farmers
farmers

A heap of dry grass chopped into tiny pieces stood on one side of the machine and on the other, a lanky man dressed in a blue overcoat on the farm in Kajiado, south of Nairobi, Kenya, fed the fast-rotating gadget with the hay.

The worker later stopped the machine whose parts include a mortar, a blade and a frame and collected the chopped feeds and placed them on a wheelbarrow to be ferried to the dairy cows.

Business24

The machine, known as chaff-cutter, is one of the common equipment on most zero-grazing dairy farms in Kenya as farmers mechanize their activities.

Others are milking machines, forage harvesters and choppers, silage packing machines, maize millers, planters and different equipment to help in adding value to produce.

They include juice mixers, peanut butter making machines, juice extractors, maize hullers and winnowers.

The machines are sourced mainly from India and China, with big farmers importing directly while smaller farmers get them from various dealers across the east African nation.

“I bought my chaff-cutter from an agro-dealer in Nairobi but it is made in India. It is the third year I am using it and so far, so good,” farmer Joseph Kingoi, who is based in Kitengela on the south of Nairobi, said on Tuesday.

The chaff-cutters go from 15,000 shillings (about 145 U.S. dollars) to 700 dollars depending on the make and size, according to him.

Kingoi has the 145 dollars machine that he uses to make feeds for his seven dairy cows. “I use the machine to chop hay, which I give the animals directly and when making silage where I chop fresh maize plants,” he said.

Initially, Kingoi had employed three workers, one whose work was mainly to prepare animal feeds, including by chopping them into tiny pieces using a machete.

“The chaff-cutter has saved me production costs because the two workers now share the job and use the machine to chop feeds making work easier,” said Kingoi.

Most Kenyan farmers are mechanizing their farms because adoption of zero-grazing has enabled them to keep many cows, in particular hybrid ones, on smaller spaces.

“A majority of small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya have two to 10 dairy cows, which is a sizeable herd that demands use of gadgets like chaff-cutters and milking machines,” said Fred Odour, a livestock specialist at Growth Point agro-consultancy.

He noted that manual milking for cows that produce at least 10 liters of per day is ineffective since milking machine help to stimulate the animal to offer more.

“Kenyan farmers now have dozens of options when it comes to farm machineries. They can get those from India or China or they have an option of buying those fabricated locally by welders, which, however, may come with operational challenges. It costs some 3,000 dollars to buy an automatic milking machine that can serve 10 animals,” he said.

However, even as more Kenyan farmers automate activities, data from the ministry of industrialization shows that only 30 percent of the east African nation’s small and large-scale farmers are mechanized.

“There are huge opportunities for agricultural mechanization in Kenya due to low level of automation, which brings huge market for machinery enterprises,” the ministry says in a brief, adding that Kenya is working on agriculture mechanization policy.

According to the ministry, Chinese-made agricultural machinery and products have great advantages due to their pricing and quality, with farmers being able to access tractors for as low as 3,000 dollars. Enditem

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