Simon Mukunu

Within a decade, Simon Mukunu has bred and then reared a herd of seven Friesian cows. They bring him an average of 100 litres of milk daily but his dreams and aspirations go further than this. “Ultimately, my aim is to become a dairy cow breeder because there is more money in breeding than in milk production,” says Mr Mukunu, the head teacher of a primary school in Kahuro sub-county, Murang’a County.

His dairy enterprise has become the darling of many local farmers. In the meantime, however, Mukunu is making good profits from the sale of milk to the New Kenya Creameries Co-operative (KCC). “Monthly, I can make a profit of Sh 40,000 from the sale of 3,000 litres. With an average monthly overheads cost of Sh50,000, the returns are good although my aim is to get 14 milking cows to be able to produce 200 litres daily,” says Mukunu, who is also the vice chairman of the 700-member Kahuro Breeders Co-operative Society.

The society currently sells 3,200 litres of milk to New KCC. The Murang’a County government is providing every ward with a 5,000-litre milk cooler and a pasteuriser to boost milk production. The society members expect to benefit from this initiative.

Members also have access to artificial insemination services, credit facilities and farm inputs such as feeds at subsidised rates. To reach his current production level, Mukunu has invested hugely in breeding stock, a zero-grazing unit, a milking machine, a chaff cutter, fodder production and labour. The modern zero-grazing unit, constructed in two phases, cost Sh550,000. Start-up costs Another Sh120,000 was used to buy a Friesian cow – part of the parent stock from Sasini Farm in Naro Moru.

Installing a milking machine cost him Sh152,000. “Breeding is the key to good milk production. I have consistently used sexed semen — mainly imported — to upgrade my herd and get per cow daily production levels of 20-30 litres,” he says. He adds that the sexed semen was sourced from America Breeders Service and World Wide Sires at an average of Sh6,500 per insemination.

In Central Kenya, where land has been shrinking over the years, fodder production has presented a major challenge for many dairy farmers, with the majority relying on napier grass. For Mukunu, however, use of sludge obtained from the biogas unit fed by the dairy herd has presented a boon. “I have kept my fodder costs as low as possible by growing napier grass and Boma Rhodes on my two-and-a-quarter acres. Constant application of manure has ensured a napier supply throughout the year,” he says.

Supplementation with commercial feeds such as dairy meal and a locally formulated fermented extract has also boosted milk production. “This local formulation consists of 40kg of bran, 20kg of maize germ, 4kg of cotton seed cake, 3kg of mineral salt, 4kg soya, 4kg sunflower cake and 4kg of molasses.

The feeds are thoroughly mixed with 10 litres of warm water and allowed to ferment for four days before being fed to the cows.” The total monthly cost of concentrates averages Sh42,000 at Sh1,400 per day. Other costs include water and electricity at Sh2,500 and Sh1,000 respectively. The enterprise has one caretaker, who is paid Sh6,000 monthly.

Beyond the milk production, Mukunu and his family are reaping big from other additional benefits, notably biogas, which is the main source of fuel, and slurry – a biogas digester by-product that is used as manure. “Biogas has enabled huge savings in fuel costs in the homestead. It is also cleaner than firewood and charcoal.”

But it is the heifers that are of particularly value to the farmer. “A good heifer can sell for over Sh50,000, which is why I plan to become a breeder in the next few years. The demand for heifers across the country is big,” he observes.