KNA Since the beginning of the devolution in 2013, farmers in Migori County have been benefiting from the county’s initiative to improve livestock production. The move to popularise dairy cattle and Sahiwal bulls cross-breeding among the local farmers has earned the county leadership a success story especially in the circles to boost livelihoods.
The Sahiwal bull breeding project has helped improve the breeds of the indigenous local dairy cows in the Nyatike sub-county since its inception in 2015. The project has seen Sh.2 million allocated every financial year to ensure that it is sustained.
Mr George Oguta, the County Officer in charge of Animal Production- livestock directorate says that Nyatike is relatively a dry area that can only sustain hardy dairy cows making it hard to have hybrid cows.
He says that the Sahiwal bulls breed has been distributed among the residents to improve the indigenous breeds.
Oguta says that the Sahiwal bull breeds are given to individuals who allow the local farmers to seek cross-breeding services to improve production of milk and beef.
Since the inception of the project in 2015, 113 Sahiwal bulls have been distributed to Nyatike farmers. However, one bull each was given to neighbouring Sub Counties of Awendo and Uriri that have similar dry climatic conditions.
Oguta, while speaking to KNA in his office recently noted that the bulls services to date stood at 211 which he said is relatively low when compared to the total number of Sahiwal Bulls. The current Cumulative offspring have hit 172.
Out of the 113 Sahiwal, three have since succumbed to diseases, parasites and what is suspected to be predictors like Hyenas and attacks from Hippopotamus.
The official says that the county came up with these projects to help improve the livelihoods of the Nyatike residents while acknowledging that milk production has improved especially from the offspring that come as a result of cross-breeding.
Dairy farming is another project that the county has been doing since 2014. An initiative of One dairy cow per tobacco/sugarcane farmer was rolled out in all Migori Sub Counties except Nyatike, which has a Sahiwal bull project.
The county has had a trend of allocating Shs.8 million in every financial year to sustain the project and to ensure that more farmers get the dairy cows to improve their livelihoods and milk production.
Oguta says, “for farmers to benefit from these projects they should have enough feeds, water points, security for the cow and proper shelter. We always train these farmers on animal husbandry to ensure that they understand what dairy farming is all about.”
He added that breeding is done through Artificial Insemination (AI). Currently, the county has distributed close to 400 dairy heifers. He acknowledged that so far 100 calves have been passed on to various members of the cluster.
Despite the success story, the officer says that poor animal husbandry on the part of the local farmers are a major challenge of the projects. Poor record keeping from farmers has also lead to wrong updates of data. Training is needed to show the farmers how to take care of these animals and gain more profit associated with these practices.
Inadequacy of funds for the extension officers, Lack of transport facilitation and staff shortage are some challenges they face.
“Staff shortage is becoming serious. Our staff level is reducing because there is no replacement for the retired staff. I fear if the trend continues, in the next two years we won’t be able to reach more farmers,” Lamented Mr. Oguta
The high cost of feed has also seen many farmers shy away from keeping livestock. Oguta says that the county is looking forward to venturing into training farmers on how to formulate animal feeds from available resources at home. The aim is to reduce the cost incurred in purchasing.
“The rice stalks produced from Nyatike can make feed formulations. He says these locally manufactured formulations will bring down the total costs of production to dairy farmers,” stated Oguta.
He, however, noted that a policy is being formulated to address feed formulations. “Feed costs have become so high that they are eating away 60 to 80 per cent of the total profits that farmers get” he said.
Mr Oguta highlighted that beekeeping in Nyatike Sub County and pig farming in Suna-East and Kuria-West were other projects that the county government was doing to support.