A farmer feeds cattle in a farm he manages in Kakamega. Meru farmers have been advised to take advantage of the shortage in quality feeds to venture into fodder farming. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Failure to access cheaper and quality fodder has made dairy farming a loss-making venture for many farmers, Meru County Director of Livestock David Mugambi has said.
“Many farmers are now buying wheat straw, maize stalks, grass and hay to feed their animals because they do not have land to grow their own fodder,” he said.
The fodder, according to him, has insufficient nutrients for milk production, with the low yields leading to high costs, thus, losses to farmers.
Dr Mugambi noted that due to high cost of production, many farmers preferred selling raw milk to earn more instead of delivering to processors.
“Only 35 percent of the milk produced in Meru goes for processing. Dairy animal feeds have a significant impact on the milk market,” he added.
He advised residents to take advantage of the shortage in quality feeds to venture into fodder farming.
A survey done last year by Kenya Dairy Board and Egerton University in 20 counties showed that farmers in Meru had the lowest gross margin of Sh4.6 per litre of milk despite high net prices.
“Meru has a dairy herd of 180,000 cows against a growing population of more than 1.5 million people. About 100,000 dairy cows are productive annually producing 126 million litres. There is potential to produce more than 200 million litres of milk with quality feeds,” Dr Mugambi said.
According to the survey, dairy farmers in Meru were spending Sh30.4 to produce a litre of milk, with the high cost blamed on hired labour in addition to substantial usage of feed concentrates.
Mugambi noted the average dairy milk production per cow was 8.3 litres because most farmers were relying on poor quality feeds.
“Our plan is to have strategic hay stores where fodder farmers can display their produce for dairy keepers. With training from extension officers, we can improve the quality of feeds,” he said, adding the county government was advocating for fewer, productive dairy cows to increase earnings.