Life set to be good as goat breeders in Kirinyaga County eye export market

A proud Peter Maina, owner of the goat farm, feeding his livestock at his farm in Kirinyaga County. [Photo: Fred Deya]
A proud Peter Maina, owner of the goat farm, feeding his livestock at his farm in Kirinyaga County. [Photo: Fred Deya]

Goat farming has never been more lucrative than it is in Kirinyaga County right now.

A few kilometres off the Sagana-Meru highway in Rukanga Sub-location, a model farmer is literarily laughing all the way to the bank thanks to his 34 pedigree goats.

Peter Maina’s farm is well maintained and has very high health standards required by the authorities for anyone who is keen on exporting meat abroad.

The small farm’s compound is enclosed in a wooden structure for the safety and good health of the pedigree goats that are in high demand both locally and internationally.

According to Maina, his farm is a temporary home for the healthy exotic goats waiting to be exported to Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, where they fetch a good price.

This is one area that the Government is promoting to boost the livestock sector and also earn foreign exchange.

“It is a year now since I started rearing the upgraded goats and now I count myself lucky because my goats have been approved for export,” Maina says proudly.

Maina’s farm has been selected as one of the holding grounds for upgraded goats in Kirinyaga County.

A herder at Maina’s farm, Joseph Machira, says that the move to rear upgraded goats is paying dividends and is a model for livestock farmers in the County and beyond.

Says Machira: “I also have my own goats in this farm and I can say my life has changed. I stared with two goats then advanced to 10 upgraded goats. So far, I have sold seven of them.”

One of the pedigree she-goats feeds on chopped shrub at the well maintained livestock farm off the Sagana-Meru highway in Kirinyaga County, ready for the export market. [Photo: Fred Deya]

One of the pedigree she-goats feeds on chopped shrub at the well maintained livestock farm off the Sagana-Meru highway in Kirinyaga County, ready for the export market. [Photo: Fred Deya]

A four-month old goat sells at KSh10,000. One that is a year old and above can be sold at KSh25,000 in the foreign market.

According to Maina, rearing pedigree goats was his best choice because of the good income he has been able to get since he started the business.

Unlike cattle, Maina notes, the goats need a small space to be reared.

According to Machira, six goats require the space that would under normal circumstances be occupied by a single cow. This is encouraging because a small space can be used to rear many goats with little management cost.

Kenya has been known as a country that exports tea, coffee and horticultural products. However, it will now advance to shipping of livestock, a goats to be specific, following a collaboration of Kenya Livestock Association and Dairy Goats Association of Kenya who have come together to boost the sector.

Smallholder farmers can now rear their livestock for domestic and international market.

Julius Kangee, chairman of Dairy Goats Association of Kenya, said that upgraded goats ranging from 10 months to two years are usually healthy and ready to be exported.

“We started this initiative in 1992 after getting the idea from Germany. We bought barks then started goat-upgrading. The goats are kept by farmers in a group of 10,” explains Kangee.

Kangee was speaking during a tour of the goat holding ground in Rukanga sub-location, Kirinyaga County. Kangee added that the rearing of such goat breed is encouraging as it had transformed the lives of the livestock farmers.

“The pedigree goats rearing in this area started on a high note and it goes on well with us. We were contracted by East Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) to export the hybrid goats. We then did goats selections,” says Joseph Gachingiri, Kirinyaga County Director of Agriculture.

However, according to Gachingiri it was not that easy. At first they had to take blood samples from all goats to test for five diseases at a veterinary lab in Karatina, within the neighbouring Nyeri County.

The tests were successful on all the pedigree goats.

The 34 female goats were confirmed as healthy and waiting to be airlifted to Djibouti.

Meanwhile, Thierry Ntambwiriza, an official with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), lauded the Kenya-Djibouti trade partnership. He said: “The export of dairy goats to Djibouti is not only economical, but will boost the people’s health.”

According to Ntambwiriza, export of upgraded dairy goats will motivate smallholder farmers and address issues of climate change.

Ntambwiriza noted that the initiative targets pastoralists’ who want to switch to become agro-pastoralists.

“The dairy goats have the capacity to produce enough milk for domestic consumption and sale, thus able to help in combating food insecurity,” said Ntambwiriza.

According to Ntambwiriza, Kenya has become the choice country to export the upgraded goats due to its verified improved breeds.

Ntambwiriza commended Kenya for its goat management efforts that could create demand and transfer of technology.

Philip Kiriro, President East Africa Farmers Federation said there is high demand for pedigree goats due to farmers’ innovation. He urged local farmers to encourage commercialization of agriculture.

“Small scale farmers in this area and the country have the ability to exploit the international markets,” observed Kiriro.

About 75 per cent of pedigree goats have the capacity of twining. Each goat can produce a minimum of 1.5 litres of milk depending on animal husbandry. Zero-grazing is recommended for health purposes and goats should not be exposed to a lot of heat to avoid stress.  “A pedigree male goat matures up to four years and can weigh about 100 kilogrammes while a female goat weighs 70 kilogrammes,” explains Kangee.

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