The Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro) has introduced a superior breed of cows with the aim of boosting the production of milk in arid and semi-arid lands (Asal) in Kenya.

Close-up of raw milk being poured into container with cows in background

The new breed, which is a crossbreed of Ayrshire, Friesian and Sahiwal, originally from Pakistan, can produce an average of 30 litres of milk per day with minimal feeding.

Karlo Director-General Eliud Kireger said the new breed is being developed at the organisationโ€™s research centre in Naivasha.

“The breeding bulls are available at Kalro Naivasha research centre. We don’t have enough bulls and we shall collaborate with Kenya Animal Genetic Resource Centre which is mandated to supply semen across the country to farmers. We have trained farmers on artificial insemination to spread the material to all farming communities,” added Dr Kireger.

“As a research organisation, we support the farming communities by developing technologies, innovations, and management practices to increase production and that is why we have developed a duo purpose breed that produces both milk and meat.”

He observed that production of milk and meat in Asal areas is low as the farmers face many challenges including lack of feeds, diseases, adaptability to harsh conditions, lack of quality stocks and low adoption of technologies among other challenges.

Address challenges

ย “The dairy technologies, innovations and management practices we’re introducing like reproduction in dairy cattle breeding, disease tolerance, basal and supplementary forages, forage conservation, feed rations for improved production, fortification of feeds, milk value addition, manure management and aspect of the dairy business, cost-benefit analysis and marketing, milk handling and processing and manure management for bioenergy will address these challenges,” said Dr Kireger.

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The Sh24.8 billion project under the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) is funded by the World Bank and the government and aims to increase agricultural productivity and profitability among targeted rural communities in selected counties.

Under NARIGP, Kalro will train 500,000 farmers on different aspects of the value chain and, already, it has registered over 600,000 farmers who are contacted via short text message on best agronomical practices.

NARIG project is being undertaken in 21 counties and farmers in 17 counties have been selected to promote the dairy sub-sector, increase incomes and improve food and nutritional security especially for women, children, youth and vulnerable groups.

Dr Kireger noted that one of the weakest links between research and the farming community is the connection and transfer of technology from research to the smallholder farmers.

Extension officers

“To bridge this gap, we’re training extension officers so that they can train farmers as we cannot reach all the farmers in the country,” he said.

He said Kalro has set up a modern call centre where farmers can ask questions and get information regarding their farming activities.

The lucrative dairy sub-sector contributes 3.5 per cent of the total gross domestic product (GDP).

The current milk output is estimated at 5.2 billion litres per annum, out of which 60 per cent is from grade dairy cattle and their crosses while the remaining 40 per cent comes from zebu cows, camels and goats.

The national dairy herd is estimated at 3.3 million, majority of which are grade cattle.

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The informal milk sector accounts for more than 70 per cent of the 40,000 jobs in dairy marketing and supports over 350,000 others in formal employment.

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