From hawking second-hand clothes in Nakuru to a to top dairy farmer – Success story of Monica Wambui
All I did was ask to be shown where “Wang’ombe” (the one who rears cows) lives, for that is her nickname.
The 43-year-old is checking on her lucerne and then walks to where her three employees are chopping napier grass, gives a few instructions and then comes to welcome me.
Wambui has 45 dairy cows of Friesian and Ayrshire breeds, 15 from which she gets an average of 300 litres a day.
The highest producer gives 40 litres of milk a day while the lowest is 15.
She sells the milk at Sh38 a litre, Sh2 lower than a month ago.
“One of my biggest problem is the fluctuating prices, which range from Sh30 to Sh42 a litre. Currently, the rains have led to a surplus pushing down prices,” says Wambui.
Her passion for dairy farming, is evident despite the challenges. It has been a long journey for Wambui who started as a second-hand clothes seller.
After completing her secondary school in 1990 at Karima Girls in Nyandarua, the young girl hoped to be a teacher.
But her parents could not raise college fees. She travelled to Nakuru in search of greener pasture, and ended up hawking second-hand clothes for a living for about 13 years, earning about Sh11,000 a month.
“The job put just enough on my table and I loved it but we were constantly harassed by Municipal Council askaris. It became untenable.”
In a bid to escape the harassment, Wambui in 2005 used her savings of about Sh50,000 and Sh900,000 her elder brother lent her to buy three acres of land and four indigenous cows.
Over the years, she has kept on improving the breeds, ending up with some pure breed animals. Besides the milk, which earns her about Sh10,000 a day, she sells in-calf heifers at an average of Sh150,000 each. In a good year, she sells about four in-calf heifers and five bull-calves. The bull-calves, which she sells at between two and three months, fetch up to Sh15,000 each.
She has learned the art and science of dairy farming by visiting other farms.
She feeds her dairy cows thrice a day on maize and millet silage in the morning, fresh napier grass and hay for lunch and lucerne and silage for dinner.
She also feeds them on a mixture of maize bran and maize germ. Each heifer gets 2kg a day.
She keeps them, and all her cattle in zero-grazing units to reduce diseases, and sprays them every two weeks to keep parasites at bay.
She has learnt that music helps cows to relax and reduces stress, and she plays them different tunes.
Dr John Githui, a veterinary officer in Nakuru with the Ministry of Agriculture says people aspiring to be dairy farmers can start with indigenous cattle and improve the breeds.
“To get pure breeds, which offer more, all you need is to have quality pure breed semen and keep in touch with qualified livestock officers for advice.”
He advises farmers to observe hygiene to keeps off diseases such as mastitis.
By RACHEL KIBUI #SeedsOfGold