By Abdi Hussein
The Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) has reviewed its regulations to buy cows from drought hit herders across the country under the government’s meat off take programme.
Normally, the Athi River based government meat processor buys bulls and heifers from farmers at a ratio of 2:8 translating to eight bulls against two heifers contributing to 80 percent of the total animals acceptable at the meat processor.
KMC managing director Brigadier James Gathaga said the management of the commission has lifted the Bull-Heifer ratio regulation to allow herders sell their entire stock to KMC. The lift will only apply under the off take programme.
“The 2:8 regulation has been in force for many years considering the KMC plant is also in business to make profits. A bull has high yields of up to 50 percent compared to a heifer which has 35 percent yields. Under the off take programme, we have lifted the regulation to cushion more farmers,” said Gathaga.
He encouraged the herders to seize the opportunity and sell their livestock at considerable prices to KMC.
“We have a responsibility to cushion our herders against the drought. No farmer should let his animals succumb to drought,” He added.
Recently, herders from the 23 drought hit counties across the country including Kajiado County urged the KMC management to lift the Bull-Heifer ratio regulation.
‘KMC management should allow our people to sell all their livestock without discrimination so that they are cushioned against the looming drought. Most of these people’s livelihood depends on livestock which have been hit hard by drought,’ said former Kajiado senator Peter Mositet during a visit to the drought hit parts of Kajiado West Sub County.
He urged herders to stop clinging to their herd of cattle and face the wrath of drought and to instead sell their cattle to KMC and other buyers and restock when there will be plenty of pasture after the much anticipated rains.
KMC has established livestock buying points in the affected areas. Ideally, the animals are slaughtered and the meat supplied to the affected families as relief food.
The farmers get their pay cheques within 72 hours after making a supply subjected to ‘live weight’ as a way of enticing more farmers to supply their animals to the revamped KMC under the military control.
Some parts of the vast Kajiado county with an annual turnover of Shs 3.2 billion livestock trade have not received enough rains in the last two years diminishing the much-needed pasture. Erratic climate changes have also affected herders.
Dozens of herders have since relocated their animals to neighbouring counties in search of pasture. A section of locals have been illegally grazing their herd in national parks with some herders near the porous Kenya-Tanzania borderline crossing to the Tanzania side.
Many animals have to be supported to be on their feet to the chagrin of the herders. It’s a tearful ordeal for these herders to see their livestock succumb to drought.
In both Namanga and Ilbisil livestock markets, the prices of mature healthy animals have increased from Shs 60,000 to Shs 80,000 in three months due to the sharp supply decline. However, skinny mature cows fetch as little as Shs 2,000 to the chagrin of the herders.
Prices of mature goats and sheep range from Shs 6,000- Shs 7,000 considering their adaptability.
Over the last five years, more than 500,000 cows have succumbed to drought that hit the region. Kajiado Central, Kajiado West and parts of Kajiado East sub counties bear the major brunt of the drought.