|Jerseys in Kenya |
Newsletter. January 1996.
The history of the Jersey in Kenya is almost as long as the history of
European setlement. In 1920 Bimbo`s Lad was imported by Lord Delamere, then
leader of the settler community. This bull was the subject of the earliest
documented record of the breed, and was later transferred to the Watts Williams,
pioneers of the Jersey breed in Kenya.
The Watts Williams farmed at Ol Joro
Orok on the eastern wall of the Rift Valley. They imported two of the first
pedigree Jersey females - Eastwood Derby Day and Round Nancy from England in
1921. In 1929 Bryn Glas Napoleon and Bryn Glas Jeanette were the first two Kenya
bred Jersey registered.
The 1920s and 1930s saw the Jersey population built
up, mainly through grading up the indigenous Boran breed with pure bred Jersey
bulls from England, Jersey Island, Australia and South Africa.
In 1936 the
Jersey Cattle Society of Kenya was formed celebrations are planned for the 60th
anniversary in 1996. The same year saw the introduction of A.1. in Kenya, and
the next two decades saw a steady increase in the national Jersey population -
its heyday came in the 1950s with some 360 medium and large herds in the
country. Milk was then bought on a quota system with excess accepted as
butterfat, giving the Jersey an advantage.
This periode was followed by
independence in December 1963 which had major consequences for the dairy
industry as a whole. Prior to independence local Africans were not allowed to
keep exotic European breeds but were encouraged to grade up their indigenious
stock with the Sahiwal breed.
The Kenya dairy industry experienced a
successful transformation from an industry based on a few thousand mainly
European large-scale farms into one dominated by the African smallholder with
nearly 2 million small farms (less than 2 hectares and herds of five animals or
less) providing 80% of the national milk production.
The Society opened its
membership to all races, and introduced new production systems, such as zero
grazing. The Jersey breed experienced a revival in the late 1960s, new herds
were set up, new genetics imported, and some of the best animals in Kenya
history were produced. Large numbers of Jerseys were exported to Uganda, Zaire,
Tanzania and Zanzibar.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a significant regression
because of Government intervention and domination with poor marketing and
marketing and pricing policies, as well as the running down of government
advisory services. 1993 saw the liberalisation of the dairy industry, and the
future looks optimistic again.
At present the Kenyan Society is an active
group, with about 80 members. There are probably less than 30 to 40 medium to
large herds, with tens of thousands of samll herds with ten animals of less.
Now that management of milk recording has been given back to the farmers and
the Kenyan Stud Book, it should recover from the previous period of insufficient
funding and poor management. Some 400 new Jersey animals are registered each
year, with some 1.000 cows milk recorded. The national herd is estimated at
about 100.000 Jerseys in Kenya. Top lactation yields are around 6.000 kg. milk
Several provincial agricultural shows are held each year by the
Agricultural Society of Kenya, culminating in the Nairobi International Show in
early October. This latter show still includes a good display of Jerseys doing
well over the years in the interbreed competitions) and traditionally uses
overseas Jersey judges.
Having traditionally obtained Jersey genetics from England and Jersey Island,
more recently Kenyan breeders have favoured New Zealand and Australia. In
particular, the New Zealand Ferdon lines have been used - the Kenyan breeder has
similar aims to his New Zealand counterpart, such as cows with the ability to
convert cheap grass to milk, and who are good walkers with good feet and legs.
Danish semen has also been used, but although yields were impressive, the
conformation and style were not what the Kenyan breeder wants.