How to Build a Profitable Dairy Farming Business in Kenya

ByElijah Ludenyi

Jan 10, 2023
Dairy farming in kenya

Last updated on March 2nd, 2024 at 06:02 pm

Article focuses on dairy farming business in Kenya

So you want to start a dairy farm in Kenya and make some good money from it, huh?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Kenya has the perfect climate and resources for a thriving dairy industry.

As the population grows, the demand for milk and other dairy products is skyrocketing. If you do it right, a dairy farm in Kenya can be extremely profitable.

But it’s not as simple as just buying some cows and waiting for the milk to flow. There are many factors to consider to build a successful, money-making dairy farming business in Kenya.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started, find the right location, choose the best cows, set up your farm properly, and market your dairy products for maximum profit.

By the end, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a dairy farming tycoon in Kenya

Why Dairy Farming in Kenya Is So Lucrative

Kenya is the perfect place for a profitable dairy farm. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Growing demand. Kenya’s population is expanding rapidly, and the demand for dairy products is growing with it. There’s a huge market for fresh milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy goods.
  • Year-round grazing. Kenya’s climate allows for year-round grazing, so your cows will have access to fresh grass and you won’t have to pay as much for supplemental feed. This significantly lowers costs and increases profits.
  • Government support. The Kenyan government actively supports dairy farmers through research, subsidies, and initiatives like the Kenya Dairy Board. They want to see the dairy industry grow, so policies and regulations generally favor farmers.
  • Low cost of living. The cost of living in Kenya is relatively low, especially for housing and labor. This means your major expenses like facilities, equipment, and staff will be more affordable, allowing you to keep more of the profits.

If you’re looking for a rewarding business opportunity, dairy farming in Kenya is worth considering.

Do some research on breeds that thrive in the climate, learn best practices for care and feeding, find a reliable buyer for your milk like a processor or cooperative, and make a solid business plan.

With hard work and perseverance, you can build a profitable dairy farm in a country eager to support its growth.

How to Start a Dairy Farming in Kenya

  • Step 1: Research and Planning
  • Step 2: Choose the Right Cattle Breed
  • Step 3: Prepare Proper Housing
  • Step 4: Focus on Nutrition
  • Step 5. Implement Health Management
  • Step 6. Proper Milking Techniques
  • Step 7. Milk Storage and Handling
  • Step 8. Marketing and Distribution
  • Step 9. Record Keeping
  • Step 10. Continuous Learning and Adaptation

So, you want to start a dairy farm in Kenya? Great idea. Dairy farming in Kenya can be very profitable if done right.

Here are some steps to get you started:

1. Research and Planning

Before you dive into dairy farming, conduct thorough research to understand the market demand, local regulations, and potential challenges. Create a detailed dairy farm business plan outlining your goals, budget, and timeline. Assess factors such as land availability, water supply, and infrastructure to ensure a smooth start.

2. Choose the Right Cattle Breed

Selecting the appropriate cattle breed is crucial for your dairy farm’s success. In Kenya, popular breeds include Holstein-Friesian, Ayrshire, and Guernsey. Consider factors like milk yield, adaptability to local conditions, and disease resistance when choosing the breed that aligns with your goals.

3. Prepare Proper Housing

Construct comfortable and hygienic housing for your cattle. Adequate ventilation, proper drainage, and comfortable resting areas are essential to keep your animals healthy and productive. Ensure that the housing design considers the Kenyan climate and provides protection from extreme weather conditions.

4. Focus on Nutrition

High-quality nutrition is the key to high milk production. Develop a balanced feeding regimen that includes a mix of roughages, concentrates, minerals, and vitamins. Partner with a veterinarian or livestock nutritionist to formulate a diet tailored to your cattle’s needs.

5. Implement Health Management

Maintaining your cattle’s health is non-negotiable. Regular vaccinations, deworming, and preventive healthcare measures should be an integral part of your dairy farming plan. Build a strong relationship with a local veterinarian who can offer guidance on disease control and management.

6. Proper Milking Techniques

Implementing proper milking techniques is crucial for both milk quality and cow comfort. Invest in modern milking equipment that ensures cleanliness and efficiency. Train your staff on milking procedures and hygiene practices to prevent contamination and ensure high-quality milk production.

7. Milk Storage and Handling

Establish a proper milk storage and handling system to maintain milk quality. Rapid cooling and storage in clean, well-maintained tanks are essential to prevent bacterial growth. Follow strict hygiene practices to meet health and safety standards.

8. Marketing and Distribution

Develop a marketing strategy to effectively distribute your dairy products. Build relationships with local retailers, processors, and cooperatives. Embrace technology by considering online platforms and social media to reach a broader customer base.

Improving Market Access for Dairy Farmers

In western Kenya, a significant portion of smallholders engages in dairy farming, with around 70 percent of milk production relying on traditional methods.

However, high production costs are met with low productivity and meager incomes.

To address this, Welthungerhilfe is actively assisting over 2,500 dairy farmers in enhancing the quality and quantity of their output and facilitating improved market access through cooperatives.

These efforts encompass comprehensive training programs that impart practical knowledge alongside marketing and business management skills.

A special emphasis is placed on introducing women and young individuals to this profession, thereby enriching the region’s nutritional landscape.

Cooperatives for Collective Security

The project in western Kenya extends a lifeline, especially to women and young people, by offering them something they would scarcely find elsewhere: knowledge, a stake in progress, and avenues for earning a livelihood.

Simultaneously, it opens new horizons for others involved in milk production.

Ongoing training, support in milk processing, and lucrative marketing channels render their small farms more profitable.

With the newfound resources, they can invest in improved dairy cattle breeds and essential equipment like churns, refrigerators, and milk quality assessment tools.

These financial gains also enable them to cover family expenses, including their children’s education. The cooperative model for marketing plays a pivotal role in this transformation, fostering mutual support among members.

Storage facilities for animal feed and efficient rainwater utilization ease the hardships during extended dry spells, offering the people of Vihiga both security and hope.

The milk project is a collaborative effort between Welthungerhilfe and the Vihiga Dairy Farmers Cooperative, which was established in 1989 and operates across all five sub-counties of Vihiga.

Welthungerhilfe has a longstanding history of supporting local partner organizations in Kenya, with project areas primarily situated in regions like Kajiado, Makueni, Kitui, Tana River, Marsabit, and Turkana, which are frequently plagued by drought.

In 2015, Welthungerhilfe extended its reach to Siaya, Kakamega, Bungoma, and Vihiga counties, furthering its mission to combat hunger and uplift communities.

9. Record Keeping

Maintain meticulous records of your dairy farming operations. Track milk production, health history, expenses, and revenue. These records will provide valuable insights into your farm’s performance and help in making informed decisions for future growth.

10. Continuous Learning and Adaptation

The world of agriculture is constantly evolving. Stay updated with the latest dairy farming trends, technologies, and practices. Attend workshops, seminars, and connect with fellow dairy farmers to exchange experiences and knowledge.

First, secure some land. You’ll need at least an acre to build essential structures and grow food for your cattle.

Look for land with access to clean water since your herd will need to drink up to 30 gallons per cow per day.

Next, choose a cattle breed that can withstand heat and diseases common in Kenya, like the Sahiwal or Ayrshire breeds.

Buy young, healthy cows and a bull for breeding.

House them in a well-ventilated barn and feed them a diet of nutritious grasses, hays, and dairy meal.

  • Provide your cows with high-quality feed to maximize milk production. Grass, hays, and dairy meal should make up the bulk of their diet.
  • Make sure your cows have constant access to clean water. Dehydration will lower milk production.

Then, milk your cows daily and hygienically in a milking parlor.

Most dairy cows produce 6-10 liters of milk per day.

Transport the milk quickly to a cooling facility.

Have it tested for quality and safety before selling to processors or at local markets.

With the right herd, facilities, and practices, a small-scale dairy farm (around 10-15 cows) can produce 200-500 liters of milk and earn you Ksh. 50000-Ksh. 120000 per month.

The key is keeping costs low while maximizing productivity and maintaining high quality.

If done well, a dairy farm in Kenya can be very sustainable and profitable.

Selecting the Right Cattle Breed for Dairy Farming in Kenya

Choose a High-Yielding Breed

For a profitable dairy farming in Kenya, selecting a breed that produces a lot of milk is key.

Some of the highest-yielding breeds for smallholder farmers in Kenya include:

  • Holstein Friesian: Originally from the Netherlands, this breed is the highest-yielding dairy cow and can produce over 10,000 liters per lactation. They are well-adapted to the Kenyan climate but require high quality feed to reach their milk production potential.
  • Ayrshire: This breed originates from Scotland and is also high-yielding, producing around 8,000 liters per lactation. Ayrshires are hardy, can tolerate heat, and are suitable for smallholder farms.
  • Jersey: Though relatively small in size, Jersey cows are excellent milk producers, yielding around 6,000 liters per lactation. They are heat tolerant and suitable for small farms, though they require high energy feed for their size.

Consider Crossbreeds

Crossbreeding two high-yielding breeds can produce cows well-suited to the Kenyan environment that also produce a lot of milk. Some recommended crossbreeds for smallholder dairy farms in Kenya include:

  • Friesian x Ayrshire: Combines the high yield of the Friesian with the hardiness of the Ayrshire. Can produce 8,000-10,000 liters per lactation.
  • Friesian x Jersey: Produces a smaller cow that yields 7,000-9,000 liters per lactation. The Jersey bloodline improves heat tolerance.
  • Sahiwal x Friesian: Sahiwal cattle are indigenous to Kenya and heat tolerant, while Friesian improves milk yield. This cross can produce 6,000-8,000 liters per lactation.

Choose Disease-Resistant Breeds

Some indigenous Kenyan breeds, like the Sahiwal, are well-adapted to the local environment and resistant to diseases like trypanosomiasis.

Crossing high-yielding exotic breeds with indigenous breeds can produce cows that yield well but also have strong disease resistance.

This helps ensure good health and productivity of your herd.

By selecting a high-yielding breed, considering beneficial crossbreeds, and choosing disease-resistant breeds, you’ll be well on your way to building a profitable dairy farm in Kenya.

Providing good nutrition, housing, and healthcare will allow your cattle to reach their full milk production potential.

Housing and Feeding Your Dairy Cattle

To have a profitable dairy farm, you need to properly house and feed your cattle.

Providing suitable shelter and nutrition will keep your cows healthy, comfortable and producing quality milk.

Housing Your Cattle

You’ll want to construct a barn or shelter to protect your cattle from harsh weather and elements. The building should be well-ventilated, with plenty of space for your cows to move around, lie down and access food and water.

  • Allow at least 100 square feet of space per cow. More space is better.
  • The floor should be concrete or dirt, bedded with straw, wood shavings or sand. Replace bedding regularly to keep the area dry and clean.
  • Install fans and open windows for good airflow and temperature control.
  • Provide stalls where cows can be milked and calves can be born.
  • Fence in an outdoor yard or paddock so cows can exercise.

Feeding Your Cattle

A proper diet is essential for dairy cattle health and productivity. Feed your cows a balanced ration of:

  1. Roughage: High-quality grass hay, silage or green chop. Provide 1-2 pounds of roughage per 100 pounds of body weight per day.
  2. Grain: A commercial dairy grain mix. Feed 1-2 pounds of grain for every 3-4 pounds of milk produced daily.
  3. Clean, fresh water: Water should be available at all times. Each cow needs 30-50 gallons per day.
  4. Minerals and salt: Provide free-choice access to mineral and salt blocks.
  5. Feed cows twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
  6. Do not make sudden changes to the diet. Gradually transition between feed types and amounts.
  7. Monitor cows to ensure each one is eating properly and maintaining a healthy body condition.

Following these best practices for housing and feeding will set your dairy farm up for success.

Your cattle will be comfortable, well-nourished, and able to produce high volumes of quality milk.

In turn, this will maximize your farm’s productivity and profitability.

Breeding and Milking Dairy Cattle

To run a profitable dairy farm in Kenya, you need to focus on breeding high-quality dairy cattle and maximizing milk production.

Selecting the Right Breeds

Choose breeds that are well-suited to the Kenyan climate and that produce a lot of milk, such as Holstein Friesian, Ayrshire, and Guernsey.

Crossbreeding indigenous breeds with high-producing foreign breeds is also popular. Some recommended crosses include Boran x Friesian and Sahiwal x Friesian.

Breeding Healthy Calves

For the best results, breed heifers for the first time around 15-18 months when they reach 55-65% of their adult body weight. Make sure bulls are fertile and in good health.

After breeding, check cows for pregnancy around 2-3 months.

Once calves are born, feed them colostrum within the first 6 hours and wean them around 3 months.

Raise male calves for breeding stock or sell them, and keep female calves as replacement heifers.

Maximizing Milk Production

  • Feed cows a high-quality, nutritious diet including roughage like grass, legumes, and crop residues along with dairy meal or dairy cubes.
  • Provide cows constant access to clean water. Dehydration reduces milk supply.
  • Milk cows twice per day, every 12 hours. Milking less frequently reduces production.
  • Check cows for mastitis regularly and treat infections promptly. Mastitis lowers milk yield and quality.

To further increase profits, you can:

-Sell excess milk to local processors and cooperatives.

-Make and sell value-added dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and butter.

-Generate additional income from manure which can be used as fertilizer or biogas.

-Diversify into raising beef cattle, poultry, or crops.

By selecting the right breeds, focusing on breeding and calf-rearing, maximizing milk production, and pursuing additional income streams, you can build a thriving and profitable dairy farm business in Kenya. Stay up to date with advancements in dairy farming technology and practices to keep improving your farm’s productivity, efficiency, and profitability over the long run.

Common Diseases Affecting Dairy Cattle in Kenya

Raising dairy cattle in Kenya comes with the risk of disease, which can impact the health of your herd and your profits. Be on the lookout for these common dairy cattle diseases in Kenya:


This udder infection is one of the most prevalent diseases in dairy herds. It’s usually caused by bacteria entering the udder, often during milking. Signs include swelling, heat, hardness or redness of the udder. Milk from infected cows may contain clots or blood. To prevent mastitis, practice good milking hygiene like cleaning udders before milking and ensuring the milking equipment is properly sanitized. Treat infected cows with antibiotics as prescribed by your vet.

Foot and Mouth Disease

This highly contagious viral disease affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, sheep and goats. It causes blisters on the tongue, mouth, teats and feet, leading to drooling, limping and drop in milk production. Vaccinate your entire herd to prevent outbreaks. Report any suspected cases to authorities immediately.


Caused by bacteria, TB usually infects the lungs and lymph nodes in cattle.

Symptoms include weakness, weight loss, coughing and pneumonia. TB is spread through inhalation of bacteria from infected animals.

Test your entire herd regularly using the tuberculin skin test. Separate and treat any infected animals.


Spread by tsetse fly bites, this parasitic disease is common in western Kenya.

It causes fever, anemia, weight loss, decreased milk production and even death.

Control tsetse fly populations, use insect repellents, and treat infected cattle with ant parasitic drugs.

By closely monitoring your herd, vaccinating, practicing good hygiene and sanitation, and working with your vet, you can minimize the impact of disease on your dairy farm’s health and profitability.

Early detection and treatment of any infections is key to successful dairy farming in Kenya.

Growing Fodder Crops for Dairy Cattle Feed

To keep your dairy farm profitable, providing nutritious feed for your cattle is essential. One of the best ways to do this is by growing your own fodder crops.

What Are Fodder Crops?

Fodder crops are plants grown specifically to feed livestock, such as cattle, goats, and sheep.

Common fodder crops for dairy farms include Napier grass, Rhodes grass, Lucerne, and maize. These crops provide nutrients like protein, energy, vitamins and minerals that dairy cows need to produce milk.

Why Grow Your Own?

Growing your own fodder crops has many benefits:

  • It reduces costs. Purchasing feed can be expensive, especially when you have many cattle to feed. Growing your own fodder significantly cuts costs.
  • Higher quality. Fodder you grow yourself will be fresher and more nutritious than purchased feed that has been stored for a long time. Your cattle will be healthier and produce better quality milk.
  • Increased production. Well-fed, healthy cows will produce more milk. Homegrown fodder can increase milk production by up to 30-40% compared to poor quality feed.
  • Sustainable. Growing fodder crops helps create a sustainable system where you can produce your own high-quality feed. This makes your dairy farm less reliant on external feed sources.

How to Grow Fodder

The basic steps for growing fodder crops are:

  1. Choose a suitable fodder crop based on your climate and soil. Napier grass and Rhodes grass do well in Kenya.
  2. Prepare the land and plant the fodder crop. Make sure the soil is fertile and moist.
  3. Water and fertilize the crop regularly. Fodder crops require plenty of water and nutrients to produce high yields.
  4. Harvest the fodder once it reaches the proper height. Napier grass should be 1.5-2 meters, while Rhodes grass is best at 60-90 cm.
  5. Chop the fodder into small pieces for your cattle. Most dairy cows prefer fodder that is 5-10 cm in length.
  6. Feed the fodder to your dairy cattle immediately after chopping for the highest nutrition. Leftovers can be dried as hay to use when fodder is scarce.

Growing high-quality fodder crops is key to running a profitable dairy farm in Kenya. By following these steps, you’ll be producing nutritious, low-cost feed for your cattle in no time.

Marketing and Selling Milk and Dairy Products

Once your dairy farm is up and running, it’s time to sell the milk and dairy products you’ve produced. Marketing and distributing your goods is key to building a profitable business.

Identify Your Customers

Who will buy your milk and dairy products? The two main options are retail customers (individuals) and wholesale customers (stores, restaurants, schools). Selling retail allows you to make the most profit per unit, but selling wholesale moves more volume. You may want to pursue a mix of both. Think about your location and what options are most viable.

Set Competitive Prices

Do some research on the going rates for milk and dairy products from other local producers. You need to price competitively to attract customers while still making a good profit margin. Keep in mind the higher quality and freshness of your farm-direct products when determining prices. Offer discounts for bulk or repeat customers to build loyalty.

Build Your Distribution Channels

How will you get your products to market? Some options include:

  • On-farm store: Sell directly to customers at your dairy farm. Low cost but limited reach.
  • Farmer’s markets: Rent a stall at a local farmer’s market to sell your goods. High visibility and strong sales but time-intensive.
  • Delivery: Offer delivery of products directly to homes, stores, and restaurants in your area. Convenient but requires significant time and resources.
  • Wholesale: Sell bulk milk and dairy products to stores, schools, restaurants, and food distributors for resale. Large volume but lower profit margins.
  • Online: Sell and ship products through an ecommerce website. Low overhead but challenging logistics.

Using a combination of these channels will allow you to maximize your sales and profits. Be sure to provide great customer service no matter the channel. Happy customers will return again and again!

With the right marketing and distribution strategy in place, you’ll be well on your way to building a thriving and profitable dairy farm business in Kenya. Keep making improvements, developing new products, and growing your customer base for continued success.

Dairy Farming FAQs: Common Questions on Dairy Farming in Kenya

How much does it cost to start a dairy farm in Kenya?

The initial costs to set up a dairy farm can vary greatly depending on the size of your operation. For a small-scale farm with 10-20 cows, you can expect to invest around KS. 200,000 to 5 million. This would cover costs like purchasing dairy cows, constructing basic housing and fencing, and buying essential equipment like milking machines, storage tanks, and transport vehicles.

What are the basic requirements to start a dairy farm?

To get started, you’ll need several key things:

  • High-quality dairy cows like Friesian or Ayrshire breeds. Aim for 10-20 cows to start for a small farm.
  • Housing for the cows like a barn or shed. It should protect from harsh weather and provide space for milking and feeding.
  • Equipment such as milking machines, milk cans or tanks, water troughs, and feeding troughs.
  • Fencing to keep cows secured in a pasture area. Barbed wire or wooden fencing are common options.
  • A reliable source of clean water. Cows need access to plenty of fresh, clean water every day.
  • A ready supply of cow feed like hay, silage, dairy meal, and mineral supplements.
  • Proper permits and licenses to sell milk and dairy products. Meet regulations set by the Kenya Dairy Board.

How much money can I make from a dairy farm in Kenya?

A well-managed small dairy farm with 10-20 cows can generate a good income for a family in Kenya. You can expect to earn:

Is dairy farming a good investment Kenya?

  • Yes, on average you can make Ksh.20,000-30,000 per cow annually from milk sales. The average cow produces 20-30 liters per day which can be sold to processors or directly to consumers.
  • Ksh.30,000-50,000 per cow from selling calves. Female calves can be raised as replacement stock while male calves can be sold for beef
  • Additional income from selling manure as fertilizer. Properly composted manure is in high demand from farmers.
  • The average milk profit earned by a dairy farmer was KES 12.20 per litre. Among different grazing practices, semi-zero grazers achieved the highest profit at KES 14.27, while zero-grazers experienced the lowest profit at KES 8.57.

The key is keeping costs low by growing your own cow feed, improving production through breeding, and selling at the best prices. With hard work and perseverance, a small dairy farm in Kenya can provide a good living.


So these are the basics of building a profitable dairy farm in Kenya.

It will take a lot of hard work and patience, but if you start small, keep good records, focus on high quality and nutrition, and build a loyal customer base, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful dairy operation.

Don’t get discouraged if there are setbacks at first.

Many successful dairy farmers today overcame obstacles and learned from their mistakes.

If you stay determined, keep learning, and continue improving, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Before you know it, you’ll be producing high quality milk and dairy products, generating a good income, and contributing to the growing dairy industry in Kenya.