Dairy farmers milk higher yields
The breed named Fleckvieh was introduced in Kenya four years ago and has since been on trial in various parts of the country.
Bernard Munga, a dairy farmer in Gachie village in Kiambu is among beneficiaries of the breed in a project run by Fleckvieh Genetics Ltd. Mr Munga, 82, was introduced to the new breed three years ago. He now has five of the cows and says he does not regret.
“I cannot compare the new breed with the cattle we rear. The breed has high immunity against diseases, produces high quality milk, matures faster and eats less,” Munga said.
At his farm, Munga crossbred Friesian and Holstein to end up with two bulls, which at two years old are weighing about 300kg each.
He crossbred the second time and got a heifer, which is producing 25 litres to 30 litres of milk a day compared to ordinary breeds, which produce between 15 litres to 20 litres. Munga, a small-scale farmer, says he started rearing cows in 1972. He is now planning to switch entirely to the new breeds.
“Veterinary and feeds costs are low, leading to better earnings,” he said. In Kiambu, there are over 1,000 farmers, who are rearing Fleckvieh. Dr Anthony Gichohi, a veterinary and general manager at Fleckvieh Genetic, said Fleckvieh do well in all climatic conditions and can be crossbred with any breed. Gichohi said they have crossbred with dairy and beef cattle in Mount Kenya, Rift Valley, Coast and Western regions and the animals are doing well.
He said he had ten years experience with the breed abroad and described them as strong, robust cows with good legs and resistant to diseases.
“The animal will always retain its muscles even when you are milking it unlike other breeds, which grow weaker. The breed can give you an average of eight calves in its lifetime. At the end, you sell it for beef because it will still be strong,” Gichohi said.
Fleckvieh bulls, he said, are masculine with good general muscle development particularly on forearm, shoulder, eye and hindquarter. They have no excess fat particularly around the tail and head. Under intensive fattening conditions, young bulls reach daily gains of more than 1.5kg with a slaughter age of 16 to 18 months and can reach a slaughter weight of between 350kg and 450kg.
According to Gerard Besseling, managing director at Fleckvieh Genetic, they have produced 25,000 breeds sold across the country.
He said they flew in two Fleckvieh breeds from South Africa, which they have used to produce semen for trials with Brookside Dairies as well as small-scale farmers.
Fleckvieh butter/fat content in milk is higher than that of either Ayrshire or Friesian breeds.
Across various Fleckvieh crossbreeds, the lowest butter/fat content is 3.97 per cent, whereas that of pure Ayrshire’s is 3.8 per cent and Friesian’s is 3.5 per cent.
Most farmers, he said, were hesitant to pick up the breed, because it is new.
The breed is mainly reared in Holland. In Africa, it is in South Africa and Namibia. Mr Gerard said after introducing it in Kenya, they have extended to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
“We have extensions services all over Kenya. We have done trials in ranches in Laikipia and Coast. The semen is not expensive like most farmers think,” he said.
To have the breed, a farmer needs to buy semen, which costs between Sh800 and Sh4,000 and inseminate his breed cattle.
The organisation, he said, has been working together with farmers’ cooperative societies to penetrate rural areas.
They have also partnered with NGOs, which are helping farmers financially.