Vet students hard at work in Kenya with local cow farmers

We have had an amazing first month here in Kenya!

We find it interesting to listen to Dr. Shauna talk to the farmers. She always says, “Your cow and calf need water…always.” Seems like a simple and easy concept however we must repeat it very often. Sometimes re-wording helps, “milk is made of water so, if you want more milk your cow needs to drink more water.” Often farmers don’t give their calves a constant supply of water because they think it makes them pee blood. Shauna then explains to them that this happens because, when the calf is deprived of water and then offered it, it will drink as much as possible and this actually causes them to pee blood. Many farmers are need to re-train their calves water drinking habits by offering them small amounts often throughout the day until they are ready to have a constant supply.

Local veterinarians do not have it easy. Diagnostic tools are limited and so is transportation. They ride a bodaboda (dirt bike) with a backpack on their back and a bag on their lap and that’s it…that is what they take to farm calls. They must keep tick born diseases (such as Anaplasma and East Coast Fever) in mind, not something we worry about in Alberta.

Our work these last few weeks has involved some construction. We modified the cows’ stalls so they can have a more comfortable place to rest. During our second visit to the farms we took out our hammers and shovel, and with the help of our drivers and the farmers, we set out to give the laddies a bit more space or soften their floor. In one case, within a few hours of leaving the farm, we received a call from the farmer letting us know that his cow, which had never laid in her stall before, was resting comfortably for the first time. On another farm, as soon as the tools were removed from the stall, the cow walked in and laid down.

Not all of our construction work has been an instant success. We’ve had to make follow up visits to some farms because the cows were not using the new stalls or the farmer had some concerns they wanted to discuss. This is all part of the process since one of our goals is to develop new guidelines for stall size, design and materials that are well within the reach of a small farm. In the weeks to come, we will be returning to all the farms to collect more data on the cows now that they have had time to get used to their new home.image006

Making the stall longer so the cow has more forward lunge space


Before picture of a stall with hard uneven stonesAfter picture of the stall with a thick layer of soft dirt and shavings:


Farmers often like to offer us tea:


Farmers and Dr. John replacing a roof:


Farm #38: Nancy with Eiphram (one of our drivers):