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July 02, 2008

Kenya's milk production below sector's potential

According to a production report provided by the Production Officer of Nyanza Dairy in Kenya, Raphael Kitonga, the region has the potential to produce 5,090 million litres of milk per year, but manages approximately 300 million litres only.

According to records by the Livestock Department, milk production in 2007 was 249.5 million litres, compared to 284 million litres in 2006, a drop of 36 million litres.

“We have done an audit report on the number of livestock in the province and it’s a pity that we produce too little milk as per estimates. Most farmers rear local dairy animals which produce only one litre of milk per cow in a day, compared to high grade ones that produce up to eight litres of milk in the same period,” said Mr Kitonga.

In 2006, production of milk by dairy cows and goats was 284 million litres compared to last year’s figure of 249.5 million litres which is only 5.1 per cent of the region’s potential.

Mr Kitonga said that there has been a record decrease in production from low grade cattle from 101 million litres in 2006 to 85.5 million litres in 2007. Hybrid animals also recorded a reduction from 201 million litres in 2006 to 162 million litres in 2007.

“The total production from hybrid dairy cattle reduced in 2007 by 39 million litres, while the local breed also recorded a decline by 15 million litres of milk. This was a result of a trim down in the number of grade cattle reared by farmers since the breed is expensive to maintain,” said Mr Kitonga.

However, dairy goats production in the province is picking up with the yield standing at 220,000 litres of milk in 2007, whereas the animals had minimal production in 2006.

The number of low grade dairy animals also rose to 1.4 million in 2007 compared to less than a million in 2006. “We have registered an increment in the number of local dairy animals, but production from the breed has been going down.

Also, hybrid animals’ production seems to decline while dairy goats production is picking up in the province,” said Mr Kitonga. He said that poor management systems by farmers was to blame for the poor production, adding that many did not clear bushes surrounding their farms thus creating favourable conditions for the survival of tsetse flies.

“Most animals die in the region due to diseases caused by tsetse flies. We are encouraging farmers to clear bushes and use the fields for other activities,” said Mr Kitonga.

Besides diseases that cause death, the tsetse flies also spread diseases that lead to a decline in milk produced.

Currently, the government is running a five year programme dubbed Pan African Tse Tse Flies and Tripanosomiasis Eradication across the country, with the aim to eradicate the vermin, including controlling ticks.

The programme has been initiated in all districts in Nyanza province and livestock extension officers were sent out to the field to educate farmers on the importance of the programme.

Under the project, animals are sprayed with chemicals that kill the flies and then released into fields invaded with the insects. Upon biting the animals, the flies die instantly.

“After the animals are sprayed, they are released to the fields and the flies that bite them die on the spot. When the livestock are brought back home in the evening, they are also injected so that they do not become sick,” added Mr Kitonga.

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