8 November 2011

Kenya: Dairy Passion Earns Man Sh1 Million a Month

Two weeks ago, a Limuru based farm placed an ad in the Daily Nation for sale of cows priced at between Sh140,000 and Sh160,000 each.

The rare ad and the price caught the interest of many but nothing was left to suggest that the brain behind it is a 26-year-old IT graduate.

For Mr Douglas Kanja, the proprietor of Eden Farm, dairy farming is a passion he pursues as a side business.

Monthly turnover

However, been able to turn his passion into a successful business venture bringing in at least Sh1 million every month in turnover.

"My day job is IT but I love farming," says Mr Kanja while explaining the source of motivation to invest in farming.

The business occupies two-acres of a 20 acres family owned parcel of land.

For his work, he wakes up by 4am and drives to the farm. There he spends about an hour attending to the animals and meeting workers to plan for the day.

At 6am he heads back to Nairobi to earn his pay at an IT firm all through to 5pm.

Then heads back to the farm for the day's review until 8pm. "That is how I balance between the office and the farm. I have to be accountable to both without fail," he said.

Mr Kanja invested in the farm in 2008 using a bonus paid out to him by his employer. He had, however, done a feasibility study to know what would work best for him.

This took him to over 64 farms in different parts of the country including Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari) offices in Naivasha where he got invaluable advice.

Embryo transfer

"A dairy foreman at Kari gave me a list of 24 dairy farms in Kenya. Out of the visits I made to this farms, I got referred to others totalling to 64. By the time I was at the 30th farm, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to do dairy farming," said Mr Kanja.

Armed with Sh600,000 he set up the farm dividing the money into half for purchasing three Friesian cows and the other was spent on buying feeds and construction.

He bought his cows from dairy farms in Nakuru, Naivasha and Eldoret. The number of animals at the farm has since grown to 170. His target is for 1,000 cows.

This will see him invest in embryo transfer as a way of getting quality breeds and ensuring his herd increases faster.

Embryo transfer is the equivalent of surrogate in human beings.

Using the technology, he will import embryos from USA, Canada and the UK instead of semen as he has done before.

Other than ensuring quality breeds, the technology will boost milk output for each of the cows.

"Friesians have an estimated maximum output of 60 litres of milk a day. The highest I am doing now is 56 litres and I am determined to reach the maximum," he said.

Mr Kanja imports sexed semen (semen from which the male chromosome has been removed) at a cost of Sh4,000 per straw usable on a single cow as a way of ensuring all calves born are female.

About 90 per cent of the milk produced at the farm is supplied to Brookside Dairy Limited at Sh30 per litre with the remainder utilised to feed the calves and for family use.

Cost of feed

Mr Kanja says having a consistent buyer of his produce has saved him common challenges that many dairy farmers face leading to losses due to spoilt or cheaply sold milk in times of high production.

However, like any other farmer, fluctuating costs of feeds are often challenging and calls for creative ways to counter the problem they present.

For example, at the farm they make their own dairy meal that saves them up to 40 per cent of the retail cost of the feed.

A 70 kilogramme bag of maize meal would cost Sh2,400 or more depending on the source.

The cows are fed on a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) that consists of several ingredients including silage produced at the farm.

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