need a huge tracts of land to practice dairy farming. Zero grazing dairy farming also decreases the need to store large amounts of manure by recycling it as fertilizer for grass production. In zero grazing, individual attention in terms of feeding is possible as the animal does not spent energy searching for food. Zero grazing also makes disease and vector control easy.
Design: Check with your local county office to obtain the required permits prior to building or renovating your existing facility. You should also talk to an experienced builder or contractor to ensure the cost of the facility is within the objectives of the operation. Several different designs for housing and handling facilities are suitable for small scale dairy operations taking into consideration the weather, topography, and the availability of feed and pasture. It is important to know all the rules and regulations with respect to location, design, and type of operation.
Ensure that the fundi (constructor) is supervised by a Livestock Extension Officer during the construction of the unit. This is necessary because some parts (i.e. walking area, troughs) once constructed are permanent. Mistakes made during construction can be very costly. Use of local materials for construction of the unit will reduce cost.
Safety: A good dairy animal is a costly investment that must be accorded security. This can be ensured by the kind of design you adopt for the unit and its location. Locating the unit close to farm houses will add to security, but this should be such that the wind should blow away the dung smell.
Good dung handling design. Dung is a daily by-product from dairy production and measures must be incorporated in the unit design to ensure that it is properly disposed of without being an odour nuisance to the farm and neighbourhood. Manure can be easily collected for the benefit of fodder crops.
Ventilation. Good ventilation is good for a healthy respiratory system and adds to the comfort, which we have noted is crucial for maximal milk production. The level of ventilation depends on the climatic conditions of a given area. Where the climate is hot, a zero grazing unit should be scantily enclosed to maximise air circulation and reduce heat stress. The direction of the wind is important in ensuring good ventilation while at the same time protecting the animal from adverse climatic conditions. Protection from adverse weather conditions like rain, strong wind and hot sunshine. Where winds are strong consider utilising wind breakers like trees and buildings.
Isolation is a key function of a zero-grazing unit. Different animals need to be isolated from each other to avoid injuries resulting from fights and mounting to control breeding and avoid spread of diseases.
In general, a zero grazing unit will basically have the following sections: cubicles, walking area, watering and feeding troughs, a milking place and cow dung handling areas, a store, and calf pen. A water tank and fodder cutting sections are also important if resources can allow.
Cubicles in a dairy unit form the resting area (sitting room) for the cow, thus it should not restrain the animal from moving around. Six feet by 3ft to 7ft by 4 ft is the recommended measurements depending on the animal size. Cubicles are normally covered with soft materials like saw dust to avoid wounds from bruises as the animal sleeps. Mineral supplement links should be suspended here.
The walking area, which lies between the cubicles and feeding and watering areas, is normally open except where the climatic conditions are extremely hot. It is recommended that the floor should be made of concrete for ease of cleaning and should have a gradual slope towards the dung pit and be about 3ft wide.
Feed and water troughs should be raised above the ground to avoid contamination from the walking area and to ensure easy feeding by the cow. Water should always be available and must have an outlet to drain before refilling.
Particular consideration must be given to the milking area to ensure clean milk production. This should be placed side by side with the cubicles but away from the dung pit as milk has the ability to pick odours from the environment. It must have feeding troughs as milk let down is normally favoured by dairy meal during milking.
Zero-grazing system requires intensive (a lot of) labour for cutting and carrying fodder crops (e.g. Napier grass), milking and carrying water and other feed materials to the animals. This means that the tasks of some of the family members may increase. Proper planning is therefore required before starting a zero-grazing system. This will enable the farmer to appreciate the high financial and labour demands of zero-grazing before getting involved.
Because zero-grazing requires a lot of money (capital) for the construction of the unit, it can be done in steps by first constructing the essential parts of a zero-grazing unit. The optional parts can then be added as money becomes available. One option is starting with semi-zero grazing as a first step before turning to full zero- grazing unit. This can be the case where farm size is large enough to allow for free grazing. The basic parts in a semi-zero-grazing system are the feed and water troughs and the milking place. The cubicles and walking area are optional.
Finally, one should as much as possible, carry out regular maintenance of the zero-grazing unit while in use. This is usually very important for the walking area.