Dairy farming: Entrepreneurship opportunities in Africa

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The World Bank’s 2020 global employment statistics place Kenya’s unemployment rate at 3 percent. Subsequently, according to the data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the number of people in employment fell to 17.84 million between January and the end of March 2021 compared to 18.09 million the previous quarter.

It is against that gloomy picture that Henry Bitok, a dairy farmer says this situation can be salvaged if more young people can venture into farming.

Bitok wears many caps. He is an officer in the ministry of interior, correctional services department but he studied journalism. He says he wanted to be his own boss and drive his own agenda at the pace that he had dreamt of. Armed with two acres of land, and just one Friesian cow in 2015, his dream of becoming a great dairy farmer began.

Today Bitok is a proud owner of 12 Friesian cows. By the time we visited him, we witnessed two of his cows’ calving. Much to his excitement even as his cowshed, saw an addition of two heifers. Bitok only keeps the female calves but the bull calves are quickly sold immediately after they start feeding by themselves.

As much as his cows are heavy feeders, they are highly profitable because they produce about 40 litres of milk each on a daily basis.

Friesian cows at Henry Bitok’s Dairy Farm.

“Each cow can produce about 20 litres but on a good day, we get approximately 40 litres from each of them,” Bitok says.

With almost 300 litres of milk from these cows on a daily basis, Bitok makes close to 4600 U.S. dollars monthly, his profit being half of that amount.

“In a month, we get close to 2000 U.S. dollars in profits. We supply our milk to schools, but when schools are closed, we deliver it to Kenya Co-operative Creameries(KCC). But unlike schools which buy our milk at 60 Ksh per litre, KCC prices are a bit low.” He adds.

International Livestock Research Institute submits that dairy farming is a big opportunity in Kenya. ILRI further says the country’s cows produce over 3.5 billion litres of milk annually. And that Kenyans consume more milk than people in any other country in Africa, and the demand for dairy products is on the rise. By 2030, Kenya is likely to become a net dairy exporter.

Indeed by 2022, Bitok’s two new addition will be ready for mating, signaling an ever-growing number of cows at his backyard translating to more milk and probably more employment opportunities at his farm. Currently, he has employed four people, two are directly engaged with the cows while the rest are tasked with other duties on the farm.

A farmworker operating chaff cutter at Henry Bitok’s Dairy Farm.

“We milk three times in a day. That’s 3.00am,11.00am and 5.00pm in the evening. We have an eight-hour break. Remember, a cow cannot process more milk in its udder after 8 hours, so you need to milk them so that you can create room for more,” he says.

He says, they make their own feeds for the cows. They have sunflower, yellow maize, and nappier grass. They also give them dairy meals which they buy because they currently do not have the ingredients to process but soon they will start processing their own.

He spends close to 100 U.S. dollars on dairy meals every fortnight.

Approximately 80 percent of Kenya’s dairy sector is made up of small-scale, informal dairy producers. Without support, high production costs and rising consumer demand for higher-grade milk threaten to cripple small-scale dairy entrepreneurs.

“Farming is good, it’s only that the feed is quite expensive, especially dairy meal. The government does not subsidize. If it did, this would be better for us.”

Henry Bitok the dairy farmer.

Bitok is now focused on expanding his farm and probably employing more people at the same time. He says there are great opportunities for people now searching for employment in dairy farming.

According to KNBS, at least 253,500 jobs were shed in the three months to March 2021 despite the economy showing signs of recovery from COVID-19 hardships, with employees aged below 25 and those above 40 bearing the brunt of the layoffs. This age group according to Bitok is ripe for dairy farming.

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