Monthly Archives: July 2015

Josphat Sirma: how I make Sh. 800,000 to Sh. 1 million per month from dairy farming


A sweet smell of pineapple hits my nostrils as I approach Josphat Sirma’s farm in Nkoroi, Rongai on the outskirts of Nairobi. One may think that the farmer grows the fruits, but Sirma keeps dairy cows — over 50 of them — on his three-quarter acres. He mainly feeds them the pineapple peels which he sources from a juice processing factory in Thika. He supplements the feeds with hay and lucerne that he buys from Naivasha.

“A kilo of hay costs Sh25, yet it has only six per cent protein,” says the engineer. “The same amount of pineapple waste has 13 per cent of protein and costs Sh3,” adds the farmer who has subdivided his land to host his three-bedroom bungalow, a servants quarters and a small playground for his four children.


Before starting to feed his animals pineapple waste, the Kenya Pipeline Company engineer was feeding his cows on maize germ, napier grass and hay. “They were then producing an average of 20 litres of milk in a day but this has doubled,” says Sirma, who was reluctant to disclose how many litres of milk each of his 44 lactating cows produce currently.

However, he does not offer his animals the pineapple waste and the supplements with other feeds blindly. “I regularly take samples of the feeds, including the pineapples, to a laboratory in Nairobi for testing so that I can know how to feed the animals. This enables me to know what they need and in what quantity,” says Sirma, whose initial investment was Sh30,000. The money went to construction of a zero-grazing unit, with the investment now growing to over Sh1 million currently.

“I got my first five heifers in 2005 from my rural farm in Kampi ya Moto in Nakuru after improving with pure Friesian semen.”

He takes his young bulls to his Kampi ya Moto farm as for him, urban farming is exclusively for milk production. At any given time, Sirma sells between 600 to 800 litres of milk every day mainly to a Nairobi-based ice-cream processing company at an average cost of Sh45 per litre. This means that the farmer is able to rake in a minimum of Sh. 810,000 per month and a maximum of Sh. 1 million from selling his milk. He serves his cows with semen which he, in partnership with two other farmers, imports from the US. But why does he import the semen while he can buy it locally?

“It is cheaper to import semen than buy locally. It costs me Sh1,600 per straw of imported sexed semen while buying locally one would spend from Sh4,000 to Sh6,000. As a farmer, one must know ways to reduce the cost of production, besides, the imported semen is of high quality,” says the farmer, adding that his cows calve at 12 months, down from 14, and produce up to 40 litres a day at first lactation.

But it is not only semen that he imports with his friends. The farmers saved millions of shillings importing a secondhand milk cooler with a capacity of 2,150 litres from Holland last year at a cost of Sh300,000. The equipment would have cost them Sh2.5m.

“I installed the cooler myself on my farm using my skills in engineering further saving costs. I normally store my milk at the cooler before delivering to the company,” says Sirma, who has a machine that milks 10 cows at once.

He has eight employees, three cleaners who ensure that the unit remains tidy, a milker and a supervisor who doubles up as a vet, two drivers and a relief employee. To manage waste from his dairy unit, Sirma has installed a biogas system from where he produces energy that he uses at home and on the farm. He offers bio-slurry free of charge to crop farmers in the area as long as they pick it from his farm.

Simon Mburu, a livestock officer based in Molo, says pineapple waste is rich in sucrose, fructose, glucose and fibre. The sugars are high in energy while the fibre helps in digestion.

“Cows fed on pineapples will not necessarily need other sources of carbohydrates such as maize germ and wheat as the concentration in pineapple is enough.”


However, this will depend on how much pineapple waste a farmer feeds his cows. “Pineapple waste is cheap, thus, farmers should feed their dairy cows to their satisfaction,” says Mburu, adding that the waste is easily digestible than other carbohydrates. Its fibre, he notes, hastens digestion of other feeds and nutrients such as proteins.The faster rate of digestion increases milk production as well as saves costs as the waste is cheaper compared to maize germ, wheat or barley.

“Cow feeds need to have 70 per cent energy, 30 per cent protein and the mineral content should be about 1 per cent.” Though it is not as effective as pineapple waste, Mburu says sugarcane waste is also good for ruminants.

“Sugarcane waste is rich in crude fibre and energy but it takes longer to digest compared to pineapple waste.”


Meet and Learn from one of World’s top Dairy Farmers:


Meet Daniel Hojman of Afimilk, a company specialising in dairy management in the Jordan Valley, Israel, popularly known as Kibbutz Afikim and famed as one of the best-run dairy farms in the world.

It is farms such as that of Hojman’s that make you understand why Israel is considered one of the world’s dairy powerhouses.Ere superb dairy farming technology and advancement ensure the cow’s welfare is given top priority.

This has made the Jewish state, whose land is 60 per cent desert, to remain a star with an average Israeli cow producing 12,000 litres of milk a year. By comparison, the US produces 9,000 litres a year according to statistics from International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR).

Afimilk won the dairy herd management innovation award at the World Dairy Exhibition in Madison, Wisconsin in US last October. And during the visit we learnt why. After Hojman opens the imposing barn, we are met by 1,100 Holstein cows, 950 of which are currently lactating.

The 160-metre long by 60-metre wide barn is specially made for the hot Middle East climatic conditions and is cleaned after every four hours to remove corrosive mixture of urine and dung. “We get between 40 and 42kg of milk per cow. They are milked at least three times a day,” he proudly informs us. The farm employs a workforce of 18 permanent staff who include the overall farm manager, two feeding managers, health and fertility manager and nursery manager while the rest are milkers. The farm has two bulk tanks of 30,000 litres each where the milk is stored.

“The good thing with Israel dairy technology is that it keeps on improving and I bet by April when the 19th International Agricultural Exhibition and Conference will be held in Tel Aviv, the average milk production will have shot to 45 litres per cow,” Hojman informs us.

This year’s theme is “Face global food production shortages with innovations in post-harvest quality and safety practices”. The exhibition that is hosted after every two years will take place in Tel Aviv from April 28 to 30 and will bring together farmers from around the world.


So, how has Afimilk managed to be the world top producer of milk, clinching the award at the US exhibition since 2003?  “Unlike other dairy farms in the world, here the rights of a cow are respected just like the way we respect human rights and this has been the secret of success of the Israeli dairy industry,” says the 64-year-old professional farmer.

“The cow’s freedom from thirst, hunger or poor nutrition, discomfort, pain, diseases, injuries and freedom to express normal pattern of behaviour is respected.”

Momentarily, our interview is cut short as there is commotion at the milking parlour as some of the cows make attempts to free themselves from the milking machine. We are requested to remain silent as Hojman and the team calm the agitated cows under a relaxation shed for about 15 minutes. “If we continue milking them under a stressed state, we won’t meet our target in the next session,” he explains after resuming the interview.

Twenty agricultural journalists from Russia, China, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Thailand, Brazil, Italy and Kenya had descended on this 13-ha farm by the Mediterranean Sea to learn how Israel manages to remain at the top of farming despite its desert conditions.

One of the secrets, we learn, is the adherence to the total mixed ration. A lactating cow’s total mixed ration contains 33 per cent to 35 per cent of forages, mainly wheat silage. The rest of the concentrates is (grain and meals and corn). Each cow eats an equal ration of 18kg.

The media tour took place between January 17 and 21, and was organised by the Israeli government.The farm is highly computerised with a cooling system where a dripping shower from the roof top of the barn sprinkles on the cows during summer.

A tag containing an “activity metre” is used to identify the cow and transmit the information to the computer regarding the animal’s general activity, detecting the sick ones as well as those in oestrus. Other recently developed tags have the ability to detect daily rumination duration and lying duration, supplying information about a cow’s nutritional and welfare status.


The high hygiene standards ensure milk is subjected to laboratory and quality testing and it is mandatory for the staff to wear protective gear. Inside the farm, there are hospital pens where cows which are detected to be unwell are isolated and treated. The farm sells a litre of milk to the processors at $0.54 (Sh50), and with 950 lactating cows producing an average of 42 litres (42kg) of milk per cow, the farmers rake in an equivalent of Sh2 million a day. Part of the money is shared amongst the 300 members of the Kibbutz who own means of production while the rest is invested in machinery and new equipment.

By farming under groups, rather than independently, Israeli farmers are able to exploit modern technology and enjoy the economies of scale.

Members of the Kibbutz meet three times a year to review the business and approve budgets. The annual percentage of fat and protein is 3.66 per cent and 3.24 per cent respectively. The annual fat and protein yield per cow in Israel is the highest in the world (over 765kg). The milking efficiency is also improved by the computerised system and this, according to Hojman, leads to better udder health, quality milk and less strain from over milking and this ultimately reduces the stress on the cows.

“Reducing a cow’s stress is critical because the condition drops the ability to fight diseases, damages body functions, depresses milk production and can interfere with reproduction.”

The animals are weighed before and after milking and this helps in determining the correct food rations and whether the animals are underfeeding or overfeeding. “Due to this neat and close monitoring of our animals, it is possible to sell some of them and cull after between seven and eight lactations,” says Hojman.


Earn Ksh. 800,000 from one acre of Onions in 3 months


When you want to cook Managu what do you use? Onions. When you want to cook meat, what do you use? Onions! Nearly every meal of the average Kenyan has to have onions as part of the ingredients.

This tells you something about the market out there. There is a high demand for onions! Here is how you can tap into that demand and make a profit from it.

In 3 months an acre of Hybrid bulb onions will give you an income of Ksh 800,000. After 3 months of transplanting the onions it can produce a yield of 20,000 Kgs bulbs.

1 Kg of Onions at market price goes @ Ksh 40 i.e 20,000 Kgs × 40 Shillings = Ksh 800,000 minus average cost of production which is Ksh150, 000 per Acre = Ksh 650, 000 Net income (Cool stuff right?).

High yielding varieties in Kenya today include, Jambar F1, Red Pinoy F1, Red Comet F1, Red passion F1.

How to Plant:

To get the best results with onions you need to start them in a Nusery. Here is how to do this;

  • Make a raised nursery bed 1 metre wide and any desired length.
  • Apply well decomposed manure at a rate of 15kg per square metre.
  • Mix and Apply DAP fertilizer at a rate of 20 grams per metre square
  • Make shallow furrows 15 cm apart. Mix the seeds with dry ash, sand or soil at a ratio of 1:3 to help spread the small seeds.
  • Plant the seeds and cover lightly with soil and apply mulches ( Grass or Polythene cover spread over the soil on the nursery bed)
  • After planting irrigate the nursery bed liberally for the first 10 days and continue watering regularly.
  • Germination of seeds will take about 7-10 days after which the mulches are removed and used to make a shade above the tender plants which have not fully developed.
  • Transplanting of the seedlings takes place 6 weeks after planting seeds in the nursery. Transplant when the seedlings have pencil thick base and a height of approximately 15cm.
  • Seedlings should have 3 to 5 well formed leaves at transplanting time. Two weeks before transplanting reduce the shade to improve seedling survival rate in the field.
  • It takes about 4 months for onions to mature

Onion farming in Kenya can be done in greenhouses and open gardens.
Before you begin onion farming you need to check and confirm Market availability, Price of the onions and the variety of the plant.