Tucked in the drought-stricken area of Mackinnon, Kinango sub-county, is a farmer who keeps cattle, with at least one bull weighing 900kg.
Mackinnon is one of the driest areas of Kwale County, with many farmers complaining that their animals are dying from lack of food and water.
However, just in the neighbourhood, a few metres off the Mombasa-Nairobi highway in Kilibasi, is a farmer who is using modern livestock keeping methods to feed his over 150 cows.
On his 33 acres, he has set up a storage facility, water and feeding points, a cattle dip and a small café for his 10 workers.
Mackinnon Feedlot Farms owner Abdi Ibrahim says that the weight of the other cows, for both milk and meat, also ranges between 400kg and 600kg.
Each sells for more than Sh100,000.
He started his enterprise in 2019, with his clients in Mauritius, where he would export bulls, advising him to change to modern farming methods to fatten the animals.
“I learnt this technique when I used to export cows to Mauritius. They are the ones who suggested that I start this type of livestock keeping that is called a feedlot,” he said,
He buys cows from farmers in northeastern Kenya. When they arrive on his farm, he quarantines them in a different section for two weeks.
He then feeds them for at least three months, helping them gain up to two kilos daily before he sells them.
Mr Ibrahim now has 150 cows, but he says that in 2020, he sold more than 300 to slaughterhouses in Mariakani and a beef production firm.
But how does he manage to keep the cows healthy in a dry area? Mr Ibrahim said that all that the bulls need in a feedlot is to be fed hay, which he purchases in bulk, cow feeds, water that he pipes in and molasses. He feeds them twice a day.
“With the hay and water, I am all set. The challenge for other farmers is that their cows are always moving and that is why they lose weight because of the drought. But here my cows just stay in the same piece of land, they eat and we give them concentrates,” he said.
This type of feeding is what makes his cows and bulls gain two kilos daily.
He has 10 employees who work in two shifts, day and night.
The feeders also have roofs to protect the cows from the scorching sun when they are feeding. The most common breed of cows he keeps is the Borana.
“The challenge I have is with wild animals. They break my fence in search of water and break the pipes that transport water from Mzima Springs in Taita Taveta County. But I have reserves and this helps me,” he said.
He explained that elephants usually go to feed in the Taru area and on their way back at night in search of water they break his fence.
Because of Covid-19, Mr Ibrahim has not exported any cows to Mauritius since last year but hopes that the pandemic will be contained and he can revive his export business.
“I would like to collaborate with farmers so that they can learn this modern way of farming. They can visit my farm at any time. With climate change, this is the way to go,” he said.
At his farm, he has an administration block in addition to the café.
“If you bring your cow here, the maximum time you can keep it is three months, because they add at least two kilos daily,” he said.
“However, some cows lose weight because of the change in the environment. But once they adapt, they even add three kilos daily.”
When he buys a cow, he says, he is careful to ensure that it can add some weight because that is what matters.
He said this was like zero-grazing. For the 900kg bull, its carcass will be about 60 per cent of the weight after it is slaughtered and the meat will be about 540kg.
In the area, a kilo of meat is sold for Sh360, meaning Mr Ibrahim will earn at least Sh194,000 from the bull.