6 December 2011

Kenya: Upgraded Goats Rake in Earnings

An enterprising grandmother in Mukurweini has made a fortune selling upgraded dairy goats to farmers who are diversifying income streams to shore up their livelihoods.

When her goat bore six kids at a go, 80-year-old Priscilla Muthoni knew that the investment she made two decades ago was bearing fruit.

With a single indigenous dairy goat which she bought for Sh500 in 1990, the woman upgraded her stock in 2006 with a German Alpine goat.

The process involves four steps. First, a farmer with an indigenous goat serves it with a buck of foreign blood, say German Alpine.

The offspring is served again with a different buck but of that specific foreign variety to get a higher quality type referred to as the foundation.

The foundation is further upgraded to achieve extra characteristics of the foreign variety known as intermediate. The latter is then upgraded again to achieve a pedigree.

More milk and meat

The last has permanent exotic characteristics and gives birth to more kids, besides producing more milk and meat.

However, the process needs great care. The animals being upgraded have to be kept in a pen to separate them from indigenous varieties in the free range system.

They are monitored closely and after attaining the foundation stage, registered by an inspector from the Kenya Livestock Breeders Organisation in the Kenya Stud Book.

This enables listing of only animals with desired characteristics. Besides normal feeds, the goats are given Dairy Meal brands and minerals and receive frequent disease and pest control care.

Ms Muthoni is among thousands of farmers who benefited from a trickle-down effect of a programme introduced by the government to support poor farmers in 2006.

Through community-based organisations, farmers were trained to increase their income by rearing high quality goats.

Besides income, goat meat and milk are nutritious and the animal is a source of cheap manure.

Goat rearing has gone beyond traditional reasons for animal husbandry to thriving business for numerous farmers in Nyeri County.

While it takes time to upgrade indigenous breeds, it pays off in the end, as Ms Muthoni has demonstrated.

Despite her advanced age, she has made it a booming business. In her goat pen are at least 10 upgraded varieties at any given time for sale, assuring her of a income and high quality milk.

"I have enough income to support my family. At least we do not borrow; we lack nothing. I sell goats and milk," the grandmother said during an interview at her home.

Ms Muthoni has influenced many farmers in her area to diversify to dairy goats.

An upgraded male kid (three months old) costs Sh5,000 while the female variety goes for between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000, depending on the level of upgrading. A traditional kid costs Sh1,000.

According to the Dairy Goats Association of Kenya, the recommended selling price of a grown pure breed kid is between Sh10,000 and Sh14,000, depending on the point of upgrade.

Two months ago, Mr Juster Kathambi, a farmer from Kiamwathi in Nyeri municipality, was surprised after his goat bore four kids.

An upgraded dairy goat produces at least four kilogrammes of milk a day, with each kg costing Sh40, which farmers in Kibutio say is cheap.

"The most we can sell the milk at is Sh40 because it is in the village; normally goat milk is expensive. We should sell it for at least Sh60," said Ms Florence Nyawira.

She is a member of Kibutio Dairy Goat Association of Kenya, which she helped to found. Formed in 2002, it has 15 members, each with at least four upgraded dairy goats.

Ms Nyawira has 11 high quality she-goats and one German Alpine buck, which serves several goats in the region at a fee.

Farmers pay Sh200 to have their goats served. The buck is exchanged every year to curb interbreeding.

"Renewing of a he-goat costs Sh4,000. This is done every year to prevent breeding between father and offspring to curb undesirable traits," said Ms Nyawira.

The group is encouraging farmers to undertake the venture to improve their living standards, especially at this time when the cost of living has sky-rocketed.

Farmers in Kibutio, however, do not have a strong marketing network for their products. They also receive rare visits by agricultural extension officers.

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