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Striking gold on track and farm

Paul Kipsiele, the 2004 Athens Olympics steeplechase bronze medalist used his prize money transform himself into an astute dairy farmer

A dusty road off Kericho-Sotik road leads to the home one of Kenya’s prominent athletes, Paul Kipsiele Koech at Kapchepkoro village near Sotik town, where he runs his Kaso dairy farm. The 2010 Diamond League trophee winner started small and the venture has grown in leaps and bounds, and today, he smiles all the way to the bank.

So how did he begin this successful enterprise? With a seed capital of Sh200,000 he earned after making his international athletics debut in Sweden, Kipsiele bought three cows, kicking off the venture.

He keeps 45 Fresian cows on a 0.25 acre land, where he set up structures for zero grazing. “I settled on serious farming to get an alternative source of income after I retired from athletics.

“There’s life after Sports,” says Kipsiele when People Daily visited him. As a farmer, the former athlete says one must have determination and be disciplined in their work in order to achieve their intended objectives. He has never looked back, thanks to high milk yields. He gradually started increaing the herd, while improving management of the cows.

On average, each cow produces about 32 litres of milk per day on the higher side. Total litres per day is about 400 litres, which translates to about Sh400,000 monthly in proceeds and he pockets a cool Sh100,000 monthly in profits.

Kipsiele adds value to the produce by pasteurizing it at his home before transporting to milk dispensers he owns in Kaplong, Kapkatet and Litein trading centres, where the milk is sold at Sh55 per litre to locals in these areas.

Today, the farmer has mastered the art of dairy farming and he is not about to stand down. “Adding value as opposed to selling raw milk, was a way of cushioning myself from to middle-men and brokers, who are out to make profits at the expense of producers. Before doing that, I used to get little profits or none at all, threatening the survival of my business,” he states.

He says to get good output in the dairy farming business, comes at a cost. It involves putting the animals under the correct mode of feeding and giving them quality feeds as recommended by credible veterinary or agricultural experts.

He has contracted a vet who regularly monitors the animals to ensure they are in good health. Kipsiele makes his cow’s feeds at his backyard, after acquiring a Sh600,000 manufacturing plant. He reveals that he resolved to produce his own feeds after realizing that some dairy meals are of poor quality and lack nutrients.

“Having been in this business for a while, I have learnt about various types of feeds and their nutritional values. And besides quality, I decided to make my dairy meals at home so that I also get maximum production,” says the 37-year-old.

“Another secret to maximum production is ensuring that all the right nutrients are included in the dairy meals so that the animals get a balance diet,” he adds. He gets the rest of the feeds such as Lucerne, fodder, yellow maize and makes silage at his farm adjacent to the zero-grazing unit.

The dairy farmer singles out challenges in the dairy industry as lack of raw materials for manufacturing animal feeds. Pests have also been a thorn in the flesh destroying stored raw materials making production of dairy feeds an expensive venture. Animal diseases also spell doom to the industry if they are not treated early enough.

He has employed three farmhands, noting that his business does not require many workers since there is a milking machine to do the job, besides having a dairy meal producing plant. His future plan is to increase the number of dairy cows to 75, from the current 45 saying agribusiness is the way to go in Kenya.

The enterprise has thrived and has become a source of motivation and inspiration to the youth in the area. Kipsiele advises people, especially the youth to go for and tap into opportunities that exist in agribusiness.

“Any enterprise is bound to bear fruits, but it requires dedication and a lot of discipline to successfully manage,” says the prominent athlete, who is also a police officer. He credits the success of the enterprise to his wife Irene Koech, who manages the farm while he is away.

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