On December 4, 2018, John Njoroge experienced a day that many would envy.
He walked away with a remarkable Ksh2 million after selling four animals to two prominent clients at the Narok Agricultural Show.
The buyers were none other than former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who purchased a bull for Ksh1,150,000, and Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina, who acquired three heifers for Ksh850,000.
This significant event marked a high point in Njoroge’s journey as a dairy farmer and brought him into proximity with influential figures.
Njoroge’s dairy farm, nestled in Kananachi village, Kiminini Constituency, was once a thriving enterprise.
With over 1,000 liters of milk produced daily, his venture seemed to be on an upward trajectory.
However, three years after that remarkable sale and nearly a decade since he started the venture, Njoroge has decided to exit the dairy farming industry.
The reason? Dwindling returns from milk production.
The 46-year-old father of three cited high production costs versus the current milk prices in the market as the primary drivers behind his decision to abandon the once-lucrative venture.
“The cost of producing a litre of milk is Kh40, while the cost of making a kilogram of dairy meal is Ksh50. On average, a cow feeds between eight and 10 kg, when you add silage or hay, the amount gets to Sh800 which means a cow eats more than it produces,” he lamented.
Njoroge’s journey into dairy farming began modestly in 2012.
At the time, he was a sales attendant at a local petrol station.
With a humble investment of Ksh30,000, he bought a cow and a heifer from his sister, Joice Mbugua.
This initial step was intended to supplement his meager income.
Gradually, Njoroge increased his stock, and by the time he ventured into larger-scale dairy farming, he had 15 dairy cows under his care.
His farm in Trans Nzoia County, Kiminini Constituency, saw steady growth, and at its peak, he managed a herd of 100 dairy cows producing an average of 1,000 liters of milk per day.
This output was promising, given market prices ranging between Ksh40 and Ksh45 per liter.
Yet, the dairy industry’s fluctuating milk prices presented an ongoing challenge.
The market hit a record low, with milk prices plummeting to Ksh19 per liter between June 2019 and mid-2020.
Njoroge struggled to balance rising production costs with falling milk prices.
Feed expenses, a significant contributor to production costs, soared due to factors like the increased price of soya, a key dairy meal ingredient.
By 2021, Njoroge found himself in an untenable situation.
The cost of producing a liter of milk had climbed to Sh40, while producing a kilogram of dairy meal cost Sh50.
The escalating feed costs, combined with the depreciating exchange rate with neighboring countries, made dairy farming economically challenging.
The Covid-19 pandemic further compounded the situation, affecting market demand and adding to operational challenges.
Unable to sustain his dairy venture any longer, Njoroge made the difficult decision to shift gears.
A year ago, Njoroge found himself at a crossroads.
The soaring costs of production had become an insurmountable obstacle, prompting him to make a tough decision. He had envisioned selling his remaining herd within a month’s time, a stark response to the financial pressures he faced.
In a revealing insight, he disclosed that out of his monthly earnings of Ksh20,000, a substantial Ksh17,500 was being funneled into feeding expenses alone.
The impact of these mounting costs reverberated throughout his operations.
Once employing a workforce of around 10 individuals, each earning an average of Ksh10,000 per month, Njoroge was forced to downsize significantly.
He cut both the size of his livestock and the number of employees in half, leading to a drop in production to 500 liters a day.
As he stood at the precipice of change, Njoroge recognized that a transition was necessary.
He had his sights set on pig farming, a path he believed held more promising prospects for his agricultural future.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Njoroge remains resilient. He acquired pigs and intended to immerse himself fully in this new venture after disposing of his remaining dairy stock.