Dancing, singing, and more cow recommendations

By: Hanna Hone and Chantel Doyle – QES Vet Interns – June 16/19

During this past week, we returned to the Burri Dairy in the hopes that the weather would cooperate and keep the roads dry enough for us to get around. While joined by the chairman and fellow Burri Dairy staff, we fought through the light showers and made it to a couple of farms in the morning before the Gypsy needed a mechanic consultation.

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(pic 1- Chantel patiently awaiting the Gypsy’s check up).

At the farms that morning we noticed that, while a farm may have a good design and present well, examination of the animals can paint a slightly different picture. The lack of animals lying in the stalls while chewing their cud, poor body condition, unnoticed previous illness and injury, and lack of showing heats all reflected areas the farm could improve. We saw cows with blindness, an old fractured hook (hip bone), and mastitis but thankfully we were able to give recommendations before leaving. We learned the farm owners were rarely present, making it clear that oversight and incentives for good workers is key to maintaining a productive and healthy herd.

We took off the following day to enjoy the local primary school music festival; a gathering of local school children who performed songs, dances and spoken verse. We were welcomed by the head schoolteachers and mobbed by school children that were excited to shake our hands and show us their prepared performances. Their elaborate costume of straw skirts, face paint and bangles paired with their authentic enthusiasm was an enjoyment for all!


{Pic 2- Traditional African dance performed by the school children}

We were impressed by the confidence and pride with which they presented their performances, and we tried to bop along to all the music (to the spectating kid’s amusement). It turns out that clapping at the end of a class performance is not customary here, but that didn’t keep us from trying to show our support with a quick eyebrow raise and a head nod as per Kenyan tradition… and maybe a tiny clap, we couldn’t help ourselves. We made our rounds to the various performance areas for the different age groups. It was an interesting insight into the local culture but we were ready for clear skies and more farms for the rest of the week.

The remainder of the week was spent visiting Burri Dairy farms. We realized just how wide the scope of their coverage is, as well as how quickly the Kenyan landscape can change. We had gone from jungle forest to desert in just a short distance and each landscape presented its own perks and challenges for the farmers.

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(Pic 3- Daniel, Chantel and Hanna getting some shade under the Acacia tree).

The gypsy chronicles continued but that didn’t dim our spirits! We navigated the roads with the help of farmers and we were able to add many more animals to the research, despite being distracted by the many puppies, kittens, lambs and kids at each farm. We continued to be offered more tea, sugar cane and fresh oranges than any one person could consume. We worked until the sun threatened our productivity and felt accomplished at the end of each day.

Of the many lovely animals we met this week, we will always remember little Tom, the puppy who started nervous but who’s non-stop tail wagging gave away his true nature. He loved belly scratches so much that we became fast friends and he even sprawled between our legs for more love as we tried to leave. There was also the teeny tiny blue-eyed kitty that stole our cuddles and our hearts.

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{Pic 4- Little Tom with the puppy dog eyes//Pic 5- the beautiful ocean-eyed kitty}.

We think we surprised owners with our gentle handling and compassion for all creatures, and demonstrated to many farmers that showing kindness to their other non-profitable animals is also rewarding.

By Friday, Daniel headed off to Nairobi to visit his family for a long weekend and we met up with Bernard- who provides veterinary services for the cows in the Naari region- for a fun-filled day of his scheduled inseminations and cases. He was gracious with his time and let us use our fresh diagnostic skills to work through cases. He allowed us to treat pneumonia and mastitis cases, and he translated our recommendations for cases of reduced milk production where the cows just needed a little change in feed and some TLC. It was a fun and exciting day where we learned a lot while bonding with the local farmers who were grateful for the services. It was especially nice to see how Bernard’s wonderful reputation followed him and how much he is respected and appreciated by so many! They rely on him for the advice, treatment and breeding that sustains many farms and we hope to perpetuate his positive messages as the summer progresses!

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{Pic 6- Hanna ear tagging a cow under Bernard’s watchful eye }

Hanna & Chantel