Over the past 2 weeks, the Kenya team has been working with the veterinarians and extension officers from the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. The dairy is the Kenyan partner of Veterinarians Without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, and plays a vital role in the economy of the ever-growing Mukurwe-ini. Currently, over 6000 farmers sell their milk to the dairy, and it provides rewarding employment to many Kenyan women living in rural areas.
The dairy has a strong support system for its farmers, including laboratory tests, extension officers, and veterinary services. The lab provides routine testing of milk, similar to what is done in Canada, to ensure quality of milk products.
The dairy’s extension team educates farmers on components of animal health and welfare including nutrition, housing, and management practices. They advise farmers on small adjustments they can make to cattle housing to optimize comfort, feeding to keep cows a healthy weight, and milking practices to maximize production. Currently, the extension officers are focusing on educating farmers on the benefits of silage production to help feed their cattle consistently over Kenya’s two dry seasons when fresh food is harder to come by. The extension team supplies a chaff cutter to farms on a rental basis, as well as labour for the day, to help farmers make silage.
When working with the veterinary services team, we responded to calls from the community and treated animals as needed, under the supervision of Dr. Patrick Githae Gatheru. These treatments include preventative measures such as deworming, as well as treatments of illnesses with the use of antibiotics, vitamin and mineral supplements, and a little TLC. We were also able to observe some artificial insemination of cattle, a common practice in Kenya.
Next week, we will begin our project focusing on calf care. Our goal is to educate farmers about how to best feed, house, and care for their calves. We want to emphasize that calves given a good start to life will grow into higher producing cows, increasing income for the farmers.
Be sure to check out our favourite photos below from the past 2 weeks!
(Goodbye in Kikuyu)
This is the milk receiving dock at Wakulima Dairy. Most farms do not produce much milk with only a few cows per herd, so the dairy uses 20L milk cans to collect from each community.
This is our team (Alina left, Kelly center and Megan right) on one of our first days out with Dr. Githae Gatheru, one of the vets from the Wakulima veterinary services team. Although it is taking some time to adjust to the heat, we have been enjoying every minute of our experience here.
This week, we went with the extension team from the dairy to help with small scale Napier Grass silage making. First, the Napier Grass is cut using a gas powered chaff cutter, then molasses is added to aid with fermentation, then the chopped silage is packedtightly into plastic bags, each weighing 200-250 kg.
Megan and Kelly following Dr. Githae Gatheru to a farm where we watched an artificial insemination. Many of the farms we visit are only accessible by foot, and are surrounded by the many beautiful landscapes of Kenya.
Kelly and Megan measuring out a common preventative deworming medication in order to maintain health for this cow and her unborn calf.
Individual calf pens on one of the farms we visited. This raisedhousing system helps to improve calf welfare by preventing calf to calf contact, and reducing the potential for infection by parasite or bacteria from the ground.
Happy Cows = Happy Megan!