Local cattle breeders have introduced a new breed of cattle, Fleckvieh, which they claim gives higher yields for Kenyan dairy and beef farmers than any other cattle in the country, with faster maturity, higher milk production, and more beef, all of which can be drawn on through a new, low-cost insemination program.
Fleckvieh Genetics East Africa (FGEA) imported the German breed from South Africa where it has faired well in cold and hot climates. In Kenya, the cow has taken off quickly, now numbering hundreds, around Malindi, which is arid, and in the chillier Central Province region.
On its first lactation, Fleckvieh produces 25 litres daily and between the second and third lactation it reaches optimum milk production of 40 litres. That places Fleckvieh in the category of high producing dairy breeds like Friesian. At its peak the Friesian produces 25 to 50 litres from its first to optimum lactation period. Even when the Fleckvieh is sick, the lowest the milk production will fall is 15 litres.
In Kenya, “the daily national average of Friesian is 25 litres,” said Dr HK Wamukuru of Central Artificial Insemination Station at Kabete.
At the same time, Fleckvieh butter/fat content in milk is higher than that of either the Ayrshire or Friesian breeds. Across the various Fleckvieh cross breeds, the lowest butter/fat content is 3.97 percent - where that of pure Ayrshire’s is 3.8 per cent and Friesian’s is 3.5 per cent - making the newly imported cattle a stronger option for farmers interested in value addition butter processing.
Its milk also has lower numbers of somatic cells compared to other dairy breeds, meaning that it is less prone to Mastitis, the udder disease, and that milk lasts longer without refrigeration. Without chilling, “Fleckvieh milk last 24 hours before spoiling,” said Peter Omoga of FGEA, compared to 7 to 10 hours for other daily breeds.
In addition, “its tough skin makes it resistant to tsetse fly attacks,” he said.
For beef farmers, Fleckvieh accumulates more body mass faster than other beef and dairy breeds. “In six months a calf can weigh 300kgs,” said Omoga. Yet its daily average consumption of feed is 40kg, while a Friesian breed can daily feed on 70kgs. The difference is genetic.
Fleckvieh is able to sustain its larger body mass on less feed because its body absorbs more of the food. “Its dung is less than for other breeds” said Omoga.
When pure Fleckvieh is crossbred with local beef or daily breeds, it’s able to pass over 75 per cent of these genetic attributes to the offspring, where the general benchmark for heifers passing on genetic attributes to offspring is 50 per cent.
With a price tag of Sh250, 000 or more, the heifer nonetheless remains out of reach for most Kenyan farmers. However FGEA offers crossbreed services that cost from Sh800 to Sh4000, with the most costly inseminations pasing on 75 per cent of the Fleckvieh’s advantages.