- With the number of people keeping dairy cows and those growing fodder grass rising, Stanley Kiambati’s business is lucrative.
- Before baling, the fodder should have low moisture content, which should be reduced from 70–90 per cent to 20–25 per cent or less.
- Baling grass before it is fully dry traps moisture in the bale resulting to spoilage.
- The dairy enterprise benefits as the farmer will be getting quality fodder with good biomass for the cows at a lower price and the dairy enterprise will never lack.
Sound of metal crackling can be heard from a distance as the machine attached to a tractor on the farm in Kiirua, some 14km from Meru town, is fed with dry Boma Rhodes grass.
It takes a few seconds for the equipment, a baler, to compact the grass as two men struggle to keep up with its speed.
A short distance from the machine attached to a tractor on the farm known as Mailei Seed are three trucks, one loaded with tonnes of hay ready for transportation to various places in the region.
“This is a peak season for us,” says Stanley Kiambati, 44, as he intermittently helps put the grass into the baler and also supervise the packaging of the hay on the trucks.
Kiambati, owning the baler and the tractor, is in the business of baling various kinds of fodder grasses for other farmers at a fee, an agribusiness he started in 2016 after a three-year stint in dairy farming.
The farmer traverses the county with his machines doing the job, besides keeping 40 dairy cows of Friesian and Ayrshire breeds.
It is a business he chanced upon after facing challenges feeding his animals, though he was growing fodder on 12 acres.
“I found it difficult to supply fodder to the animals because of a dry spell. I would buy fodder to add to the maize and Boma Rhodes I grow but end up losing a chunk, which would go to waste,” he recounts, noting the challenge cut his milk production.
He currently milks 315 litres from 18 cows selling the produce to Sirimon Cheese in Nanyuki at Sh40 per litre.
A chat with other farmers made him realise that he was not the only one facing the problem of fodder wastage, especially during the rainy period when feeds are usually in plenty.
“I realised most farmers were burning fodder residue during the rainy season leading to great wastage. This became my business idea,” says Kiambati, who is also involved in the transport business.
DONE WHEN CONDITIONS ARE RIPE
He moved to actualise the idea by buying several machines through bank loans.
The machinery included the mower, the baler, a rake, a tractor and a forage harvester, among others, spending a total of Sh8.7 million.
“The baler cost me Sh2.5 million, the tractor Sh3.7 million, a mower Sh650,000, a rake Sh250,000, a silage maker Sh380,000 and the planting machine for Boma Rhodes Sh180,000,” offers Kiambati who bought the machines over time.
He bales fodder that include ordinary grass, Boma Rhodes, wheat and barley straws and canola.
“I began with small farms averaging an acre to three in Kiirua but my main clients are now the big farms in Buure, Imenti North, Imenti South and Imenti Central. The tractor normally pulls the baler, the chopper and the rake to a new destination.”
To bale wheat and barley straws, he charges Sh50 per bale and Sh90 for Boma Rhodes as it entails mowing and raking, which is turning the grass to dry.