In 1998, Mary Wacuka began her journey with dairy goat farming, which changed her fortune and transformed her life as a farmer.
At her home in Thangathi, Mukurweini constituency, her one acre farm is bustling most of the time, as she takes care of her goats and the only cow on her property.
“I visited a Farmer’s Country Day and was intrigued by the dairy goats that were at the show, researched and saved up to buy four goats, and luckily two of the goats were pregnant, each giving birth to twins, ”Wacuka explained.
Surprised by the speed at which his herd was multiplying, Wacuka contacted the Dairy Goat Association of Kenya (DGAK) for more training and support in raising his goats.
She explained that she joined DGAK in 2000 where she learned to breed and care for her animals by building zero grazing units for her goats.
“It was a good learning experience as I was able to learn the best breeds for dairy goat breeding and I focused on obtaining animals from the French Alps and Toggenburg,” she explained. .
Currently, Wacuka maintains a herd of 20 goats which feed on napier grass, corn germ and local weeds.
“I make sure my goats have enough water and salt to supplement their diet and sometimes deworm the animals to maintain their health,” Wacuka said.
Of her 20 goats, only six dairy goats are milked daily, each producing two liters of milk per day.
Each liter is sold to her neighbors for 60 Sh, which earns her 720 Sh per day, which, she explained, is almost double what she earns with her one cow, 360 Sh per day.
“I think my six goats make me more than one cow, and the cost of production is low compared to that of a cow, and with the small size of my land, the goats are economical to keep”, a- she noted.
She explained that dairy goats also provide her with another source of income when sold.
“I can earn up to Sh 20,000 per goat sale and during the holiday season when goats are in demand I can pocket at least Sh 100,000,” she explained.
The sale of goat manure, which she says is very good for growing coffee, brings in at least Sh 8,000.
The various sources of income for the dairy goat business have enabled it to maintain confidence in the sustainability of its activities.
His feelings are shared by Ernest Kihangi, a breeder of purebred dairy goats in the village of Muruguru in Nyeri County.
Kihangi, retired as a caterer at a public university, used his time to work on his passion for raising dairy goats.
“I focus on the best breeds and have won several medals and awards at Farmer Field Days across the country for French and German alpine goats,” he explained.
His farm’s milk production declined after the local processor he used to deliver the milk stopped deliveries.
“I used to sell eight liters of milk to a local processor, but now I have to consume all the milk, which is why I focus on keeping the best breeds on my farm,” he explained.
Kihangi said the sale of his goats was his main source of income, with dollars selling at high prices for cultural ceremonies.
“Pedigree breeding also earns me money because the seeds from my goats are sought after all over the country, and I keep very complete records of all the animals on my farm,” Kihangi said.
Both herders are members of DGAK, an organization created in 1994 to meet the needs of dairy goat herders in central Kenya, but which has expanded to cover the whole country.
DGAK Technical Mwangi Warui said the organization has more than 500 farmer groups across the country who are actively engaged in raising dairy goats.
“Initially, raising dairy goats was touted as the best option for families in the central region who were facing the challenge of shrinking land area due to urbanization and increasing population. “said Warui.
The government-funded and donor-funded DGAK encouraged farmers to raise dairy goats as a source of income for families who could not afford the land space or money to maintain a cow.
However, one of the challenges that farmers faced was the lack of quality breeds due to inbreeding which slowed down the production of purebred goats, resulting in lower milk production.
“DGAK has helped the farmer access sufficient semen from German and French alpine goat breeds which are currently considered good for milk production,” said Warui.
While most farmers consume dairy goat’s milk, efforts to add value to milk through processing have failed in the industry, with most processors turning away from goat’s milk.
Raka milk processors in Nyeri County processed goat’s milk into cheese between 2011 and 2014, when they had to downsize their operations and now focus primarily on processing cow’s milk.
Raka Processors’ dairy director Sammy Michael Karimi said the company would source 400 liters of goat’s milk from farmers every day and pay farmers Sh 80 per liter.
However, they had to cut back on production after 2013, after their main market at Westgate Mall closed.
“At least 75% of our market was for sellers in the Westgate shopping center, but the terrorist attack of 2013 shut down the shopping center and this disrupted our niche market, which forced us to cut back on our production,” he said. he explained.
Currently, processors only buy 20 liters of goat’s milk per day and the cheese is still not marketable.
Other challenges to processing goat’s milk, noted Karimi, are the unrestricted importation of goat cheese into the country which is sold for less than locally processed cheese.
“We sell our goat cheese for Sh 1800 per kg due to the high production cost while imported cheese can sell for Sh 1200 to Sh 1500,” explained Karimi.
Goat cheese is also a niche market affected by competition from cow cheese and cultural consumption habits.
“Few people consume goat’s milk or cheese because of their cultural beliefs and also their personal tastes. There are perceptions that goat’s milk smells different from cow’s milk, ”explained Karimi.
He also noted that a lack of information on the nutritional value of goat’s milk has hampered its acceptance in the wider market.
Kenya Nutrition Association National President Henry Ngethe said the nutritional value of goat’s milk is better digested than cow’s milk because it contains less lactose, goat’s milk contains less casein protein alpha s1 unlike cow’s milk which is associated with allergic reactions.
“There are other micronutrients like magnesium which is 30% more present in goat milk and is responsible for energy production, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control and of regulating blood pressure in the human body, ”Ngethe said.
The magnesium in goat’s milk also contains selenium with its function in the human body including the prevention of cardiovascular disease, thyroid problems and cognitive decline, which means disturbances related to thinking, cancer and improves the libido.