Since it’s been a while since my last post and given the chilly weather outside today I figured this afternoon would be the prime opportunity to settle down with a cup (or three) of tea and update our blog. As of now the project continues to go very well and we are proud to see many of our farmers taking our recommendations into consideration and adjusting their management practices to improve their farm.

Our last cow in the study finally calved on June 25th. We rejoiced when we heard the news given that we had expected all our calves to be born before June 11th. However late, we are glad the little bugger arrived alive and healthy. I’m amazed at how big and strong some of our first calves have become. Taking the girth and height measurements on these calves have become quite a rodeo show!

One of the most enjoyable parts of returning to the farms each week is visiting with the farmers. One of our farmers, Grace, calls Jen and I her adopted children. When we were there last she invited us into her home and as we shared a cup of tea she showed us pictures of her children and told us all about her family. She insisted we return on a Saturday when they come to visit her so we could meet them. I certainly think that would be a pleasant experience.

This last week we have also started introducing a topic such as lameness, proper milking technique, parasite control, etc… with each farm visit we do. We present each farmer with some basic information, address any question they may have on the topic and then leave them with a fact sheet summarizing what we have discussed. This week we decided to discuss lameness with our farmers because one of our cows is currently lame due to cracked rear hooves and at least 2/3 of all our other cows have very long toes. When the cows hooves become overgrown it shifts the cow’s weight onto the heel and makes it very uncomfortable for the cow to stand and walk. As a result they tend to eat less and their milk yield decreases.  Long toes also lead to more rapid erosion of the heel area, causing lameness.  On a number of our farms the cows also stand
in very wet and mucky conditions all day long and this can cause the hoof to become soft and easier for bacteria to penetrate into, causing infectious lameness. Many of the farmers were very interested in the topic and eager to learn of ways to prevent lameness in their cows.

Of course we’ve encountered a few more hurdles in the last two weeks as well. First off, due to some communication error it seems that all the blood samples we collected and spun from our calves ended up being moved from the freezer to the fridge last week. In consequence all the sample dethawed and have now been refrozen. We are hoping that this did not damage our samples and that the parameters we wish to analyse will be not be affected.

Aside from the lab complications we’ve also had a few more car troubles (poor Fredrick!). On Monday of last week it seems that Fredrick’s car yet again had a few difficulties climbing some hills, resulting in a good deal of exercise for the day. On last Tuesday Fredrick’s car managed to survive the roads but when I emerged from the third farm of the day I found three men huddled around the driver’s door with a wire rod jammed through the window trying to fish the keys from inside the car. I must say I was quite impressed with their dexterity and how
efficiently they manuvered the keys out and up through the window to unlock the car for us.  Wednesday made it three days in a row. Everything was going well until we came across a patch of road construction. For a half kilometre stretch men along the side of the road were spreading huge piles of broken rocks onto the road. I was concerned as soon as we started making our way through- we bounced every which way and Fredrick was vigorously jostling the steering wheel back and forth to find the best path. We made it ¾ of the way through and I was beginning to think there had been no reason to worry but then two cars starting coming up the road from the opposite side. The roads are
quite narrow to begin with and with the larger rocks accumulating on the borders of the road the only safe area to drive was down the middle. However rather waiting for us to make it through the last bit of the construction they motored their way up to where we were and then could not get by. They tried to pass and could not so they insisted we back up and move further over to the side. Good natured Fredrick decided to try it their way and instead we ended up in the ditch. Meanwhile the two cars we moved for passed by and continued on their way. When Fredrick tried to drive the car back onto the road there was a horrible grinding and clanking noise and instead we ended up stuck on the pile of rock. Fredrick got out of the car and bent down to assess the situation. He called to all the construction workers and they dropped their shovels, came over and literally lifted the back end and the front end of the car back into the middle of the road!  Since then we have had no further roadside adventures so maybe we have reached our quota for now.

With the project running smoothly Jen and I have also taken the opportunity to explore a bit of the country. We took a weekend trip to Lake Naivasha where we climbed Mt. Longonot, toured the gorge in Hell’s Gate national Park, took a boat ride along the lakeshore, saw hippos
and walked amongst the animals on crescent island (and almost got kicked by a zebra we were so close!)! It was a phenomenal trip!

We also ventured into the capital city of Nairobi and bartered our way through Masi market. The market was vast and colourful. We spent the better part of day there and I’m sure we only made it though half of the stalls. We also made it out to the Sheldrick Elepahnt orphanage and the Giraffe center. I can now truthfully say that I have touched a baby elephant and kissed a giraffe!
That’s all for now!