Farmers, beware of miracle breeders

A jersy cow and calf.

A jersey cow and calf. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya is a nation of miracles, from religious faiths to occult and sweet-talking benefactors.

In the course of my work and life, I have encountered countless purveyors of miracles. It would appear there are those whose talent is the innovation of miracles.

My first was on River Road in 1978. It was my first tour of the city. After being taken on foot around the length and breadth of Nairobi by my brother-in-law, I decided to venture out on my own one day.

Steve, had warned me about tricks crooks used to steal from naive Nairobi visitors and I had taken him seriously.

We did the beat in many of the Nairobi streets for a week without any incident.

Steve had explained about the conmen of the city in a manner that convinced me we would meet one around every corner.

When we did not get an encounter together, I began doubting the veracity of his claims.

Little did I know that the cons were masters of their trade and expert psychologists. They clearly understood the characteristics of their prey with precision. Steve did not fit their target description.

On my first day out alone, I decided to explore River Road, motivated by the many stories I had heard and read about the place.

At the junction of Accra and River roads, someone dropped a fat envelope ahead and another one tapped my shoulder.

The shoulder tapper told me to take the envelope as it was my luck. He also suggested we get to a side street, inspect and share the contents of the envelope since we had seen it together. The fast-talking man said he was sure it had a lot of money.

I concluded this was one of the miracle men because he was confident about the contents of a sealed opaque envelope. I told the man to take the envelope and help himself to its contents.

Hurriedly, I crossed the road and left the area. At least I had a story to tell Steve.

From that incident, I have lost count of the many others I have encountered in different forms and actors.

I have always found Steve’s lessons useful in many of the con games I encounter.

I remembered the River Road incident last week when someone called and said he had heard I was looking for Jersey in-calf heifers. He said he had pure Jerseys in Githunguri and suggested I go view them.

When I asked the person to provide details of his farm, a reference of a farmer he had sold to and a video clip of the animals, he switched off his phone after shouting that I was too nosy.

After the incident, members in one of our dairy farmers’ forums started narrating their experiences with miracle cattle breeders.

These are brokers who offer animals for sale they claim to have bred on their farms.

Good dairy cattle are in high demand in Kenya and the region in general.

There is demand for dairy cattle in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western and Mt Kenya. When I was looking for heifers to stock my farm in February and for my client in Somalia, I came across search teams in Kiambu from Nandi, Kericho and Migori counties.

Many of the teams and individual farmers end up in the hands of the unscrupulous miracle breeders.

Miracle breeders have dairy cattle but are very cagey about the history and records of the animals.

They obtain animals from their owners cheaply, rehabilitate them and then sell them profitably to unsuspecting farmers as their own breeding.

I call them miracle because they appear to know their animals very well but, somehow, there will always be a reason for the records having gaps.

In many cases, they will talk about high milk yields but cannot produce production or sale records.

A miracle farm is easy to identify because it lacks a herd structure. In a genuine dairy farm, animals are grouped according to their production status.

There are calves on milk clearly recorded with their dates of birth, mother and father. The calves are mainly born in groups because of the breeding and milk production strategy of the farm.

The next lot are weaner calves grouped according to how they were born. This grouping will continue to growing, bulling and pregnant heifers.

Adult cows are grouped as dry, maternity, newly calved, peak lactation, mid lactation and late lactation.

If this structure is not discernible on a farm, there should be a credible explanation or the farm is operating on miracles.