When not busy with high-level government agendas, it is easy to find the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Dr Chris Kiptoo, on his dairy farm in Uasin Gishu County. For him, farming is more of a calling than a profitable business.
Dr. Kiptoo tried to keep dairy products after seeing the poor milk production of local villagers in Kimore village. He was also concerned that the local population had large herds of cattle and large tracts of land, which caused the cattle to roam around and waste their energy. The level of poverty was also deplorably high. This got him thinking.
“The region had great potential; natural capital was vast but underutilized. I saw a chance to change the story and change their fate,” says PS.
On five hectares of land, Dr Kiptoo set up a dairy to demonstrate to villagers that they could increase milk production by cultivating dairy products on small plots of land.
“In order to minimize costs and increase production, I built a simple dairy structure made of iron sheets and wood cuttings. I wanted to demonstrate to the local people that their cattle can produce optimally if they are properly kept and fed, instead of roaming the forest for pasture,” he said. he says.
To improve milk storage skills and implement the project, environmentalist Dr Kiptoo visited the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC) in Kitale and bought four heifer Ayrshire cows.
“It was 9 years ago when I had my first cattle. Four months later I returned to ADC and bought another batch of five calves, this time Friesian. Within a few months, the cows calved. They produced only 100 liters per day.”
He sold the rest to the villagers and they became interested in his success.
Invest in technology
“One particular weekend, some villagers who own more than 50 animals came to my farm and asked me how I feed the animals to get such a large amount of milk. I showed them the “open secret” in a different way. Some of them have since switched to zero grazing and are making good progress,” he laughs.
For maximum productivity, Dr Kiptoo also relies heavily on skilled staff to guide him in good animal management.
“I also invested in feed and converted a corn field into silage to add hay from commercial barns,” he says.
Along the way he bought more Friesian cows at Kipsinende Farm, owned by the late Nicholas Biwott.
As the herd grew, there was an urgent need to expand the dairy department.
“Although I rely heavily on wood, I have upgraded the elementary structure to a modern one. I got the units to almost 30 and bought more animals. Now I have a modern structure with more than 60 stalls, equipped with a cow “birth house”, milking room, milk cooler, feeding and sleeping areas.
Dr Kiptoo also improved dairy animals and visited several farms in Nakuru and Mweiga Sasini farms and bought Holstein Friesian at Sh270,000 each.
The farm is now a modern dairy farm in the neighborhood and locals flock there to buy young breeding bulls to teach and improve their cows.
Heifers are not sold but bulls are sold at Sh10,000 each when they are three months old.
He says the heifers will be sold after the mother has established her own herd.
Currently, Dr Kiptoo owns 71 breeding animals with 22 lactations and produces a minimum of 600 liters of milk per day, all sold at farm prices.
“A champion cow produces 42 liters of milk per day, the least milker 22 liters and average monthly income of Sh500,000 to Sh600,000,” he said.
Animals are fed a mixture of grass, silage and commercial animal feed and sleep on fine sand which dictates the amount of feed produced.
The sleeping quarters are designed to provide the animals with maximum warmth and comfort by allowing animal waste to be emptied and soaked in sand.
With savings and loans from the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Dr Kiptoo expanded the farm and bought another 60 hectares of land where he grows hay, maize for silage and horticulture.
The project has had a positive impact on the community as he envisioned.
“Some of my neighbors have now improved their stock and are making good money unlike before. “I am satisfied when I see that they take their milk to local cooperatives and improve their livelihood.”
Dr Kiptoo has also invested heavily in modern technology to improve efficiency in his facility. The technology is mainly Online to monitor operations on the farm.
“My work schedule is quite tight and the workers are doing a satisfactory job, but I still have to check the progress on the farm, so I invested in smart cow technology. It helps me monitor their daily production and health and all the management information from where,” he notes.
He is also passionate about quality breeding.
“All the animals are serviced using Artificial Insemination (AI) technology and bred with sperm to ensure we get heifers when they calve. “All our animals are under zero grazing, which has helped to minimize their infectious diseases.”
To reduce electricity costs, Dr Kiptoo invested in biogas from the waste produced by dairy cows. Gas is used to light the milk plant, run milk machines and boil water.
“By investing in biogas, the cost of electricity has decreased by 90 percent. The solution from the biogas production plant is used for growing organic plants.”
According to him, the plans to completely modernize the dairy facility and add value to the milk by introducing an automated milking unit are ongoing.
Its main customers are hotels and schools, as well as milk processors.
It also wants to invest in animal feed blending to reduce high costs.
For diversification, Dr Kiptoo has also invested in passion fruit and avocado farming. The passion fruit is blooming and it has already reaped the first fruits.
Although he is now established, it was not an easy road.
“Although the animals are fed in the barn, the diseases have not been completely eliminated. We have suffered great losses when an animal dies. “Milk prices continue to fluctuate and the high price of commercial feed is a concern for all dairy farmers.”
Challenges aside, he says keeping dairy products is worth every penny. He advises those interested to persevere and start small and invest in technology.
He also advises them to visit established farms and agricultural exhibitions and trade fairs for comparison.
“I am an economist by training, but the technology know-how I gained from visiting established farms and agricultural fairs has greatly improved my farming skills. I learned that agriculture pays tenfold. It guarantees returns, prevents rural-to-urban migration and eliminates unemployment.”
Want to get the latest farming tips and videos?
Share this article on social networks