Cattle Farming in Kenya

There are various reasons why a person might engage in cattle farming in Kenya. Some raise large herds to sell, others, in the case of dairy, raise them to sell their milk. Many raise cattle to show in fairs and other local events. In today’s economy, many families are deciding to raise cattle for their personal use. Whether you want to have a few head for your family’s needs or raise a herd to sell, there are a few basics about how to raise cattle; from purchasing land to selecting the cattle you want to raise.

Livestock farming is the rearing of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and poultry. Two types of livestock fanning may be distinguished, namely traditional or pastoral and commercial.

Pastoral Farming

The system is also referred to as subsistence livestock farming or nomadic pastoralism. lt refers to extensive grazing on natural pasture involving constant or seasonal migration of nomads and their livestock.

Main Areas

The practice is confined to the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya such as Turkana,Wajir, Garissa, Kajiado, Narok and Marsabit among others. Where it is practiced by the Nilo-Hamitic groups like the Maasai, Turkana, Pokot, Borana, Rendille and Somali. The maasai, for example, practice nomadism in the southern part of Kenya and the northern part of Tanzania. During the rains, they go down the Athi- Kapiti Plains upto Kajiado and Namanga.

When the rains are over and the streams dry up, they move up the hills around Ngong, Naivasha and Narok areas.


Nomadic herding in Kenya is distinguished by the following main features:

  1. Cattle are kept as a sign of wealth, reared for the purpose of paying bride price and for slaughter during cultural festivities.
  2. There is uncontrolled breeding and large herds is what meets the eye in areas of nomadic pastoralists.
  3. There is lack of organized land tenure where land is communally owned resulting in overgrazing and serious incidents of soil erosion.
  4. Disease incidences are common. Both human and animals are exposed to tropical diseases.
  5. The animals are poor, weakened by disease, unhealthy and of low value. The marketing systems are inefficient because the attitude of the nomads is such that animals are a source of pride and not income.
  6. There is seasonal movement whereby people spend the dry season in one place and the wet season in another. This movement is known as transhumance.
  7. Many kinds of animals are grazed e. g. cattle, goats, sheep and camels.

Problems Facing Pastoralism in Kenya

(i)     Climatic hazards – The areas where pastoralism is practiced receive low and unreliable rainfall. At times they experience prolonged drought. This leads to lack of water and sufficient pasture for the animals.

(ii)   Pests and diseases – Pests such as ticks and the tsetse fly, and diseases e.g. rinder pest, anthrax, east coast fever etc. are common in the pastoral areas. This has contributed to the death of large herds of animals.

(iii) Overstocking – In most instances the pastoralists keep large herds far exceeding the land carrying capacity. This has led to soil erosion and environment degradation.

(iv) Poor pastures – Most of the pastoral areas are underlain by poor soil. This cannot support quality pastures. Most areas are thus covered by poor pastures consisting of taft grasses and bare land.

(v)   Cattle rustling – This is a big cause of insecurity among the pastoralists and it always leads to loss of life and destruction of property.

(vi) Inadequate transport network – The pastoral areas are inaccessible. Fanners are therefore not able to get their animals to the market.

(vii) Inadequate veterinary services – Extension services in the pastoral areas are inadequate hence it is difficult to treat or improve the animals. It is difficult to provide these services due to insecurity and given that the pastoralists are always on the move.

Improvements in Pastoral Areas

Nomadism is increasingly disappearing in  Kenya just like in many other parts of the world. The Government is encouraging the pastoral tribes to settle down since the system is plagued by a number of problems. In Kenya the Government is employing the following measures to assist the nomadic pastoralists to improve the quality of their livestock:

  1. The Government of Kenya has established demonstration ranches to sensitize the pastoralists on better methods of animal husbandry.
  2. The Government is encouraging cross-breeding of indigenous breeds with hybrid ‘Cattle dips have been constructed to breeds to improve the quality of livestock.
  3. control pests. Extension services have been provided to give advice to the pastoralists and offer drugs and treatment to the animals.
  4. Boreholes have been sunk and dams constructed in pastoral areas to provide water for the livestock hence minimize movement due to inadequate water.
  5. Through formal education, pastoralists are learning something about the advantages of keeping manageable sizes of herds.
  6. The Government is also encouraging group ranching to enable the pastoralists to view livestock keeping as a commercial undertaking.
  7. Efforts are being made to encourage bee keeping along the river valleys of Tana River Basin, Ewaso Nyiro Basin and Dawa River Basin where there are luxuriant vegetation growth.

Source: Soft Kenya