In late 2011, we purchased 8 dairy cows from a breeding farm in western Kenya: 4 Ayrshire, 3 Holstein-Friesian, and 1 Friesian-Ayrshire. Ayrshires are medium-sized cows suitable to all kinds of management systems. By contrast, Holstein-Friesians are top milk producers, capable of yielding an average of more than 7,600 liters of milk per year. Friesian-Ayrshires are a mixed breed that combines the high milk production of Friesians with the ruggedness of Ayrshires. The mean average age of these cows is 3 years, giving them about 7 more years of useful milk production.
The management system we are using is called zero-grazing (also known as cut-and-carry). In this system, the cows are fed mainly Napier grass which we produce ourselves, supplemented by daily meals and mineral concentrates. We also graze the cows each day on our land, mainly to provide them with some exercise. The advantages of zero-grazing are:
The reason we decided to have a dairy business is that there is high demand for milk in our area. Due to low local production levels (mainly because the local breeds do not produce much milk), much of the fresh milk is imported from Tanzania, which is just across the border from us. This milk is often watered down. Despite this, the milk available for purchase each day often runs out by mid-morning. Packaged milk or powdered milk are an option, but they are much more expensive and hence out of reach for most families. This creates a huge business opportunity for us, since we can supply fresh milk that is not watered down.
At the moment 3 of our 8 cows have calved and thus are producing milk. We are currently assessing the volume of milk production of these cows, so as to determine what changes to our management system and/or the cows themselves we will need to make in order to maximize our milk production.
That’s it for this blog. Next time I’ll go into some details about our healthcare commodities business.