The cows choose when to be milked, induced by milk pressure and concentrates provided during milking.
Intelligent robots milk the cows and if a cow walks into the milking shed just to eat the concentrates when it’s not ready for milking, the system fails to engage and the cow moves on.
The lesson for Kenya from the Netherlands experience is simple. Improving the efficiency of dairy farming is an important building block to food and nutrition security.
Moving up the dairy value chain would raise Kenya’s output closer to the world average, give dairy farmers higher incomes and increase food and nutrition to consumers at competitive prices.
Fixing inefficiencies in the farm model won’t be easy considering that unlike Netherlands and the Western world where farming is commercialized under a few large-scale farmers, over 90 percent of Kenya’s national milk output is produced by over 1.8 million smallholder dairy farmers.
This limits the extent to which they can invest in technology to improve their value chains, unless assisted with technical and financial support.
The other problem is how the milk is delivered to consumers. While in Netherlands over 90 percent of the milk is processed and marketed through formal market outlets, over 80 percent of Kenya’s milk is sold raw on the farms and in informal markets. Only 400-600 million litres out of 3-4 billion litres a year are delivered to milk processing firms.
This breeds a serious problem of contamination of raw milk during handling from the farm to the consumers.
Better management of the dairy industry, by providing incentives to farmers to adopt technology and deliver their produce to processing factories, would expand the growth of the dairy sector and expand job opportunities.
The sector contributes 4.5 percent to Kenya’s gross domestic product, according to a 2014 market report by the Ministry of Agriculture, together with Kenya Dairy Board, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and agencies supporting the sector. It can do better and contribute more to manufacturing value added.
Increasing supply and consumption of processed milk would improve food and nutrition. It would contribute to food safety and better health outcomes by reducing illnesses that are caused by consumption of contaminated milk.
Mr Warutere is a director of Mashariki Investments Ltd, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Netherlands experience is from a tour sponsored by the Netherlands Government through its Embassy in Nairobi, in partnership with Netherlands Enterprise Agency