The livestock business is an innovative approach to the marketing challenges faced by pastoralists in northern Kenya. Herders often trek cattle for days to market, only for middle-men to pay poor prices for good cattle, and very low prices for low-grade livestock. The livestock programme provides an alternative market, paying fair prices, purchasing directly from the conservancies, and buying selectively to reward good conservancy performance (governance, conservation, rangeland management).

The conservation fee paid by NRT is contributing immensely to the conservancy operational budget, and to the county revenue kitty through livestock tax. Cattle are quarantined on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and fattened and slaughtered on Ol Pejeta and other private ranches in Lai­kipia, with profits covering NRT Trading’s costs and contribut­ing a levy to source-conservancy revenues. This market aims to incentivise conservancies to practice effective, transparent governance and sustainable natural resource management by linking local livestock owners in high performing conservan­cies to ready markets. The market also aims at introducing commercial livestock trading by encouraging better production systems and management at conservancy levels.

Drought halted all LivestockWORKS cattle purchases in 2017. NRT Trading owned 5,127 cattle at the beginning of the year, and sold 2,964 of these for KES 135 million. None of the remaining cattle were lost to drought, a significant achievement resulting from advanced supplementation plans, a grass banking project with Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the strategic movement of cattle to secure and accessible feeding sites. 

For the first time, all NRT Trading cattle have been fitted with a microchip, which enables staff to easily record weight gain and veterinary treatments for each animal. A weight-based purchasing and sales model was also launched in 2017.