Globally, climate change (CC) adaptation is critical as CC compounds smallholder dairy farmers’ challenges. Farmers’ CC perceptions and knowledge could influence their CC adaptations. This study in Southwestern Kenya sought to establish smallholder dairy farmers’ CC perceptions and CC knowledge level and their relationships to CC adaptations. Concurrent Fixed Mixed Methods was used to collect data from 367 smallholder dairy farmers obtained by multi-stage sampling. Purposive sampling was used to pick qualitative study respondents. Binary logistic regression and Framework methods were used in data analysis. Meteorological data indicated an increase in both day and night temperature (0.3oC) and mean annual rainfall (195mm). Respondents perceived CC had high impact on dairy cattle health (61.0%) and feed availability (42.2%), and moderate effect on labour requirements (42.2%). Adaptation practices included mixed farming (96.5%), non-intensive production (95.1%), using household labour (94.6%), reducing herd size to 2 (92.9%), establishing own fodder (92.4%), rearing cross-bred cattle (87.7%), mainly of non-Friesian blood and their crosses (87.5), and maintaining an increasing trend in milk income (68.4%). Perceptions of decreased night temperatures significantly influenced mixed farming (Adjusted Odds=0.13; p=0.04) and rearing of non-Friesian breeds and their crosses (Adjusted Odds=0.19; p=0.01). Perceptions of no change in night temperatures significantly influenced rearing of non-Friesian breeds and their crosses (Adjusted Odds=0.08; p=0.02); and perceptions that distribution of short rains got worse significantly influenced adoption of own fodder (Adjusted Odds=0.02; p=0.01). Majority (61%) of respondents had above-average CC knowledge, with the total score greatly influencing dairy herd size (Adjusted Odds=0.11; p=0.02). Governments should invest in climate forecasting infrastructure and incorporate indigenous CC knowledge in CC adaption plans, strategies and policies.
Keywords: Smallholder dairy farmers, Climate change adaptation, Southwestern Kenya, Perceptions, Knowledge