Why dairy goat farming is the next big thing

In Agribusiness, Startup

Two years ago, Anne Wanjiru bought a ‘barren’ dairy goat, prayed over it and took good care of it, now it gives birth to four kids every year, to the amusement of neighbours The dream of many aspiring livestock farmers is to keep dairy cows, but this is a costly venture given that cattle are delicate creatures.

But if you desire to keep livestock but fear that extra workload, the best alternative would be dairy goats. One farmer — Ann Wanjiru — has tasted the goodness of goat farming and speaks highly of it. Though Wanjiru practises mixed farming — keeps chicken and grows crops — she says goat farming is the real deal. “If you want to keep livestock, I will definitely advise you to keep dairy goats. Why? Because they are cheaper to maintain, easily available and the animals are friendly. They are not hostile like cows and bulls. My children also handle the goats and they love them,” says Wanjiru, a mother of three.

The small-scale farmer in Ikulungu village, Kirinyaga County, has established herself as a respected goat keeper, who rears goats that have multiple births. “My neighbours call my goats miracle goats because they deliver twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets. I get visitors who come to see this wonders. That is a rare occasion and a plus for me because it means more milk,” she says proudly. There was excitement on her farm a month ago when a doe (female goat) gave birth to four kids, which were all healthy. The following week, another doe delivered a 13kg kid, something that intrigued locals since newborn kids there weigh 3kgs on average.

Though now a ‘village celeb’ thanks to her goats, Wanjiru started this venture two years ago from a humble start together with her husband Isaac. Previously, they lived in Thumaita, Gichugu constituency on a quarter acre piece of land. They moved to the current place after acquiring a three-acre piece of land. The area is warmer, has bigger land and fertile soil conducive for farming. “In our previous dwelling, farming was challenging as feed was expensive and hard to get. The area was also cold and animal feed was hard to come by,” she says.

Throwaway price

For her seed stock, she had two dairy goats. She sold one of the goats to raise money to build a structure and buy feed for the other one. To boost her herd, she later on she bought a goat whose owner believed it was barren. “The owner was struggling to get a buyer because everybody believed it could not conceive. The owner pleaded with me to buy it at a throwaway price of Sh4,000. She told me that since I am a pastor, if I prayed for it, the curse of barrenness would be lifted. The goat was then one year and six months,” recalls Wanjiru.

Tempting offer  She bought the doe ‘in faith’, prayed over it, and after eight months, it showed signs of heat and was served by a pedigree he-goat. It miraculously gave birth to five kids — four does and a buck, but unfortunately, three died at birth. The he-goat survived together with one female goat. Six months later, the ‘barren’ goat was on heat again and was served delivering another four kids. The kids are healthy and a visitor’s attraction at the farm. She allows them to suckle all the milk from their mother; about four litres per day. The doe she came with to Ikulungu in 2015 was also served and gave birth to twins in November 2016.

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Four months later, it was on heat again, served and delivered a single kid in July. The doe produces fives litres of milk after the kid has suckled. The twins she bore in November matured and were served early this year, when they were still too young. Ms Njiru now has four mature she-goats, one he-goat and seven kids that supply her with milk, manure and kids for sale. She sells the milk to her neighbours, family and friends and the surplus is for home consumption. “Goat milk has medicinal value. My children initially had persistent coughs but after they started consuming goat milk, it stopped,” she says.

To keep the dairy goats healthy and strong, she feeds them on maize germ, salt lick, dairy meal and dry and green matter that is plentiful in her farm. When feed is scarce during drought seasons, the goats can also feed on shrubs. She has been getting irresistible offers for her goats because of their health status. Just recently, a buyer walked to her farm and wanted to buy the she-goat famed for producing multiple kids for Sh30,000. Tempting as it was, she declined the offer. “I cannot sell this goat. If it gives four kids, twice a year, that is eight kids. A kid sells at Sh5,000 meaning it can bring me Sh40,000. I have done the math and seen that I am better off keeping it,” Wanjiru says.

Cheaper and more lucrative

Wanjiru is proving to locals that dairy goat farming pays and more people are embracing it. Profitable venture Dr Francis Kathuri a veterinarian and the Embu County Government Livestock Chief officer agrees that goat rearing is cheaper and more lucrative compared to breeding dairy cows. “A good pedigree goat can earn a farmer a lot of money from the sale of its kids. If she gives twins twice a year, the farmer will have four kids. A cow will give birth to a single calf once a year. Goats kids also grow and mature faster than cows hence the farmer can sell them and make quick cash,” he says. Dr Kathuri also considers goat rearing easier than keeping cows in terms of capital, feeding, housing and disease management. He explains that a farmer who lacks the huge capital for a dairy cattle project, can opt to venture into dairy goat keeping, since startup capital is minimal.

He says a dairy goat kid goes for about Sh5,000 or less depending on the season and where you buy it. “This explains why many small scale farmers or the elderly rear dairy goats. From it, they get daily supply of nutritious milk and manure for the shamba. They also get kids, which they can sell,” the expert says. Additionally, goat milk is more nutritious than a cow’s, hence twice as more, he points out. Dr Kathuri observes that goat milk has higher butter content and is therefore great for children and invalids. Simple housing He says goats housing is simple as it can be made from readily available materials such as waste timber and iron sheet. Further, he notes that feeding goats is easier compared to cows since they consume less and are better browsers of different types of grass, shrubs and bushes.

To boost their health, the expert says meals for a dairy goat should be supplemented with dairy meal and multivitamins. Dr Kathuri observes that goats are quite hardy and are not affected by diseases as much as cows. On the rare occurrence on Wanjiru’s farm— the multiple births— Dr Kathuri says whereas goats usually give birth to single kids or sometimes twins, getting four or five kids is normal. “If you have such a doe, it means you have an upper breeder and the farmer should consider themselves lucky. During ovulation, the goat could have released more ova and several of them were fertilised leading to multiple kids,” he says. He adds that is such a goat is fed well and given dairy meal and minerals and multivitamins, it would produce adequate milk for the kids and farmer.

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