Lato Milk wants to increase milk yield per cow
Lato Milk, one of the leading dairy processors in Uganda, has launched a new initiative called ‘Project Prosperity’ that aims to increase milk production and ultimately farmers’ incomes.
Having spent over a decade in the region as a dairy processor, Lato has a wide range of dairy products and works closely with smallholder dairy farmers – over 10,000 in Uganda and 5,000 in Kenya.
‘Project Prosperity’ aims to increase the milk yield per cow for farmers to earn more and improve their families’ prosperity. Lato’s management has been working closely with the farmers for years and is well-informed about the lack of resources and high interest rates from financial institutions that hinder growth. The average milk production of cattle in Uganda is about 5-6 liters per day, whereas cows in more advanced nations like New Zealand and the Netherlands can produce 20 liters or more per day.
The lost opportunity in Uganda’s dairy industry is concerning since farmers lose up to Shs15,000 per cow per day. Improved yields would bring prosperity to farming families, create more interest in farming for future generations and triple their income.
Amit Sagar, the Chief Executive Officer at Pearl Dairy Farms, the processors of Lato Milk, says the demand for dairy products is increasing, thanks to the growing population. He adds that Uganda is the largest exporter of milk in Africa.
“The markets are growing and we need to increase capacity. That’s why we are also now building a new factory to increase the capacity. So, we’ll now double our capacity in the next one year so that we can cater to this growing demand,” Sagar says, adding that when they started operations in Uganda, the average price of milk was around Shs400 per litre.
“The average price of milk for the past three years has been over Shs1,100 per litre. The farmer today in Uganda gets paid three times what he used to get paid before Pearl Dairy came in. That has effectively tripled the income because they’re getting more for the same litre of milk. Now we want to work with farmers to reduce the cost of production,” he says.
He adds that they cannot keep increasing the price of milk if they are to remain competitive in the export market. He says with increased milk production per cow and reduced costs of production, farmers can earn good money from dairy farming.
“…We’ve now normalized the price of milk to a fair price. Our goal is now to take the cost of production down on the farm. And that’s basically why we’ve got a separate project for that,” he said.
Akash Kumar, Co- founder, Pearl Daily Farms, says ‘Project Prosperity’ will bring in international expertise by working with organizations like IFFC and MasterCard Foundation.
“Our ultimate goal is to make a farmer prosper and increase his household income. You know, wealth brings prosperity to his household. And that is why we call it ‘Project Prosperity’,” Kumar says.
He adds: “…If I’m a farmer and my cow delivers five litres. How can that same cow deliver 20 litres? But it won’t happen in day one. You know, it’ll take time. So, the five will become eight. Eight will become 12. 12 will become 15.”
He says milk is 80% water and if the cattle don’t drink water, they cannot produce milk, but they lose energy when they commute.
“So, if you bring the water source to the farmer, he will be closer to the cattle. Then they don’t lose (milk),” Kumar says, adding that quality pasture is also key.
“What do you feed the cow? Are you providing cow protein and that technical expertise? Unfortunately, not enough work is being done to provide the farmer with that technical expertise. So, this project will do that,” he says.
He adds that they are working on a technical, technology-based application that will tell which farmer needs what kind of investment.
“Currently, we have a team of about 50 dairy extension officers,” he says, adding that their survey indicates that about 2,000 farmers are producing below their capacity.
Farmers Speak Out
Jane Tayebwa, a dairy farmer, says her milk production per cow has remained the same for many years, but with improved improved pastures, she hopes to get more milk from the cows.
Laban Kabandize, another dairy farmer, says his income is set o increase because of improved pastures.
“My milk production has already started increasing due to improved pastures,” he says.
Lato is uniquely positioned to connect international organizations with resources and the intent to share them with smallholder dairy farmers who lack the tools and expertise to approach them.
Project Prosperity is a gateway to deliver this connection and plans to launch an Agri-fintech platform to digitize the initiative. The platform will help identify the neediest farmers and connect them with willing institutions ready to help.
Kumar says the project team has already collected data for 1,000 dairy farmers in Uganda and is delivering a pilot program to finalize the learnings about basic challenges and hidden opportunities before launching the digital application.
The project has been endorsed by leading international companies and institutions globally like IFC, PSFU, SNV, universities such as the University of Southern California, and government bodies like the Dairy Development Authority of Uganda.