Kajiado farmers go for modern livestock breeds

By Kurgat Marindany

While local livestock farmers in Kajiado County do not keep sheep for financial gain, a few of them are now discovering wealth in the animals.
Previously, the red Maasai sheep were kept for food and traditional rituals but today the local farmers are discovering wealth in top modern breeds such as Dorper sheep.
Farmer Benjamin ole Sein, from Arroi Dorper Farm Ltd in Mashuuru Sub County, Kajiado East Constituency, has gone against old traditions of livestock raring. He now keeps sheep for cash and the wealth he is generating from them has made him ignore red Maasai sheep and humped local breeds of cattle.
His healthy, clean, fast-growing Dorpers stand out in the Sub County along with his Sahiwal cows he keeps in his 300 acre farm
Sein’s sheep are bigger than the indigenous Red Maasai sheep and more disease-resistant than the Merino.
One grown-up ram weighs up to 150 kg against the Red Maasai sheep which can weigh up to 35kg when fully grown.
Unlike other farmers who have embraced grade sheep raring by cross breeding local herds with Dorper rams, Sein imports his pure ewes and rams from South Africa.
“At Arroi Dorpers Farm Ltd, we started serious farming in 2001, we used to get our breeds from Rimpa Estate in Kiserian and Maasai Rural Training Centre in Isinya, later on I moved to Laikipa,” explained Sein.
With some 200 Dorpers in his farm, Sein says he makes good money with “little difficulties here and there.”
“Our main challenge has been bad rain patterns across the county, which has negatively affected the farmers. Farmers have been having nightmares during drought. Lately, most farmers have dug out their own dams and drilled boreholes,” noted Sein.
He says the kind of Dorper sheep he keeps in his farm are hardy and can survive with little grass and water.
“Another problem livestock farmers face is the outbreak of livestock diseases due to poor surveillance by the Government. There are no Government livestock extension officers to help farmers in disease control. We do it the hard way as individuals,” said Sein.
He sells the rams in his farm at Sh40, 000 while the Sahiwal bulls go for between Sh100, 000 and Sh200, 000.
Sein has hired the services of a Dorper expert who happens to be his cousin – Jeremiah Sein.
Jeremiah was trained by a South African Dorper Judge to be an inspector, and he is also a member of Dorper Society of Kenya like his cousin, Sein.
He says the Dorper is a South African mutton breed developed in the 1930’s from the Dorset Horn and Black-headed Persian.
“The breed was developed for the arid extensive regions of South Africa. One of the most fertile of Dorper sheep breed is the hornless with good body length and a short light covering of hair and wool,” Jeremiah notes.
He says the breed shows exceptional adaptability, hardiness, reproduction rates and growth reaching 36 kg (980 lbs) at three and a half to four months as well as good mothering abilities.
The Dorper breed was developed through the crossing of the blackhead Persian ewe with the Dorset Horn and this resulted in the birth of some white Dorper lambs.
The difference in color is, therefore, merely a matter of preference for each breeder.
Black-headed breeders constitute about 85 per cent of the members of the Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society of South Africa.
The Dorper breed is now numerically the second largest breed in South Africa and has spread to many countries throughout the world.

Mutton Production:

The Dorper is primarily a mutton sheep and meets these requirements exceptionally well. The Dorper has a long breeding season which is not seasonally limited.
A good manager can organize his programme so that lambs can be dropped at any time of the year, stated Jeremiah.
The breed is fertile and the percentage of ewes that become pregnant in one mating season is relatively high.
Lambing intervals can be eight months. Consequently under good forage conditions and with good management the Dorper ewe can lamb three times in two years.
A lambing of 150 per cent can be reached under good conditions while in exceptional cases even 180 per cent can be attained. Under extensive conditions a lambing of 100 per cent can be expected.
In a flock containing a large number of maiden ewes, the lambing percentage will be in the region of 120 per cent as these ewes usually drop single lambs.
If it is assumed that the lambing percentage is 150 per cent and that management is at such a level that ewes can lamb about three times in two years.
A Dorper ewe will produce 2.25 lambs on an annual basis.
The Dorper lamb grows rapidly and attains a high weaning weight which again is an economically important characteristic in the breeding of mutton sheep.
A live weight of about 36 kg can be reached by the Dorper lamb at the age of 3 to 4 months.

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