“MORE MILK LOWER COSTS”
The Farmer Extension Programme, or FEP is a flagship value-add service initiated and operated by Uplands Premium Dairies. Its objective is to avail dairy farmers with the latest information, training and technology that will impact the quantity and quality of their milk. From the company’s perspective, the goal is to produce milk at a minimum cost by increasing production and supply from existing and surrounding farmers.
When UPDF was set up in 2014, farmers in the greater Lari country, more so Kagwe (where we are based) had more or less given up on dairy farming. This was due to poor farming practices that saw them produce low quantities of milk and thus reap very little profits. Ultimately, they would begin to turn to other farming activities for income e.g tea farming.
As a business that was seeking to tap the vast dairy production potential of the area, UPDF needed to find a way to motivate and bring farmers back to the dairy sector. Early on, we realized we needed to focus on the farmers – not the milk. This formed the basis of the F.E Programme which has proved tremendously successful to date.
Methodology and Techniques
Training & Sensitization programmes
We reach out to farmers in large groups to sensitize and train them on the latest methods and techniques for improving milk quality and quantity of productions. These are usually in the form of seminars at town halls and public venues. It is conducted in a way so as to encourage a discourse and exchange of ideas, suggestions, results and feedback.
Providing feeds on check-off system
A key component of the programme is to provide dairy farmers with feeds on a credit basis. This credit is usually repaid through a check-off system in that as they begin supplying us with milk, we retain a bit of the money owed to cater for feeds provided. The same applies to other veterinary and farmer extension services.
SACCOs outreach system
As is well known, cooperative societies play a huge role in the progress of farming communities in Kenya. The dairy sector is no extension. Our FEP has tapped into the influential power of local farmer SACCOs to reach out to more farmers in the surrounding areas. Many farmers get loans from these societies to start or extend their dairy farming business. Many farmers have made it a requirement for applicant farmers to get FEP training before acquiring a loan.
The results of FEP have been overwhelmingly positive through the magic of word-to-mouth marketing within the farming community. We have received farmers from as far as Gatundu South at these seminars. Statistically, the lowest production from any farmer at this point is 35 litres a day. This is up from the average of 12 litres that the farmers would achieve pre-FEP.
It is worth mentioning that as much as other dairy companies conduct such programmes, none of them have dedicated an inhouse team and department to fully deal with it. Many merely outsource as it doesn’t constitute the company’s core activities. This alones sets UPDF apart from the rest.