Do you keep dairy animals at your home or shamba? You are not alone. Dairy farming is the single largest sub sector of agriculture in Kenya, contributing 14% of Agricultural GDP with an annual growth rate of 4.1% compared to 1.2% of Agriculture (IFAD 2006). Kenya’s dairy sector accounts for 6-8% of the country’s GDP (USAID/GoK 2009). It is a major activity in the livestock sector and an important source of livelihood to more than 1 million small scale farmers. About 54% of households with 1 acre or less keep cattle, translating to smallholder dairy farmers owning over 80% of the dairy cattle, producing over 56% of total milk.
Depending on the degree of intensification and agro-ecological zones, milk production was at a high of 4575 kilograms of milk per cow per year at around 2015. This was attributed to the availability of high quality feeds, differences in animal breeds and production systems which was influenced by agro-ecological zones (Muia et al 2011). The production per individual animal, however, was low as compared to the world’s best of 9000 litres per year (Technoserve 2008).
There is therefore potential for even higher production with good management and better feeding practices, since the genetic potential of Kenyan dairy cattle is far much higher than the milk production.
Good farm management and efficient production systems are essential to the growth of this illustrious industry. In this rapidly changing world, keeping up with technological advancements to integrate in the farm is key to higher quality and quantity of production, whichever way it is looked at. Your focus as a farmer should be on using the least amount of resources, in a smart strategic manner, to yield the highest returns from your farm, and your animals. Among other tools, the best investment, especially in a farm of a large herd, would be a milking machine.
But what is a milking machine?
A milking machine is a nearly automatic machine installation for milking cows. It is not a single unit, but rather an assembly of components designed to handle as many as 200 cows an hour. The system consists of the cluster (the assembly that is manually attached to the cow), a milk tube, a pulse tube and pulsator, a vacuum pump or blower, and perhaps a recorder jar or milk meter that measures yield. Together, the system allows milk to flow into a pipeline in preparation for shipping to a processing plant.
Is It A Worthwhile Investment?
Reduced Labor costs
Many developed countries have long abandoned the traditional hand-milking strategy and adapted the use of milking machines, and for good reason. It’s all in the numbers. Traditional milking methods require a lot of resources in terms of the labor to milk the cows, the time it takes to collectively milk all the animals, and not forgetting the ever-important factor of the quality of milk produced. Human is to error, so it is unavoidable that some contaminants may make their way into the milk if the animals are milked manually. Also, imagine having to manually milk a herd of 200 cows!
Reduced Milking Time
With these machines, you can milk all your animals and still have time on your hands for your lunch break, since they have proven to be 3 to 4 times faster than hand-milking. Sure, the initial cost of a machine may be not too friendly on your pockets, but simple math will show you that you end up saving so much more on the time you could have used as well as the money on the guys you could have paid – every other day – for the exact same work. As a matter of fact, using milking machines has proven to have an increase in the milk yield as well, so you end up getting more milk too.
High Milk Quality
High milk quality is also guaranteed when using milking machinery. When you hand-milk a cow, there are bits of hay, hair and sometimes even flecks of manure that land in your hard-earned milk bucket. Unless you have a clientele that prefers this palate of flavors in their milk, that batch will be pretty much gone to waste. When using a milk machine, the bucket is fully enclosed and sealed. There is no opportunity for contamination during the milking process. This keeps the milk fresh and clean.
Ease of Mind
Worried about how to operate the machinery? With a milk machine, there is a slight learning curve, yes, but it’s a pretty simple lesson. The uneasy feeling a farmer gets when having someone else milk is beyond nerve-racking. There are many possibilities that can go wrong with a untrained milker, like, not having enough arm strength to actually milk the cow, the cow won’t let her milk down, the cow kicked, it took too long and the milk sat for an inappropriate amount of time and of course, not completely emptying the bag, putting her at risk for infection. But with a milk machine, you know that once the machine is hooked up, your cow is going to get milked, correctly and quickly.
We understand that a lot of farmers may have a form of connection to their animals thus preferring hand-milking, but unless it is only one animal you have, and not a “milk factory” cow such as a Holstein, we would highly recommend you purchasing a milking machine. It will pay for itself in both time and money. While we thrive to do things simple on the homestead, saving time is always a top priority.
With MEDILINK you will be completely sorted out with the best-priced, highest quality milking machinery the industry has to offer, as well as installation of the machines in your farm, training on how to use the machinery, and free servicing within 6 months.
We also ensure that you carry with you a bottle of recommended liquid detergent & sterilizer “Bactergent” for cleaning your machine and ridding it of germs.
With a correctly specified, installed, operated and maintained milking plant you will be rewarded with a volume of milk according to your cows’ present ability and with a quality that meets the highest standards.