Mazao Yetu Ltd
Cane has been grown on Homa Lime land since 1964. We grow 280 hectares of sugar cane. This is reputed to be some of the best sugar cane in Kenya with yields of over 100 tonnes per hectare and averaging more than 8 ratoons. Most of this cane is sold to nearby millers but some is now processed on site into jaggery (gur, pannela, raspadura, panocha), an unrefined form of sugar that has many positive health benefits and is processed without use of chemicals.
We have a forestry section comprising 280 hectares of trees, mainly eucalyptus for fuel for the lime factory but also some indigenous trees. In addition 100 hectares have been gazetted as a national monument for the preservation of indigenous woodland. We also help other farmers to establish plantations on their farms through the Nyando Valley Development Trust.
While we cannot claim our farming methods to be organic, we do claim to be growing our food sustainably, with as little antibiotic and inorganic fertiliser input as possible. Our products are healthy and nutrient rich – food as was eaten by your grandparents – not as found on some supermarket shelves today. Some of our beef cattle are fed in yards where they are fed on grass, not on grain. This allows us to collect the dung to provide organic fertilisers for our farming processes and to produce biogas for power and cooking.
We milk 100 cows, predominantly Jersey or Brown Swiss/Braunvieh crosses. The cows are dairy ranched for the first 3 months after parturition and then the calves are removed onto grazing and supplemented with concentrates and hay. Milk production is low, averaging 2,500-3,000 kg/305 days because the quality of grazing is poor. The cows are supplemented with small amounts of concentrates at milking time. It is reported by smallholders that when we sell on a cow to a zero-grazing system where they are feeding more concentrates and Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) they are achieving more than 50% increases in yield. Unfortunately, maintaining Napier Grass on a large enough scale for us is too expensive as it is labour intensive and our arable land is more productive under sugarcane than under livestock, so the livestock have to graze where it is steep and rocky.
A commercial beef herd of 150 suckler cows are Boran and Boran crosses, which are put to Red Poll bulls for production of beef or heifers that may be sold as cross-bred heifers for milk production. These crossbred animals under conditions prevailing in much of Kenya are very useful to smallholders, having hybrid vigour, increased disease resistance and heat tolerance. For the less developed areas with lower potential, they are ideal and are capable of producing substantial amounts of milk under relatively poor levels of management. The Boran dams crossed with either beef or dairy bulls are excellent mothers and produce beefy calves which grow well and the heifers are often good milkers. In our conditions the F1 cows often produce more milk than pure dairy breeds. Ranchers in drier areas of Kenya attest to the hardiness of Red Poll/Boran crosses citing performance equal to or better than pure Borans during periods of drought.
In the Horn of Africa, Boran are kept by nomadic people to provide meat and milk. Although milk yields are low, the Boran cow has a very strong mothering instinct, there has been (unconscious?) selection for milk production and this may be the reason why Boran crossed with other breeds, both dairy and beef, produce good milkers in the F1 cross. It may also explain why the Boran cow is such a good dam, able to produce weaners well in excess of 50% of her own body weight.
Due to the poor grazing quality, we have difficulty fattening steers on grazing at a reasonable age. Weaner steers are brought into yards to grow and fatten and are zero grazed on sugarcane tops/grass, molasses, and a protein supplement. Manure from these is collected to produce biogas for cooking and generating electricity and the remaining slurry is spread on the crops. The heifers are grown out in paddocks more slowly. Whilst Red Poll heifers can be fed intensively, and be put to the bull at 16-18 months and then be productive for well over 10 years (the British Red Poll Society recently published a photo of a cow at 28 years old), we have found that Boran heifers fed like this will calve the first time early but then take a couple of years to produce the second calf. Borans fed intensively, show abnormal hoof growth and so can break down as they get older. Fattening for 3-6 months is however no problem as they will go off to be slaughtered. We therefore aim to bull our Boran heifers at 2 years and many ranchers have productive cows over 15 years of age.
We have a stud herd of 125 Boran cows, inspected by the Boran Cattle Breeders Society and registered with the Kenya Stud Book, which produce animals for breeding and meat. The best bull calves are selected for sale to other breeders. Surplus heifers may be sold or may be transferred to the commercial beef herd as breeders. The Boran is a breed that has evolved over centuries in the Horn of Africa. Over the last 100 years it has been taken up by commercial cattle breeders and selected for improved performance as a beef animal.
Although the Boran is considered to be a zebu (Bos indicus) breed, genetic studies indicate that it does have some influence from Bos taurus breeds, both modern and antique from Europe and the Middle East but also from an African B. taurus breed not found in the Asian zebus. The Borans to be found over Central and Southern Africa as well as in the USA and Australia all come from the improved breed as developed in Kenya.
Our Boran stud has been in existence since the late 1980s and we have bought in breeding stock from Segera, Mogwooni, Ol Pejeta, Mutara, Lolldaiga, Suyian, Solio, Kakuzi, Stanley & Son and Ol Jorai. Currently, we use both bulls and AI. The semen for AI is old stock from Mutara and Sugoroi, going back to bulls born in the 1970s. We have won trophies at the Livestock Breeders Show and Sale with Champion and Reserve Champion Junior Bulls and placed First in the Progeny Class (at least 2 bulls and a heifer, all from the same sire) in 2004 and then again Champion Junior Bull in 2009. Koru is not typical Boran country, with high rainfall, 1650 mm/annum, sour grazing and steep hills. The success of our Boran herd however, attests to the adaptability of the breed to produce in very varied conditions.
Red Polls were first bought to Kenya shortly after the Great War of 1914-18. They were used to upgrade the indigenous cattle which the early European Settlers to Kenya found here. Over the next 40 years many importations of new blood from UK and South Africa, mainly, were made, with many of the cattlemen of today remembering their fathers and grandfathers being breeders in the old days. Unfortunately, the old British breeds became unfashionable in the 1960s and 1970s with the industry leaning to more specialized animals and the continental breeds took over. These however, to attain their potential, require high levels of inputs which the older breeds such as the Red Poll do not.
The Red Poll is a dual-purpose animal that produces excellent beef off grass, winning many carcase competitions against other breeds, particularly in Australia. They are also capable of producing substantial quantities of milk and are known in Britain as the ”beef breed with milk”.
We bought our first Red Poll bull in 1999 from Lolldaiga Hills Ranch, who had been a breeder of Red Polls for over 50 years. Since then we bought 4 more bulls and 4 pedigree heifers from them. Sadly Lolldaiga have got rid of their Red Poll herd, so we remain the only stud breeder in Kenya. We now have 72 registered breeding cows and heifers. Some of our Red Polls are used as suckler cows while some are milked. The Red Polls produce an excellent cross animal with the Boran for beef production. They are heat tolerant and being medium framed and early maturing, we can finish them off in our conditions more easily than the bigger continental breeds.
The Red Poll has good meat to bone ratio and is a good milker under adverse conditions. Mazao Yetu Ltd, is now the only commercial breeder of Red Poll cattle left in East Africa. However, a number of smallholders have bought breeding stock from us. There is certainly interest out there and one farmer who bought 13 heifers from us in 2011, who has up to now been using Ayrshire semen on them, has expressed interest in obtaining Red Poll semen from us or elsewhere. Currently we are using semen from both UK and Australia and have used South African semen in the past.
Most smallholder farmers come to us wanting Holstein Friesian cows, with preconceived ideas of getting 40 kg. milk per day. However, in Western Kenya, we have found that with the low level of management skills and feed inputs, and the hot humid conditions, the Red Polls perform as well as, or better, than the pure dairy breeds and so we recommend them to smallholders. We have won the Champion Dual-purpose Cow at three Livestock Breeders Show and Sales in 2011, 2013 and 2016 and in 2013 also won the Champion Bull against Sahiwal, Fleckvieh and Brown Swiss animals.
There is a pig unit for production of both porkers and baconers for meat. Most of these are currently sold to Farmers Choice Limited.
A flock of 170 crossbred ewes is kept for lamb/mutton production. These are grazed in the fire breaks between the cane fields and help to reduce mowing costs.
Our MILK products are pasteurised and safe for human consumption.
Milk – both full-cream and semi-skimmed. Pure and unadulterated with no additives or dilution. Not as is available on supermarket shelves.
Yoghurt – low fat. Try our thick creamy product - thicker than the famous Greek version. You will need to spoon it from the container. It does not pour!
Drinking Yoghurt- vanilla and strawberry flavours – delicious!
Cream - to die for. Once you taste this, nothing else will compare.
French Ice Cream - Granny’s recipe. So called because the principal ingredients are cream, eggs and sugar rather than vegetable fats and synthetic products found in most other commercial products. Flavours available are vanilla and chocolate.
Cheeses - Cream cheese, Feta, Tilsiter, Paneer, Mozzarella. We know there are excellent cheeses produced in Kenya, so the competition is stiff. What we can assure you of is that we know where the milk to make the cheese is from and what is in it.
Maziwa Lala – second to none in the fermented milk stakes.
Try our MEAT products - no colouring or water injected to make it look better:
Beef - dry hung for at least 14 days. Remember there are other cuts apart from Fillet that have more flavour and they cost less. Be adventurous!
Pork – not from pigs rooting in rubbish heaps. Oh so succulent!
Lamb – not the “Molo lamb” produced everywhere, except Molo. Very popular, so in short supply.
Chicken - much of what you get from supermarkets is caponised. These are cockerels hormoned to grow faster. We produce spring chicken & broilers – plump, juicy and no hormones. Expensive but so much better than road runners.
JAGGERY – unrefined sugar. This is a pure sugar with no chemicals added, produced from our homegrown cane. It is healthy and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia. There is no healthier sweetener. Not calorie free, but unlike synthetic products our product is completely traceable from farm to packaging and is an environmentally friendly product.