- At the heart of Laikipia, sits a 14,000-acre piece of land that is home to both wildlife and a highly productive cattle venture.
- Wildlife roaming the area tend to transmit diseases such as presenilin 1 (Ps-1), a ferocious strain of East Coast Fever (ECF) which comes from the buffalo, anaplasmosis and contagious abortion which results in brucellosis or meningitis if one consumes milk from the infected cow.
- In their fodder cultivation, Mr Nicholson notes that the ranch incorporates diverse techniques of conservation agriculture such as zero tilling, water banking and organic farming where no chemicals are used in order not to harm the wildlife and ecosystem.
- The project also hosts cattle from Isiolo pastoralists giving them grass at a fee to fatten the bulls which are then sold at good prices at the benefit of the pastoralists.
Dry grass and occasional shrubbery dot Endana, a vast rural settlement about an hour’s drive from Nanyuki town in Laikipia County.
Generally a dry area, there are few crop farming activities.
Here, rough terrain prevails and predators roam wild and free.
However, despite the harshness of the conditions, and the threat from the ever marauding wildlife, one conservancy has managed to successfully keep livestock in the area.
At the heart of Endana sits the El Karama Conservancy, a magnificent ranch that sits on a 14,000-acre piece of land in the rough countryside.
El Karama is committed to conservation agriculture and holistic grazing aimed at preserving, protecting and restoring the natural environment and protecting wildlife. The quintessence of the ranch however are the cattle that are kept.
The ranch has two authentic dual purpose cattle breeds: Sahiwal, which is a dual purpose variety of the Bos indicus breed of cattle native to Pakistan and a close relative to the water buffalo from the same country, and Fleckvieh, which is similarly a dual purpose variety of the Bos taurus cross breed from Germany.
However, the Sahiwals form the core of the ranch. El Karama’s proprietor Mike Nicholson says they settled on the breed because of their hardy nature; the ability to tolerate the dry conditions and having the ability to withstand numerous livestock pests and diseases, and the ability produce high quality and abundant meat and milk.
“We have 154 mature Sahiwal bulls and weaners, 37 mature Sahiwal and Fleckvieh cows of which 12 are milked, and 20 Friesian heifers which aren’t yet milkers,” says Mr Nicholson.
He notes that at maturity, most of the bulls weigh from 800kg to 1,000kg each, with their 12 milkers each producing an average of 17 litres of milk per day.
“At the end of every day, the ranch gets 190-210 litres of milk which we sell to five contracted buyers in wholesale amounts at Sh40 per litre which they in turn sell to the locals at Sh60 per litre,” says Christine Ngaru who is in charge of the dairy section, adding that they milk the cows at 7am in the morning and 5pm in the evening.
She says that the ranch’s dairy section has integrated automated mechanised milking technology hence easing the entire process, making it easy for the eight employees.
The entire ranch has 20 workers, all from the local community.
James Kariuki, one of the contracted wholesale buyers says the breed produces “thick” superior quality milk compared to other breeds hence its preferred by customers.
The consumers seem happy but it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
“Wildlife roaming the area tend to transmit diseases such as presenilin 1 (Ps-1), a ferocious strain of East Coast Fever (ECF) which comes from the buffalo, anaplasmosis and contagious abortion which results in brucellosis or meningitis if one consumes milk from the infected cow,” says Ms Ngaru.
The farm, however, strives to keep the wildlife away from the cattle to minimise the risk of diseases.