By Julia Nguyen
The week began on a foggy morning, with grey skies and cooler temperatures. Later that day it became so hot that the only relief was to find shade. This type of weather was a common occurrence the whole week. We only had one farm seminar scheduled that Monday afternoon. The morning was spent travelling to pick up 800 of the total 1600 Calliandra seedlings we plan to give farmers. At every farm seminar, in addition to a dairy farming handbook we give out three seedlings to each farmer that attends and 10 seedlings to our host farmer. Calliandra is a high protein fodder shrub that farmers are able to harvest tofeed their cows, providing an inexpensive source of protein and energy. Research done by the World Agroforestry group has shown that Calliandra is cost effective and well suited to the agro-ecologic zone we work in, making it a good choice to recommend to farmers here. On a side note Shauna would like to thank her dad Allan Richards for donating the funds to buy all 1600 Calliandra seedlings for the farmers – “Thanks Dad!”
Calliandra shrub (left)
The rest of the week was spent conducting on-farm seminars. Each seminar takes about two hours but some visits go longer. The longer seminars are thanks to some farmers being so engaged and having so many more questions about topics related to, or unrelated to our seminar topics. The questions and bouts of discussion are a good sign for us to know that the farmers are listening and want to learn more about dairy cow management. On Tuesday, our afternoon seminar visit was longer than expected because after the seminar had ended, three lively female dairy farmers had more questions to ask Shauna. Their discussion was so energized that at one point all three farmers were talking at once, and over each other, and Shauna in the corner smiling cheerfully waiting to chime in.
The common stand out points of discussion among farmers is realizing that they should improve their current feeding practices and understanding the concept of standing heat. Farmers often think the best sign to breed their cow is when she is mounting other cows. Though mounting other cows may indicate the cow is in heat it is not the best sign for breeding, if the cow stands still to be mounted by another cow and does not walk away, it is the more reliable sign that she is ready to be bred. For farmers that have only one dairy cow, we emphasize good observation of all other signs of heat and record keeping skills to watch and time when best to breed their cow.Overall, the rest of this week’s seminars went well. We often gave a red “My Veterinarian is Without Borders” bandana to our host farmer and a couple of them used them on their heads immediately! So far we have visited 27 out of our 40 farms, and completed all three project visits on eight farms.
The main topics of our seminars are: cow nutrition, reproduction, mastitis prevention and cow comfort/hygiene.
We were also able to visit two more primary schools this week to teach about zoonotic disease and dog bite prevention. We visited Tamabaya Primary school and Karaguririo Primary School.
For the weekend we headed to Meru were we hosted by Jennifer Murogocho. We visited the board members at the Dairy Co-op in Ex Lewa, and the Ngare Ndare forest. Jennifer is a long standing friend and partner with Farmers Helping Farmers and she was very sweet and welcoming to her home. As a member of the Meru assembly she was busy with the Deputy President’s visit to Meru this weekend, which brought excitement and funding to local schools.
The Dairy Co-op in Ex Lewa has been partnered with Farmers Helping Farmers for over two years, and is a much smaller dairy then the Wakulima Dairy that we are currently working with. The Ex-Lewa Dairy has around 300-400 members actively selling milk, compared to the Wakulima with over 6000 members. Since volunteers have worked with Ex-Lewa this past January and February, their milk production has increased from 600 kg to 1,500 kg per day! It was amazing to hear about the small changes the veterinarians and farmers have recommended already being implemented and making such an impact in the community. Their ambition to grow and willingness to improve the livelihood of their members is impressive.
Ex-Lewa Dairy is adjacent to the Ngare Ndare forest, so after our visit with them we headed out there with Salome, Charles, and Zablon (FHF employee, Jennifer’s brother, and park ranger respectively). We were able to relax by swimming at three waterfalls, lounging in the sunshine, seeing great views on the canopy walk and seeing a small family of elephants drink from the stream!
We saw this Masai giraffe (among other animals) as we drove out from Ngare Ndare forest through the Lewa conservancy.