Hamid Rutaro, '15
Hamid Rutaro, ‘15, grew up on a small 50-cow dairy farm in Uganda and dreamed of a college degree. Today, his thesis research from Kansas State University’s online Master of Agribusiness program is making a difference for dairy farmers in his home country.
While completing his degree, Rutaro worked for Cooperative Resources International, a farmer-owned cooperative in Menemonie, Wisconsin, that provides agricultural testing and management information services. His master’s thesis, “Milk Quality Analysis in Southwestern Uganda,” assessed the quality of milk samples from 100 farms in the Mbarara and Kiruhura districts of Uganda, known as the country’s major cattle corridor. By testing the somatic cell count of the samples, Rutaro provided more information about milk quality than had previously been available to dairy farmers in the region.
“Smallholder dairy farmers in Uganda are faced with some major challenges,” Rutaro said. “These include livestock diseases, fluctuation in the quality and quantity of feed and water, low genetic potential for milk production, inadequate milk collection and marketing infrastructure, and milk quality issues.”
Rutaro says approximately 1.7 million farming families in Uganda have a connection to the dairy industry, including his own. As he traveled between countries to conduct his research, he found that the actual milk quality from the region tested higher than what dairy farmers had perceived.
“The lower somatic cell count may mean better returns to dairy farmers,” Rutaro said. “When the milk quality is perceived as low, it is hard to compete with imported ‘high-quality’ milk, and producers are less likely to invest in technology to enhance their quality.”
He hopes the research findings and recommendations to further enhance milk quality will help both dairy farmers and policy makers in Uganda achieve long-term improvements and make better management decisions.
“When thinking about what research to do, it was important to do something not just for today, but something that will help others get better or add to what they’re already doing,” Rutaro said. “My goal is to be a leader in the dairy industry, whether educating dairy farmers or giving back to the community.”