- Itiri Dairy Farm occupies half of his one-acre land
- He keeps a total of 17 cows, five which are in-calf and eight that he milks getting about 25 litres from each.
- He makes own silage from maize he grows on a leased farm
- His three cows were recently infected with actinomycosis, a bacterial infection that causes sores, on the animal’s soft tissues
Near the entrance of Itiri Dairy Farm in Central Imenti, Meru County, stands a huge poster highlighting the qualities of a good and a bad cow.
The poster, which is the first interaction one has with the farm, is the clearest indication that it is business unusual for Timothy Mwirigi, the owner of the venture.
The 40-year-old is dressed in a yellow overcoat and black gumboots during our visit.
“It developed mechanical problems yesterday while I was chopping maize stalks to make silage for the cows. I have to repair this chaff cutter immediately because a neighbour has leased it at Sh3,000 a day and has already paid,” says Mwirigi, hinting at one of his sources of income as he worked on the machine.
For Mwirigi, dairy farming is a passion and he pursues it as a full-time business. Itiri Dairy Farm occupies half of his one-acre land.
“Before I fully went into dairy farming in 2014, I used to plant coffee, tea, French beans and passion fruits. I still have tea and coffee but they do not have good returns nowadays, the reason I am planning to uproot them.”
He keeps a total of 17 cows, five which are in-calf and eight that he milks getting about 25 litres from each. The rest are calves and heifers.
“The cows consume an average of 30kg each of silage daily,” he says.
Currently, he has 98 tonnes of silage in a bunker which will last until next year.
“As a farmer, you have to plan well for feeds, and silage is good in helping one do that. Even if we have a prolonged dry spell now, I am guaranteed of quality feeds.”
Making own fodder
He makes the silage from maize that he grows on an acre-and-half that he has leased.
“I start by chopping the maize stalks into pieces and putting them in a heap. Then I add molasses to speed up the fermentation process, cover the mixture with a plastic paper and bury it in a four-foot deep bunker,” explains Mwirigi, adding he further feeds his cows on sweet potato vines, bean stalks, lucerne, hay and dairy meal mixed with molasses.
He uses the Total Mix Ratio, where energy fodder comprises of 70 per cent, proteins 23 percent while minerals and water consist of about 7 per cent.
All his cows have tags that help him track each of them for proper management.
The tags indicate the name of the animal, the bull that sired it and the date it was born.
To ensure proper hygiene, his three zero-grazing units are cleaned twice daily.