In 2017, students at Bukura Agricultural College in western Kenya proposed a business idea to their school.
Final-year students studying for the college’s Diploma in Animal Production conducted a survey and found that the milk consumed in the region was being transported from the Rift Valley. Some milk products were even imported from Uganda.
“This area has the potential for dairy farming, but few farmers have embraced the venture. To us, it was a business opportunity. The institution adopted the recommendations by the students and started a dairy farm,” said Davis Kamau, who today is plant manager at a thriving dairy at the college.
As a response to the initial student proposal, the college bought two dairy cows and was soon producing 50 litres of milk per day. The project then got a shot in the arm when the students wrote a funding proposal to the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) to establish a modern dairy farm.
The agency helped the college construct a dairy plant with an Sh25 million (US$182,750) grant, providing the college with the capacity to produce 2,000 litres daily.
“The dairy was established with the twin objectives of commercial milk production after value addition and as a training unit for college students undertaking a course in animal production,” said Kamau.
The college purchased 20 dairy cows but quickly found that more cows were needed to meet the demand for milk from the residents who had started coming to the institution to buy milk.
“To meet the forces of demand and supply, we again bought an additional 25 cows, which saw us increase the processing capacity to 800 litres per day,” said Kamau.
The college also rears milk cows, with the main breeds being Jersey, Friesians, and Ayrshire.
“We also contracted five dairy farmers, trained them on better farming practises, and we get 200 litres of milk per day from them. Our current processing capacity is now 1,000 litres per day,” Kamau added.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) have since accredited their operations. To increase profits, the college has started producing branded yoghurt, fermented milk, and pasteurised milk.
“We are discouraging people to buy raw milk as that does not fetch good money,” said Kamau.
The college has a ready market in surrounding schools and colleges, including leading supermarkets and local shops in Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Vihiga, and Kisumu counties.
According to Kamau, 500 ml of yoghurt goes for Sh80 ($0.69), and fermented milk sells for Sh130 (US$1) per litre.
“On a good month, we make profits of between 1 million shillings (US$7,310) and 1.5 million shillings (US$10,965). When milk processing is at full capacity, we expect to get triple the revenue from what we are currently getting every month,” said Kamau.
“We want to buy more dairy cows to increase our milk processing capacity. “At present, plans are at an advanced stage to install ATM milk kiosks in Kakamega and Bungoma to expand our market reach,” he added.
The college also wants to start producing cream, ghee, and biscuits.
According to Patrick Chogo, the commercial farm manager, they want to maximise profits by fully formulating their dairy feeds. Currently, they produce 70 per cent of the feed at the college farm.
Chogo said that they had planted Napiergrass, Hay, Desmodium, Yellow Maize, and Sorghum, which, after harvesting, is dried, crushed into fine particles, and given to the animals as feed.
“We take around 35 kilogrammes of dry and crushed maize stalks and Napiergrass, 12 kilogrammes of wheat bran, 8 kilos of maize jam, 35 kilogrammes of hay, 8 kilos of malt residue, a kilo of salt, and four litres of molasses, and then mix it with 60 litres of water, which we formulate and feed the animals daily,” said Chogo.
Geoffrey Gichuki, the assistant farm manager, lamented high feed costs, saying they eat more into the profits than they had expected. However, he had confidence in the elaborate plans developed by the college to provide food for the next two years.
Acting Principal Paul Kuria said the income-generating unit had provided invaluable cash flow to the college, allowing it to stay afloat when it faced financial constraints. He was now determined to make the project more viable by reaching a wider market. He also wanted to ensure the project gave job opportunities to local farmers and residents, he said.
“Through our dairy project, the institute has trained over 1000 farmers who are also into dairy farming. We will contract them so that they can produce enough milk to meet our expansion targets of processing 5,000 litres of milk in two years,” said Kuria.
Internship opportunities for graduates from the college as well as from other institutions of higher learning will make the project even more beneficial to the wider community, he explained.
Story Credit: Nathan Ombuni for Bird Story Agency