17 February 2014

Kenya: Dairy Company to Train 160,000 Milk Farmers

BROOKSIDE Dairy is targeting 160,000 contracted farmers in a skills upgrade programme aimed at realising optimum milk yields during both the rainy and dry seasons.

The company's general manager in charge of milk procurement and extension services, John Gethi said apart from achieving stability in milk production volumes throughout the year, the education programme will also increase farmers' earnings from milk sales to the processor, as it will impart skills necessary for increased production.

Gethi decried the seasonal nature of milk, which he said could be corrected by having farmers to embrace modern practice like feed preservation.

"We are asking our farmers to preserve feed during the period of abundance, at the onset of the long rains," Gethi told farmers contracted to the processor during a field training day at Maragua, Murang'a county.

"Brookside is committed to enhancing farmers' income from dairy and stem production fluctuations occasioned by vagaries of weather. We have already rolled out the farmer education programme in over six counties, and our aim is to cover our entire national catchment and reach all our 160,000 farmers," Gethi said.

The secret to increased earnings from dairy, he said, lay in increased milk production volumes for each cow kept, as opposed to increasing farm-gate prices.

"We would like to see progression in the daily volumes of milk produced for each cow kept. In the past, stagnation in the amount of milk produced, or at worst a reduction, has seen farmers' earnings take a nose-dive especially in view of escalating input costs, such as feeds," Gethi told the farmers.

Gethi said it was important for farmers to recognize economically desirable traits of a dairy cow in relation to performance. These, he said, include milk yield, fertility and longevity.

"The use of artificial insemination for individual and herd genetic improvement cannot be gainsaid. In order to realize better milk yields, dairy farmers should invest in animals with desirable economic traits such as high milk production," he said.

During the training event held at John Gathuita's farm, attendants were taken through a practical lesson on recommended milking techniques meant to reduce losses arising from inhibitor and microbial presence in raw milk.

"Recommended milking techniques and procedures enable a farmer to produce milk of desirable market quality, and reduce the burden of losses due to rejection at collection centres," Gethi said.

The company's extension services manager, Sebastian Kariuki, said inappropriate animal husbandry practices was to blame for stagnation in milk production by dairy herds. Ends...

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