Dairy farming is an important part of Kenya’s agricultural industry, providing milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products to the local and export markets. If you’re interested in knowing how to set up a dairy farm business in Kenya, this guide will walk you through the essential steps.
The dairy industry in Kenya is growing rapidly to meet rising local demand and take advantage of export opportunities. Smallholder dairy farms produce 80% of the milk consumed in the country. With access to quality inputs and standard practices, small farms can be highly productive and profitable.
To start a successful dairy farm in Kenya, you need land, cows, equipment and good farm management. This guide will cover choosing a location, building facilities, selecting cows, feed management, and tips to improve milk production. Following best practices can position your farm well to reap the benefits of Kenya’s dairy boom.
Choosing a Suitable Location
An ideal location is critical for any farming venture. Here are key factors to consider for a dairy farm site:
- Land size – A minimum of 2-5 acres is recommended for a small dairy with around 10-20 cows. You need sufficient space for cow sheds, feed stores, water and grazing.
- Land regulations – Ensure the land has suitable agricultural zoning permissions for dairy farming if required. Being close to a town can aid milk collection logistics.
- Feed and water – There must be good availability of fodder crops, dry feeds and clean water. Proximity to livestock feed suppliers is advantageous.
- Road access – A location near tarmac roads aids the transport of milk, feeds, equipment and cattle. It also enables vet services to reach easily.
- Climate – Cooler highland regions with rainfall averaging 900-1400mm annually are ideal for dairy farming.
- Infrastructure – Consider proximity to electricity, workers, milk processors, and technical services.
Seek experienced advice when evaluating potential dairy farm sites.
Dairy Farm Facilities and Infrastructure
Proper infrastructure and equipment are key to running an efficient dairy operation. Here are the main facilities you’ll need:
- Well-ventilated roofed structure with concrete flooring to house lactating and dry cows.
- Partitioned resting cubicles with bedding for each cow.
- Allow 100-120 sq. ft space per lactating cow.
- Sloped floor and drainage system to collect urine and waste.
- Hygienic parlour with milking equipment near the shed.
- Collecting yard to hold cows during milking.
- Bulk milk tanks to store milk.
- Concrete flooring that’s easily washable.
Feed and Equipment Stores
- Covered stores for bagged feeds, hay, and silage.
- Feed preparation equipment like chaff cutters.
- Easy vehicle access for feed loading.
- Secured store for milking machines, tools and vet supplies.
- Clean drinking water is readily available via boreholes, pipes, and troughs.
- Sufficient capacity and water points for all cows.
- Back-up generator if using electric pumps.
- Barbed wire fencing around grazing areas and the entire perimeter.
- Gates and crushes for controlled cattle movement.
- Slurry tanks to store cow dung.
- Biogas digesters to generate energy from waste.
- Compost pits to produce manure for crops.
Proper drainage, lighting, ventilation and walkways should be incorporated in all infrastructure. Get qualified technical help to design suitable facilities tailored to your scale of operation.
Dairy Farm Equipment
Specialized equipment is necessary for effective dairy operations:
- Milking machines – Vacuum pumps, rubber tubes, milk buckets, strainers, filters, and recording meters.
- Milk cans – Food-grade stainless steel or aluminium cans to store milk.
- Refrigeration – Bulk milk cooling tanks and chilled transport tankers.
- Pasteurizer – To kill microbes and increase milk shelf-life (optional).
- Feeding equipment – Troughs, mangers, automatic feeders, forage wagons.
- Health tools – Drenching guns, medical supplies, hoof care tools, dehorning devices.
Ensure high quality and standards when purchasing or installing dairy equipment. Maintain and sanitize equipment regularly.
Selecting the Cows
Choose healthy cows suited to intensive dairy production. The main suitable breeds in Kenya are:
- Friesian – The classic black and white dairy cow, produces up to 8000kg milk annually.
- Ayrshire – Red and white breed that thrives in varied conditions, annual yield up to 7000kg.
- Guernsey – Docile brown cows with very high-quality milk, average 5500kg yearly.
- Jersey – Smaller brown cows but with good feed conversion efficiency, annual milk up to 5500kg.
Crossbreeds like Holstein Friesian x Ayrshire can maximize productivity. Buy vaccinated artificial insemination or embryo transfer bred heifers from reputable farms. The herd bull can be naturally bred.
Cost per cow – Ksh 80,000-250,000 based on breed, age, and milk yield records. For an in-depth review of top breeds in Kenya, read here.
Feeding and Nutrition
Adequate cow nutrition is vital for health, reproduction and optimum milk yield. Various feeds are required:
Roughages – High fibre bulk feeds
- Fodder crops – Napier grass, Rhodes grass, Lucerne, Desmodium, Cowpeas. Grow on a farm or source nearby.
- Dry roughages – Wheat straw, oat straw, hay, silage. Buy from traders.
Concentrates – Low fibre, protein-rich
- Dairy meal – Formulated feed with crushed grains, oil cakes, molasses, and minerals. From commercial feed millers.
- Mineral supplements – To provide calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins.
Sample Daily Ration (per cow producing 15kg milk)
- 25-30 kg Napier grass
- 3 kg legume hay
- 4 kg dairy meal concentrate
- 100 g mineral supplement
Provide clean drinking water free choice. Group cows based on feed requirements. Work with a nutritionist to formulate cost-effective rations.
Breeding and Calf Management
- Mating – Use Artificial Insemination (AI) for genetic improvement. Target 24-month calving interval.
- Calving – Monitor cows, and assist if needed. Remove calf for colostrum feed.
- Colostrum – Essential for antibodies and nutrition. Feed 2-4 liters in the first 6 hours.
- Calf rearing – Leave with dam for 3 months for suckling. Provide calf starter feed.
- Weaning – Separate calf at 3 months. Grow heifers for breeding, and fatten bull calves for beef.
Maintain breeding and birth records. Timely health interventions like deworming are critical.
Animal Health and Husbandry
Follow optimal husbandry practices for healthy productive cows:
- Routine hoof trimming to avoid lameness.
- Annual deworming and immunization schedule.
- Sanitation, clean sheds, pest control.
- Keep equipment like milking machines sterile.
- Isolate and treat sick animals promptly.
- Work with qualified vets and AI technicians.
Good record-keeping and farm biosecurity measures will support a healthy herd.
Milk Handling and Marketing
- Milk cows daily at regular times. Use clean milking equipment.
- Chill milk below 4°C immediately after milking to prevent spoilage.
- Filter and evaluate milk quality before storage.
- Sell milk to cooperatives or private processors. Transport in insulated tankers.
- Milk pricing is based on quantity and quality parameters like fat content.
Maintaining the cold chain and high hygiene standards is key to maximizing milk sales revenue.
Dairy Farm Approximate Costs and Returns
Here is an estimate of the costs of establishing a smallholder dairy farm with 20 cows:
Initial Capital Investment
|Land (5 acres at KES 300,000 per acre)||1,500,000|
|Cow sheds and concrete works||700,000|
|Equipment (milking, water, feeding)||500,000|
|20 dairy cows at KES 100,000 each||2,000,000|
|Feeds and fodder crops||500,000|
|Total Estimated Capital||5,200,000|
Operational Costs (Annual)
|AI breeding services||100,000|
|Total Estimated Operating Costs||2,820,000|
20 cows producing 15 litres daily at KES 35 per litre for 300 days in milk will generate annual revenues of approximately KES 3,150,000.
This gives an indicative profit of KES 330,000 before taxes. Payback on investment will take around 3 years at this scale.
Larger farms with >50 cows and tighter operations can achieve profit margins of KES 500,000 or more annually.
Frequently Asked Questions
What permits and licenses do I need?
You may require agricultural land approval, environmental impact assessment, public health certificate, and dairy business registration. Engage qualified personnel to handle licensing requirements.
What training is required to run a dairy farm?
Get trained in dairy husbandry practices, animal health, feeds, fodder production, milk quality and business management. Attend government livestock training institutes or specialized dairy courses.
What financing options are available for a dairy farm?
Banks provide agricultural SME loans. You can approach equity investors or financing programs like the Dairy Enterprise Fund. Have a solid business plan to access capital.
How can I improve productivity and milk quality?
Adopt best practices in feeding, breeding, udder health, hygiene and farm management. Continuously track cow productivity and milk test results. Work closely with veterinarians and nutritionists.
How do I find buyers for my milk?
Sell raw milk to cooperatives like Meru Central or private processors like Brookside. Achieve required volumes, quality and hygiene standards as per buyer requirements to establish supply contracts.
Setting up a profitable dairy farming venture in Kenya requires substantial investment and effort. Careful planning of facilities, cow selection, feeding programs and operating practices is necessary. Implementing high standards of hygiene, breeding, animal health and milk handling will maximize returns. With passion and diligent management, smallholder dairy farms can thrive in Kenya’s growing dairy industry.