In Mogadishu, imported dairy cows jumpstart local milk industry

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Four Somali brothers have imported dozens of Holstein Friesian cows, the world’s top milk producing breed, hoping the high-risk strategy can build the war-torn country’s dairy industry from scratch.

Parts of the country are still plagued by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, but a degree of stability in the capital in recent years has begun to attract investment from locals and Somalis living abroad.

Some businessmen see opportunities in the livestock industry, whose mainstay is traditional breeds of cattle, reared by pastoralists, which produce little milk. A devastating drought last year killed off thousands of cows and camels

Yusuf Abdirahman Dahir, 49, who manages Som Dairy and owns it with his brothers, said they have so far spent $370,000 importing the cattle and infrastructure for milk production, processing and distribution.

“We want to revive the Somali dairy industry that got destroyed in the violence,” he said in an interview at the dairy facility, a high stone-walled compound where a couple dozen workers tended to the cattle.

The dairy, two kilometers outside the capital, produces 600 liters of milk daily from 35 cows that are being milked. There are 54 dairy cows in total on the property but some are not being milked due to calving.

Dahir, who sports hair dyed with red henna, said the new venture is not for the faint-hearted.

The first batch of Holstein Friesian cows, which are native to the Netherlands and Germany, died due to the heat in the Horn of Africa region, where temperatures average above 30 degrees Celsius.