Seeing Naiseku milk her goats at her humble homestead, you may dismiss her as another small farmer struggling to eke a living.
Every morning, her husband calls each of their goat by name, one by one, and holds them for her to milk.
Interestingly, this milk will later be turned into cheese and the products would be sold at prominent, high-end outlets in Nairobi.
“Today they are not yielding much. I spent the better part of yesterday at the local market and did not give them plenty of water, which has affected production.”
Soon, Jane finishes milking Kalungali, her favourite animal that produces up to two litres a day.
Next is Mfalme. She produces a snoring sound, which Nasieku says indicates that the animal is withholding some milk, probably because she has seen strangers.
Before milking each goat, Nasieku washes her hands with warm water. Hygiene is vital in milk handling right from farm to the table as milk is a highly perishable produce. Besides, this minimises chances of spreading infection of the udder from one goat to the other, keeping disease such as mastitis at bay.
To keep her goats healthy, she deworms them every three months and ensures they are vaccinated against diseases such as foot and mouth, as advised by a veterinary officer.
“I also spray them against ticks every two weeks,” she says.
In about one hour, Nasieku is done with milking her 10 goats, crossbreeds of Red Maasai and Dorper breeds. She puts the milk in a small, clean transparent bucket and heads to the collection centre, a few metres from her home.
“I used to sell milk to my neighbours at Sh40 per litre, but I now sell to Brown’s, a cheese-manufacturing company at Sh70,” she says, adding that by selling to the company, she is assured of a regular income, unlike before when she would not know if any client would turn up, and she ended up losing some of the milk.
At the collection centre, Nasieku delivers the milk and waits for several tests to be done. Enock Aguta, the station manager observes the milk before carrying out an alcohol test.
“If milk has high acidity or greater levels of magnesium and calcium compounds, it coagulates when alcohol is added,” explains Aguta.
Increased levels of albumen (colostrum milk) and salt concentrates (mastitis) may result in a positive test.
Records of how much milk each farmer delivers daily, tests done and the results are well captured at this point. The milk is frozen and delivered after seven days to Sun Power Products Ltd, for further processing and value addition. Sun Power Products Ltd is the compant behind Brown’s Cheese and other products.
At the factory, the samples are defrosted and subjected to several tests to check the acidity, pH and reflectometer (microbial and water adulteration). The milk is accepted for processing after it passes the tests.
“We keep it overnight to defrost and process the following day,” says Delia Stirling, the Commercial Director at Sun Power Products Ltd
Everyone at any handling level maintains strict hygiene. Handlers of both raw and processed products must keep their hair covered, and wear protective gears such as laboratory coats and gumboots.
Further, they must wash hands before handling any products and sanitise footwear before entering the factory.
Employees are all regularly checked for health status and anyone who has injuries or is unwell rests until they recover fully.
At the processing level, milk passes through several stages before being turned into final products.
These stages are dependent on the individual products, such as yoghurt, ghee and cheese, among others. Besides, each type of cheese passes through its own process.
The processes include pasteurisation, culturing, stabilisation, curdling, molding, brining and packing.
From packing, the products are kept under low temperatures, each according to its requirements, ready for supply to the market. The products are transported in well labelled tracks, clean and with cooling facilities. Still, there is a factory shop where visitors can buy products at lower prices.
Having followed the milk, from the farm to the processor, it is time to have a taste of several varieties of cheese and ice creams, all made from milk as the main ingredient. They are absolutely savory.
Like the goat milk, cow milk delivered here has to undergo several tests before processing. Poor quality milk is rejected.