Many small-scale farmers rear goats either for sentimental value or to provide meat for the family, without ever thinking of doing it for commercial purposes. Yet these can be a good source of revenue and milk for the family or farmer.
Mr Peter Chelule has always wanted to start a business that would supplement his earnings from teaching. Life has been a struggle on his four-acre-piece of land, until two years ago when he learnt the secret of rearing dairy goats. “I learnt from a friend that dairy goats are economical and can produce as much milk as crossbred cows,” said Chelule when Smart Farmer caught up with him at his farm some 80 kilometres south west of Narok town.
He said he took his savings amounting to Sh25,000 and bought a nanny and a billy (he) goat. “Today, the two have multiplied to more than 30, not to mention the hundreds of liters of milk I have sold and my family has consumed,” said Chelule as he watered his kids of the Saanen breed.
The teacher-cum-farmer says his herd, including those he has sold, are now valued at about Sh250,000. He has earned about Sh60,000 from the sale of milk. “Each goat gives an average of 2-3 litres a day which sell for about Sh30 a litre. This amounts to about Sh80 a day per goat. If four goats are suckling their kids then I am assured of Sh300 a day,” he says.
He says goats are very prolific and kindle (give birth to young ones) thrice in two years. “The original parent has kindled four times while the second generation one has kindled three times. The third generation has done it twice.” He says there are three months between calving down and conception.
While starting off, the farmer built a wellventilated shed at a cost of Sh32,000. He also follows a strict de-worming and spraying routine, which ensures his animals are free from diseases. “I also buy dairy meal and salt to supplement the pasture and shrubs available on my one acre farm, which I have set aside for them,” he says. Mr Chelule says another advantage with goats is that when fed well they give birth to triplets; hence multiply faster than other animals. “There was a time in three days I had nine new kids after three mother goats gave got triplets.That is to say I made a cool Sh90,000 if you sell each kid at Sh10,000 each,” he says. He adds that he has been upgrading his indigenous breed by using one of his billy goats, which he says has helped in adding value.
Mr Chelule has been culling the goats by selling some, so as to keep the optimum number of 15, which to him is manageable. He adds that they are in high demand. “Indeed, surrounding farmers have booked even those long to be kindled,” he says laughing. So are there any challenges in this business? “Oh yes. The main one is the price of milk.
Experts put the price of a litre at least at Sh50 because of the high colorific value, but few can buy at that price here. So we have to make do with Sh30,” says the 36-year-old father of four children.
He says that since he started the business, his lifestyle has changed for the better, and he does not need to depend on loans to educate his children and for other development projects anymore.
The problem of prices notwithstanding, Narok north livestock production development officer, Mr Christopher Kunder, says rearing dairy goats is a very economical venture and urges more farmers in the district to go into it. “Even here in Maasailand, land is diminishing through wheat farming and population growth. More people should be encouraged to go into rearing of fewer and more productive animals,” he says, adding that almost anybody with some land can afford to start the business and is assured of high returns. Crossbred milking goats are proving to be a popular source of income, household milk and manure for smallholder farms in medium to high potential zones of Kenya. In a project to introduce such goats to poorer farmers, FARM Africa in conjunction with the government, has identified the problem of sustaining the supply of improved breeding and has taken to upgrading local animals to meet the soaring demand.