Originally introduced into Kenyan livestock sector in the 1939 and 1963, the Sahiwal breed cow has come to be one of the most economic livestock in the industry producing much milk, grows faster and are proof theft due to its weight.
According to standardmedia.co.ke, Saddam, a Sahiwal breed, just like the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, is heavy in size and appearance.
Sporting reddish-brown skin with varying white patches on the nose and legs, he produces much while consuming small portions of livestock feed.
Saddam is a Sahiwal cow from the Zebu breed and his caretaker, Bradley Azaliza, says, “Saddam, who is the father of all these animals here, eats a bale per day and is only five years old.”
Saddam barely walks long distances, seeing as it is, he weighs over 270kg, a common phenomenon with this breed.
Indeed, such livestock now survive and thrive in regions with hot temperatures throughout the year, especially in places like Baringo South where they are tolerant to hardships due to scarcity of enough water and pasture.
The Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has been breeding them.
Dr Muo Kasina, Director of Apiculture Research Institute Headquarters, KALRO Marigat, says the Sahiwal breed of cows produce five to seven litres of milk per day in the semi-arid regions, but in extensive production areas like Naivasha can produce nine litres daily.
“The demand for Sahiwal breed type of cows is more than the supply,” he says. “Soon we will call for another auction to sell some of them to the locals.”
The Sahiwal breed is said to have originated from Sahiwal District in Pakistan, and was introduced in Kenya between 1939 and 1963.
Besides the National Sahiwal Stud in Naivasha, some private commercial breeders also own the high-grade Sahiwal breed and “our aim is to help farmers convert the local breeds to Sahiwal through cross-breeding. The male cows have the gametes and as a result, calves born will be of Sahiwal breed,” explains Dr Kasina.
The average temperature of Baringo County falls between the lows of 17°C and highs of 33°C yearly. On several occasions there is scarcity of water and pasture for animals, making it harder for livestock farming to thrive.
But about 20 years ago, KALRO introduced Sahiwal cows and Gala goats to help the communities in Baringo.
The Gala goat is snow white, with no patches. It produces more milk and is resistant to diseases, making it ideal for dry areas.
“We wanted to transform livestock farming. In this region, livestock contribute to conflicts and due to little pasture, the farmers have to travel long distances to feed their animals,” says Dr Kasina, adding that Sahiwal and Gala breeds grow faster and can be sold easily, they produce milk in bulk, are tolerant to ticks and cannot travel long distances.
“In the long run even when cattle raids occur you cannot steal these cows as they cannot go to far distances,” says Kasina. “If you force them they will collapse and die.”
Sahiwal cows are tolerant to heat and drought conditions, making them ideal for survival in hot regions. In Pakistan where they originate from, they are mainly used for dairy while in Kenya they are bred for milk and meat.
According to KARLO, Kenya has close to 18 million cattle some of which are indigenous breeds like Zebu and Boran, Sahiwal and western breeds like Holstein, Frisian, Jersey, Guernsey and crosses of various breeds.
Sahiwal makes up about five per cent of the total recognised breeds. Interestingly, one male Sahiwal can impregnate many cows in a herd, just like Saddam, who has fathered 30 calves.
Daniel Toroitich, a research scientist at KARLO, says the Gala male bucks go for Sh12,000 while female goat prices depend on their live weight multiplied by Sh150 per kilo, the set price for the auction.
“Male Gala bucks can mate with 20 to 30 female goats and give birth to about 60 kids per year,” says Toroitich. “These goats also have the potential of getting kids twice a year meaning the herd can be bigger.”
Normally a goat’s gestation period is six months while for a Sahiwal cow is nine months.
“We are now training the locals to castrate the other breeds to have Sahiwal breeds in their herd,” says Toroitich.
A one-year-old Sahiwal bull is sold at Sh100,000 and Dr Kasina says the size of the cow does not matter as what is sold is the gametes that can easily multiply.
Cost of female Sahiwals is based on the weight multiplied by Sh140 per kilo.
Azaliza holds Saddam by the nose as he takes bouts of water from a nearby stream. Saddam inserts his hoofs inside the mud along the waterline, takes a bout, and charges in front. I stand up, afraid his horns might gorge me. But Toroitich reassures me that Saddam “does not hurt women, only men.”