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A review of the animal and aquafeed industries in Kenya - J. Radull

Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, PO box 81651, Mombassa, Kenya

1. Introduction

Agricultural production is the mainstay of the Kenyan economy. In 2000, it accounted for 28.8 percent of the GDP and 80 percent of employment. Typically, the livestock subsector comprises a mixture of large- and small-scale farmers as well as of self-help groups. The industry is regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Until its collapse in the late 1980s, the industry was represented at national level by the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA). Since the closure of this organization, there has been no central organization representing the interests of the sector. However, there has been a proliferation in the numbers of interest groups that represent various subsectors of the industry. The ensuing lack of coordination between government representatives and the various interest groups, has hampered efforts to monitor activities within the sector. Thus, information pertaining to the size of the sector, growth and production data are either unavailable, or where available, it is often incomplete. For many sectors of the industry the most up-to-date figures are derived from 1996.

Cattle and poultry comprise the bulk of livestock produced in Kenya. In 1996, there were 13 million head of cattle (74 percent beef, 26 percent dairy; Table 1). By 2000, this figure has reduced to 11.4 million (65 percent beef, 45 percent dairy). In 2000, the national herd comprised 53 percent cows, 21 percent heifers, 15 percent calves and 11 percent steers. National milk production during this period was in excess of 2 224 million litres. It should be noted that the beef production statistics should be treated with caution - since the collapse of the Kenya Meat Commission in the late 1980s, only limited records have been collected and collated. In 1996, poultry production was recorded at 24.5 million. These comprised 79.5 percent indigenous (family/small holder production), 10.9 percent farm broilers and 9.6 percent farm layers. Other livestock produced in Kenya include goats, sheep, pigs, camels, donkeys and rabbits. In 1996, there were 9.2 million goats and 6.8 million sheep. Whereas the goats provided meat, the sheep predominantly provided wool. There were approximately 200 000 pigs, 1 million camels and 400 000 donkeys.

Table 1. Kenyan livestock population (1996)


Population (thousands)

Poultry - Broiler

2 679

Poultry - Layer

2 297

Poultry - Indigenous

19 488

Cattle - Dairy

3 387

Cattle - Beef

9 553

Sheep - Wool

6 840

Goat - Meat

9 135

Goat - Dairy










2. The livestock feed industry

The Kenyan livestock feed industry comprises two principle components: the pastoral (forage pasture/fodder) and manufactured feeds. The pastoral feeds provide the principle dietary component for ruminant production (cattle, goats, sheep, camels). While manufactured feeds may be used as and when necessary, they are primarily applied to intensive pig and poultry production. Extensive livestock systems are exclusively fed pastoral feeds - natural pasture and cultivated weeds. Semi-intensive production systems - often the batch rearing of cross-breeds (local and exotic) - use fodder crops such as kale, cabbage, carrot, sweet potato and vines as the principle dietary components. Feed concentrates may be added as supplements. Intensive production systems maintain livestock (mainly exotic breeds) in high density pens, and use formulated feeds with hay and lucerne as supplements.

2.1 Pasture/fodder feed production

Forage is the principle livestock feed in Kenya, with the quality and quantity varying both spatially and temporally. The climatic conditions during the rainy season produce high quality fodders that, with the onset of the dry season, become lignified and are thus of lower nutritive value. By preserving silages during the rainy season, farmers compensate for the reduction in the nutritional quality of fodder during the dry season. Currently, farmers preferentially plant lucerne (Leucaena leucocephala). Other fodder crops include kale, cabbage, carrot, sweet potato and vines. In addition to farmers' individual requirements, the Kenyan Government has initiated programmes to increase the country's annual fodder harvest. Unfortunately, unpredictable rainfall patterns have hampered these programmes, and thus, in some cases they have met with little success. In addition, there is a lack of both skills and equipment that could be used to improve processing and preservation techniques. As a result, the quantity and quality of fodders have not improved significantly over the past decade.

2.2 Industrial feeds

2.2.1 The status of the industry

Over the past decade, the use of manufactured feed and feed supplements has increased. In 1990, it was estimated that the livestock industry required 300 000 tonnes of feed mixtures/supplements. Unfortunately, despite adequate installed production capacity, only 200 000 tonnes of feed were produced. The shortfall in production was attributed to an inadequate supply of raw materials. The shortfall in production was resolved by the importation of manufactured feeds from other East African countries and most notably from Switzerland and Israel. In addition, raw materials were imported to increase feed mill production. Principally, these imports included cereal bran, fishmeal, oil seed cakes and feed premixes (amino acids, minerals and vitamins).

In 2000, the manufactured feed industry produced approximately 400 000 tonnes of feed valued at more than US$80 million (Figure 1). This quantity was sufficient to meet the demands of the livestock industry. Over the past decade, the size of the animal feed industry has been steadily increasing. In 1991, there were less than 20 registered provender millers, oilseed millers and feed premix suppliers. By 2000, this figure had increased to over 30. Of the registered livestock feed manufactures, 10 were also cereal grain millers, and eight were oil seed millers. There were also 15 registered raw material importers and six suppliers of feed premixes (mineral, vitamin and other mineral elements).

Figure 1. Livestock feed production in Kenya (1991 - 2000)

2.2.2 Feed ingredients available to the animal feed industry

A list of the ingredients currently used in manufactured feeds in Kenya is presented in Table 2. In 1990, 1 797 tonnes of cotton oil seed cake, 2 009 tonnes of soya oilcake and 6 500 tonnes of fishmeal were imported into the country. Overall, 40 000 tonnes of oilseed cake were available to the livestock feed industry. This, however, fell short of the 50 000 tonnes required by the industry, and was in part responsible for the underproduction of feeds during that year.

Following the liberalization of the economy in the early 1990s, there was a marked increase in the quantity of ingredients imported into the country. At the same time - as an incentive to the feed manufacturing industry - the government reduced import duty on oil seed cakes from 25 percent to 10 percent, and from 25 percent to 20 percent on imported fishmeals, cereal brans and other livestock feed ingredients. Despite these incentives, ingredient prices remained high and in some cases continued to increase. This was the result of customer preference for the better quality of imported products.

In 1994, the industry recorded adequate supplies of feed ingredients, and as a result prices began to stabilize. At the same time, there was a process towards the use of local by-products - especially from the agricultural sector. There was also an increase in the production of local fishmeal. By 2000, there were sufficient local fishmeal supplies to satisfy industrial requirements. In addition, the local supply of cereal ingredients had also increased considerably, becoming sufficient to meet the national feed requirements.

In common with many developing countries, the production of cereal grain crops in Kenya is destined for human consumption. Consequently, only the milling by-products such as maize bran, wheat bran and rice bran are available for livestock feed production. Maize bran and wheat bran are the most commonly used cereals in Kenya. More refined by-products such as maize germ and wheat pollard are used to a lesser extent. The most widely available oilseed cakes are sunflower and copra. All the feed premixes, the majority of the soya cake, and to a lesser extent cotton cake are imported.

Table 2. Types, availability, supply and cost of ingredients used in the production of livestock feeds in Kenya (2000)






Maize bran




Wheat bran




Rice bran




Maize germ




Wheat pollard




Oil seed cakes





























Due to the competition within the livestock feed industry most manufacturers are reluctant to provide information pertaining to their ingredient sources, production and marketing strategies. Furthermore, a general lack of information renders it impossible to establish with certainty the origins or quantities of livestock feeds imported into the country. However, it is reasonable to suggest that the majority of the raw materials currently in use in the animal feed industry is obtained locally.

2.2.3 Types of livestock feeds available in Kenya

Industrial livestock feeds are generally designed for the beef, pig and poultry industries. There are also additional feeds produced for the pet industry. Currently, the poultry industry is the largest consumer of livestock feeds, and in 2000, accounted for 50 percent of the national feed production (chick and duck mash, growers mash, layers mash, broiler starter and broiler finisher; Figure 2). Estimated feed costs for the livestock feeds produced in Kenya are presented in Table 3.

3. Aquaculture

Aquaculture in Kenya is typically a smallholder operation undertaken by a few thousand farmers. It is normally integrated into other farming activities. Extensive smallholder fish farming comprises one or more earthen ponds of 130 - 1 000 m2 area that, in western Kenya, are usually stocked with tilapia. In central Kenya, the environmental conditions are slightly different and both tilapias and carp are produced. Typically, formulated feeds are not used, and thus production levels are comparatively low - in the range of 500 - 2 000 kg/ha/year. As those agricultural inputs used in the culture of the fish are similar to those used for livestock production, small-scale fish farming is predominantly viewed in the context of agricultural production, and not as a separate operation. In addition to the small-scale operator, there are a few semi-intensive and intensive aquaculture instillations using formulated feeds. These produce tilapia, carp, catfish, trout and freshwater ornamental fish. Several attempts have been made to culture shrimps, however, to date these projects have met with limited success.

Figure 2. Livestock feeds production in Kenya (2000)

Table 3. The recorded (1995) and estimated (2000) cost of livestock feeds in Kenya. The estimate includes a 30 percent general price increase and hard currency fluctuations over the 5-year period.

Feed Type

Cost (US$)/tonne




Calf/weaner meal



Dairy meal




Broiler mash



Chick/duck mash



Layer mash



Grower mash




Sow/weaner meal



Creep pellets



Pig finisher meal



3.1 Aquafeeds

Aquafeeds are supplied as either unprocessed or semi-processed natural or formulated feeds. While semi-processed natural feeds are used in extensive low cost operations, formulated feeds are used in the semi-intensive and intensive operations. While Kenya has a reasonably robust livestock feed industry, there are currently no established aquafeed industries operating in the country. In part, this lack of capacity can be attributed to the extensive nature of Kenyan aquaculture. However, high raw material costs and a lack of appropriate equipment and technical expertise are also important factors currently restricting the development of the sector.

3.1.1 Natural fish feeds

In addition to on-farm organic pond fertilizers that comprise animal manure, some extensive small-holders use non-processed (plant leaves/roots), and semi-processed agricultural by-products as fish feeds. These include cassava, arrowroot, sweet potato as well as plant species such as Titonia, Sesbania and Caspia spp.

3.1.2 Industrial fish feeds

As there are currently no established aquafeed producers in the country, the intensive and semi-intensive fish farms produce their own farm-made feeds. Formulation data suggests that the feeds are produced using locally available agricultural by-products.

3.2 Fish species cultured in Kenya

3.2.1 Tilapia, carp and catfish

Depending upon the culture type, tilapia and common carp are fed a variety of feeds including natural and supplementary feeds. Various combinations of agricultural by-products and industrial livestock feeds have been tested for their suitability as feeds. Where appropriate, premixes designed for livestock diets have been used in combination with other agricultural by-products. The most commonly used materials include cereal bran from maize, wheat and rice, maize germ and wheat pollard. In addition, oilseed cakes including soya, sunflower, sesame and cottonseed cakes may be used. Other components of the diets include fishmeal, chicken mash, fresh blood, pig premixes and brewer's yeast. In addition, various vitamin premixes are obtained from chemical manufacturers and importers. The agricultural by-products commonly used in feed formulation are presented in Annex 4.

3.2.2 Trout

Trout farms are typically high investment intensive culture operations, comprising hatchery and growout systems. Trout are grown in intensive raceway systems and fed high protein formulated feeds. Typically feeds are made "on farm" using local materials. The farms sell directly to restaurants and retailers in the urban tourist areas. However, in recent years, trout production has fallen with the decline in the tourist business.

3.2.3 Ornamental fish

There is a wide variety of freshwater ornamental aquaculture operations in Kenya. They produce a range of tropical ornamental fish that are obtained from different areas, e.g. the Amazon River, Indonesia, India and Central America. The fish are grown for the export market - mainly continental Europe. Concomitant with other fish farming ventures, ornamental fish farms rely heavily on natural feeds. However, due to the intensive nature of ornamental fish production, natural feeds are usually supplemented with formulated feeds. Due to the costs associated with imported fish feeds, ornamental fish farmers produce their own feeds from locally available ingredients - mainly agricultural by-products including wheat pollard, copra cake, fishmeal and fresh blood. Minerals and vitamin mixes are added as required. In comparison with imported feeds, the production of farm-made feeds reduces overall feed costs by as much as 50 percent. On average, the crude protein content of the feeds range between 32 and 35 percent.

3.2.4 Crustaceans

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to establish shrimp farming in Kenya. Most notable amongst these was the Ngomeni Shrimp Project that was established in the late 1970s (FAO/UNDP/Government joint project). Unfortunately, a lack of strategic planning brought about the collapse of the project. Other attempts to establish prawn farms along the Kenyan coast have always met with strong opposition from environmental lobbyists. Consequently, there is no freshwater shrimp farming in Kenya, and early attempts to culture the giant freshwater shrimp, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, were abandoned.

4. Sources of information

Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. 1995; 1996; 2000. Annual report of the Department of Livestock Production. Government of Kenya, (unpublished).

Balarin, J.D. 1985. National Reviews for Aquaculture Development in Africa - 7. Kenya. FAO Fish. Circ. 770.7: 96 p.

Coche, A.G., Haight, B. and Vincke, M. Aquaculture development and research in sub-Saharan Africa. Synthesis of national reviews and indicative action plan for research. CIFA Technical Paper. No. 23. Rome, FAO. 1994. 151 p.

FAO. 1993. Aquaculture Production, 1985 - 1991. FAO Fisheries Circulars, 815. 5: 213 p.

Ngugi, C.C. & Wangila, B.C.C. 1996. Aquaculture in Kenya: Status and constraints. In: Department of Fisheries Moi University, Fisheries for sustainable development. pp. 33 - 42. Technical Report No. 1, Eldoret, Kenya.

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