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The dairy goat farming sector is one of the emerging and fast growing sectors. It has seen an improvement and increased attention resulting from its benefits on poverty reduction. This has been attributed to the income generation from the sale of the goats’ milk, meat, hides and manure for crop propagation hence acting as a financial intermediary to the resource constraint farmers.

Engaging in dairy goat farming in Kenya is not only beneficial in poverty alleviation through income generation but also in eradicating hunger and diversifying the diet through consumption of the animal protein hence improved nutritional status of rural communities.

Though the sector has many benefits on alleviating poverty levels, information on goat industry in terms of its effect on household income and dietary diversity in Kenya is not well documented hence necessitating this brief article on dairy goat farming in Kenya.

Goats are mainly reared in Kenya for meat and milk purposes. They are generally hardy animals that can survive even in the driest of regions. Unlike cattle, goats require a lesser amount of food, often browsing for foliage on shrubs and trees. This makes dairy goat farming an ideal investment for farmers in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa.

Dairy goat keeping is lucrative for farmers moving away from traditional dairy cow rearing. Kenya’s dairy sub-sector contributes about eight per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with an annual milk production of 3.43 billion litres (297 million from goats). Dairy breeds include species such as Alpines, Saneens, Toggenburgs, and Anglonubians.

Saneens have a black spot on the nose, are bigger than the Toggenburgs and can produce up to six litres of milk a day. Anglonubians is a British breed that is brown, and big-bodied. Toggenburgs are white and can be easily identified by their white legs. The Alpine is medium to large sized, and
can be white, grey, brown or black with good milk production. It originated in the French Alps.

Contribution of Dairy Goat Farming in Kenya to Household Income

In Kenya, early efforts focusing on the rearing dairy goats were in missionary centers and government institutions.

The most important institutions involved in distribution of dairy goats to small-scale farmers in rural areas were Heifer Project International (HPI), Farm Africa, and church based organizations. The impetus for these institutions to promote smallholder dairy goat production was to contribute effectively to poverty alleviation and improve food security among the rural poor people. Moreover, introduction of dairy goat breeds in rural areas was aimed at upgrading the local breeds and increase their growth rates, milk yield and hence, improve food security as well as household income.

Dairy goat farming in Kenya enterprise is an important avenue for poverty reduction of small-scale farmers due to its contribution to income generation through sale of milk, milk products, live animals and manure. Income from such production often accrues to women, who use the money to provide better nutrition and education to their children. Furthermore, dairy goats are an alternative source of milk to most rural people who cannot afford keeping dairy cattle

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Dairy Goat Farming in Kenya and Income

Dairy goat production in Kenya is an alternative livestock enterprise suitable for many small scale or part time livestock operations. Some dairy goat producers have been successful in pasteurizing goat milk and building an on farm jugging business; others have ventured into processed milk products for retail distribution. Goat’s milk has specialized markets because of its composition. It has higher digestible protein and fat content than cow’s milk. Interest in Dairy Goat Production has been growing recently for a variety of reasons:

  • Dairy goats are less costly to buy and feed and dairy goat farming for profit is not very hard to do. Goat farming, in itself, is already a very profitable business. Goats are simple to manage and if given proper attention, they can live healthily.
  • They also don’t need too much feed because they eat a variety of foliage, including thorn bushes and high branches that sheep can’t reach.
  • Goats also reproduce anytime of the year with a short gestation period of only 150days.

Most efforts to improve dairy goat farming are focused on producing more and better milk. To do this, breed and animal health are given special attention. Particular breeds are more valuable as milk producers.

To add to this, goats are sources of a variety of commercial products. Among the most important are milk and meat.

Other products that can be sold to earn income include hides, skins, manure to fertilize soils for growing crops and also to produce biogas, hide, mohair, leather, and cashmere.

Dairy goat farming for profit concentrates on milk production as its top source of income. However, the other products may also be sold as available to avoid too much waste as during deaths or when the goats are no longer viable for milk production. The minimal investment and the high returns are behind very successful dairy goat farming for profit. Milk, being a basic a commodity, ensures the success of any dairy farm. In fact, more people around the world consume goat milk than cow milk.

Dairy goats provide farmers with milk to drink and sell, and manure to fertilize soil and the goats themselves can also be sold. With the extra income, farmers can pay household bills, send children to school or reinvest in the farm and other economic activities

Crossbreeding Potential in Dairy Goat Farming in Kenya

Crossbred milking goats have proved to be a popular source of cash income, household daily milk requirements and manure for smallholder farmers in medium to high potential zones of Kenya.

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The three-quarter Toggenburg crossbred appears to be the most suitable in terms of both milk production and growth rates.

Goats form an integral component of the livestock sector in Kenya, and the goat population is estimated at 15 million spread throughout all the agro-ecological zones. In particular, goats are suitable for small scale resource poor farmers: they are cheap to acquire compared to cattle, they require little land, they reproduce quickly, and they are able to feed on a wide range of forages. As a result, goat rearing is an important activity for resource poor farmers under the mixed crop-livestock production systems that are commonly practiced in Kenya.

Dairy goats have considerable potential in the highlands of Kenya, where a majority of the population live. There has been significant interest in the use of crossbred goats, but although dairy
goats have been introduced in various parts of the country, most projects have not taken sustainability into account.

In previous attempts to genetically improve the local goat populations, breeding programmes have generally been centralized and research-centered, with minimal farmer participation. In addition, the contributions and/or preferences of the farmers intended to benefit from such efforts are usually ignored, leading to delays in the adoption of the technologies, low adoption rates or total failures.

From surveys that have been conducted through various studies in the recent past, farmers have reported reasons for keeping dairy goats as follows:

  • To have enough milk for the family,
  • to have goats to sell in emergencies,
  • goats take very little fodder therefore easy to manage,
  • goats have very good and high quality milk,
  • goats have many good benefits milk, meat, manure,
  • goats can finish their poverty,
  • feeding goats is easier than feeding cattle.

There are a number of factors that act against livestock keeping by small scale resource poor farmers. These include:

  • lack of grazing and feed resources due to limited land;
  • lack of water;
  • inappropriate land tenure systems (subdivision of land owned by most resource poor farmers);
  • poor management systems and practices;
  • high prevalence of animal diseases;
  • low animal genetic potential;
  • inaccessibility or costs of farm inputs;
  • lack of access to technical information (extension services);
  • lack of market information;
  • and poor infrastructure

Common Goat Breeds in Kenya

1. Saanen Dairy Goats

The Saanen dairy goat originated from Switzerland, in the Saane Valley. Their milk generally produces 3 to 4 percent fat and a healthy doe weighs between 55kg and 65kg.

The Saanen dairy goat breed is known for its high milk yields. It produces an average of 3 litres of milk daily, and weighs an average of 70kgs.

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The Saanen is white in colour. The hair on their coats is short and fine, although a fringe over the spine and thighs is often present. Ears should always be erect, preferably pointing forward. The face should be straight or dished.

2. Toggenburg Dairy Goats

Toggenburgs are allegedly the oldest known Dairy Goat breed. They are from the Toggenburg valley of Switzerland located in Obertoggenburg. This breed is more slender than the Saanen and visibly lighter, the females weighing in at about 55kg. Their hair is short, soft and fine. Its body colour is brown and they have distinct marking which is very important for a Toggenburg to be recognized by the Kenyan stud breeders.

Compared to the Saanen they are considered medium milk producers. Toggenburgs are the most common breed in Kenya. This breed is noted for its excellent udder development and high milk production, and has an average fat test of 3.7 percent .

3. British Alpine Dairy Goat

British Alpine Dairy Goat farming in kenya

The British Alpine was developed in Great Britain in the early 1900s. This is a beautiful animal, which is black in colour and has distinct white markings. The females resemble the Saanen does in size and posture and generally weigh about 60kg. They are tall, rangy and graceful, which can best be seen in a proud male animal.

They are the second most popular breed in Kenya and the quality of the breed is as good as anywhere else in the world

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