From Manitoba to Meru, Kenya

Two local veterinarians recently went to Kenya, Africa, to help make a difference in the lives of diary farmers there. Claus and Karen Leppelmann — owners and operators of Beausejour Animal Hospital and Lac du Bonnet Veterinary Service — and their children found themselves in the Meru region of Kenya back in February, where they toured local dairy farms and worked side-by-side with Kenyan farmers who make their living working in the dairy industry.

There are 42,000 dairy producers that ship milk to the dairy processor the Leppelmanns worked with, Mount Kenya Dairy. Each producer has an average of two cows each and average milk production is two to four litres per cow, per day. That’s much different than here in Canada, where Claus says the average calf is fed six litres of milk each day just to keep it properly nourished.

In Kenya, milk is commonly transported by motorcycle from the farm to the collection centre.

“The dairy industry in Kenya looks much different than it does here in Canada”, Claus notes. “Most milk is picked up from the farm and goes to a central collection centre that has a cooling bulk tank”.

“One farmer we met hauled the milk up to the road in milk cans everyday,” Claus says. “Most milk is picked up from the farm by motorcycle. Often, it will spoil by the time it gets to the collection center, and the farmers don’t get paid for it. It’s one of the hardships they can face.”

Claus and Karen Leppelmann examine a dairy cow in Kenya.

Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses savannah, lakelands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands. It’s also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos — and lots of dairy cows. It has a population of just over 46 million people.

According to the Kenya Dairy Board, the dairy industry plays a significant part in the nation’s economy and provides income to an estimated 1.8 million small-scale farmers. Apart from milk, dairy animals also provide manure, other marketed products such as calves and cullings as well as other intangible benefits such as insurance.

There is a growing demand for milk and milk products in Kenya and in the export market given the growing population, increasing urbanization and an emerging middle class.

“Some producers are realizing that they can make a good living if they are serious about dairy farming. For many it’s just a supplemental income — but almost all are very hungry for knowledge,” Claus says.

He and Karen were there to work with local farmers and help them learn new practices to help them take better care of their cows and, in turn, produce more milk. “We discussed nutrition, cow comfort, mastitis, reproduction and calf raising. The farmers were very keen,” Karen says. “We showed producers how to measure and design stalls to improve the cows’ comfort.”

The Leppelmann family learned a lot about Kenya during their stay, and were able to show farmers the benefits of better farming practices.

A Kenyan dairy farm.

“One day we held a producer meeting at Mount Kenya Dairy and we had almost 200 producers show up,” Claus says. “We showed them the improvements we made at one farm that allowed us to really increase milk production. They were very encouraged by it.”

 

 

Whirlwind summer in Kenya!

After a whirlwind summer in Kenya, the time has come for our final blog post. As our time here draws to a close, we want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Kenyan family, without whom this project would not have been possible. Each member of our team has been essential in helping us reach our goals. We are so grateful to them for welcoming us into a new country with open arms.photo1(placeafterintroparagraph)
With their help we have worked directly with over 500 farmers and taught over 40 seminars. A total of 54% of the farmers we worked with were women. We were able to increase our impact this year by visiting more farms than in previous years to provide one-on-one training. This allowed us to teach farmers not only about the importance of raising calves, but also about feeding a milking cow, construction of an appropriate place for cows to rest, milking hygiene, and much more. By working one-on-one with farmers we ensured their individual needs were met to set them up to succeed.
To ensure our project was sustainable, we also taught 20 staff members at the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. about the best ways to raise a calf and take care of a dairy cow. These training sessions were based on years of past research proven to be useful in this region. This group of staff is responsible for training dairy farmers, so countless more farmers will learn about how to dairy farm more sustainably to ensure improved livelihoods.
We also visited 5 schools and taught 360 primary aged children about Rabies prevention, how to avoid dog bites, staying safe around farm animals, and how to ensure you don’t catch a disease from an animal. These students go home and teach their siblings and parents about this information, creating an even larger impact on the community surrounding staying safe around animals.
These are just some of the large impacts our work had this summer in Mukurwe-ini, but as we previously mentioned, none of this would be possible without our Kenyan family. Therefore, to end off our summer, we would like finish this blog by sharing some details about our great team that we had the pleasure of working with every day.
Ruth Wathiha provided us with laundry services to ensure we had clean clothes every day for working on the farms. Without her help, it would have been very difficult for us to maintain good biosecurity practices while working with the livestock here. Ruth is from the Mukurwe-ini region of Kenya and lives with her grandma, husband, and three year old son, Travis. Ruth has been working with Veterinarians without Borders since 2010. In addition to her small laundry business, she is a well-established entrepreneur, operating a fruit stand in Ichamara as well as a flour, sugar, and fat shop in Kimondo. In her spare time, Ruth enjoys listening to music and playing with Travis. Ruth loves working in the Ichamara region of Kenya because of its pleasant climate and peaceful atmosphere.

photo2(placeafterruthparagraph)
Samuel Karanja, our very talented chef, was inspired at a young age by his uncle who was a successful chef at fancy hotels in the Nairobi area. Samuel completed his secondary education in Nanyuki and attended Nyeri Technical Institute for 2 years for his culinary training. He has been working with VWB/VSF for the last 3 years. Although he faces challenges such as limited availability of ingredients in Mukurwe-ini and less than favorable cooking conditions, his ingenuity pays off with his delicious meals and the well-deserved compliments he receives. He loves his childhood home of Nanyuki and credits his mother’s guidance for his successes. Samuel’s goal is to work abroad in Canada for a few years and ultimately return to Kenya to build a fancy restaurant of his own in Nanyuki. In his spare time, Samuel likes to watch movies and the cooking channel, listen to music, go swimming, and make new friends. Aside from his cooking skills, he has given us invaluable insight into understanding Kenyan life, and has become a great friend.

photo3(placeaftersamparagraph)
Priscilla Muthoni was our enthusiastic translator who has been working with VWB/VSF since 2012. She speaks 3 languages – English, Swahili, and Kikuyu. Kikuyu is her native tongue, which helps us to connect with the local people. She was born in the Mukurwe-ini region and grew up on a dairy farm. Of her many chores on the farm, milking cows was her favorite, and this cultivated an interest in the dairy industry. She completed her post-secondary education at the Dairy Technical Institute in Naivasha and then worked as a laboratory technician doing quality control at local dairies. She is well versed in dairy cow care and Kenyan farming practices, providing background knowledge and a Kenyan perspective to each situation we encounter. Her favourite part of the job is helping to make a difference in the dairy farmers’ lives. In her spare time, Priscilla enjoys going out with her husband and 3 children to volunteer with the less fortunate. Priscilla was a vital part of our team, especially in connecting and building relationships with the farmers we teach. Every day with Priscilla was a delight as she is so personable, funny, and easygoing.

photo4(placeafterPRISparagraph) (002)
Ephraim Mutahi was our very impressive driver. Amidst the bustling pedestrian and vehicle traffic, he was successful in getting us where we needed to be quickly and efficiently, and his faithful car Shira always made it up the most intimidating hills. He has been working for VWB/VSF since 2013 and really enjoys the opportunity to be a private driver because it’s dependable employment. He has worked as a matatu (local bus) driver in busy Nairobi, but prefers the more peaceful life of Mukurwe-ini. He says his biggest challenge as a driver is competing with the many other drivers in the area for customers, but it is worth it because his job allows him to provide for and work close to his family. Ephraim is a pastor and a father of 3, often providing us with daily wisdom and cheesy dad jokes. He loves spending time with family, volunteering on the school board, and taking time to bathe his cow, Maggie. He says, “When you have a big heart, you always have time to do more.” Ephraim feels lucky to have been born in Kenya because the country is free and the landscapes are beautiful. Our daily drives with Ephraim were always an adventure, and we looked forward to his exciting wardrobe choices.

photo5(placeafterEPHparagraph)
In addition to the team we worked with daily, we would like to thank Gerald Kariuki for coordinating our partnership with the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. as well as the local community. He has been a valued liaison for VWB/VSF for many years and we are all very appreciative of his efforts. We also appreciate the following individuals for their many contributions to our work:
Extension staff from the MWDL – Charles, Elias, James, Eunice, Jeremiah
Veterinarians from the MWDL – Patrick and Ayub
The administrative, lab and management staff at the MWDL.
Henry and the staff at Sportsmen’s Safaris in Nairobi who supported us during this project.
We would like to thank our wonderful supervisor Dr. Shauna Richards for her knowledge and guidance throughout our placement, Veterinarians without Borders Canada for their sponsorship of this project, Farmers Helping Farmers for their continued collaboration, and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre for their generous financial contribution. Last but not least we want to extend a special thank you to everyone back home who donated their time, services, money and encouragement for us to be here. None of this work would be possible without you!

photo6(placeafterthanksparagraph)Our team with friends and family in Mukurwe-ini at our Canada Day celebration

This project is supported by VWB/VSF Canada with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
#KenyaBelieveIt #Dairyfarming #Cowsforlife #Vetsinthemaking #VetsWithoutBordersCanada #FarmersHelpingFarmers #Drinkmilk #TeamPotato

Getting down to work in Kenya

Muriega! (“Hi all” in Kikuyu, the local language spoken in Mukurwe-ini)

Photo1small

The three of us visiting the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, which is part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya Ltd. 

We would like to formally introduce you to the VWB team Kenya!
We are a mini force of three. Kelly Hammond (photo left) is a vet student from Manitoba heading into her second year. She aims to work in mixed animal practice after graduation and is very interested in contributing to sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale.  Megan White (photo center) is a Registered Vet Tech and agricultural student from Alberta. This is her second trip to Kenya, and she is excited to see how veterinary medicine contributes to human and animal welfare in developing nations.Alina Gardiner (photo right) is a vet student from Ontario heading into third year.  Alina wants to work in a bovine practice after graduation, so she is thrilled to be on the dairy team andto collaborate with Kenyan farmersto improvethe health of their calves.

We’re sure all of you (especially our families) are wondering what we have been up to! The internet is not always reliable here, so we are extra excited to share our experiences through this blog.

We have just arrived in Mukurwe-ini, our final placement destination, after spending the past week with Dr. John VanLeeuwen and The Farmers Helping Farmers team in Meru learning the ropes and acclimatizing to the farming techniques here in Kenya! We were able to practice our physical exams, body condition scoring and pregnancy checks under the watchful eye of Dr. John.

This summer we will be working with women and youth members of the Wakulima Dairy Ltd. We will be hosting seminars focusing on dairy calf health and welfare and making small changes and recommendations on farm. In addition, we will be visiting primary schools to educate children about zoonotic diseases and hygienic practices related to animal handling. Our overall goal is to help educate dairy farmers to improve the health of their animals and promote a sustainable livelihood in their communities.

Kenya is a beautiful country, and we have taken at least 500 photos each, but have included just a few of our favorites from the past week below.

Photo2smallOne of the many calves we examined with the beautiful scenery of Naari in the background.

Photo3small

In the last week, we have had to get creative with restraint techniques. Alina is holding a cow while Kelly listens to the heart as part of a physical exam.

Photo6small

Alina performing a pregnancy check of one of the cows in Meru with Dr. John’s guidance. 

Photo7small

Photo 7: A small 6-month-old calf. With the help of Dr. John and the other vet students we gave nutrition recommendations to the farmer to help with normal growth.

#VetsWithoutBorders #FarmersHelpingFarmers #Kenya #Cows #Vetsinthemaking

This project is supported by VWB-Canada and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre

A Kenyan Veterinarian’s Work

Text and photos by Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern.

The internships with the Wakulima Dairy group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.

This week we spent a day with Patrick, one of the veterinary technicians from the Wakulima Dairy. In Kenya, veterinary technicians have extensive training and are licensed to treat animals so long as they work under the indirect supervision of a veterinarian, reporting on the cases they have seen each week. Dr. Auyub is the lead veterinarian at the Wakulima Dairy, and there are two other technicians that work under him.

Over the course of our day, we saw some very interesting cases. The day started with a case of foot rot, as common an ailment here as it is in Canada. In Kenya, it is especially common in cows who do not have an adequate resting stall. Without somewhere clean and comfortable to rest, the cows spend more time standing on hard ground or in manure, making them prone to foot rot. In this case, we treated with topical and intravenous (IV) antibiotics, pain control, and advised the farmer to keep it as clean as possible.

Blog 7 - 01Julia, Patrick, Ephraim, and Katy after a successful day of veterinary work in Mukurwe-ini.

The first farmer we saw had also had cases of East Coast Fever and babesia on his farm in the last year. Both of these are tick borne diseases that are seen more commonly in Kenya than Canada. Tick borne illness is especially common in cows that graze out where they might be in contact with wild animals. However, in the Mukurwe-ini area most cows are zerograzing, meaning they stay in their stalls all the time and farmers bring forage to their cows. It is suspected that cows here get tick borne illness from hay that is harvested in higher risk areas and then sold to local farmers.

Blog 7 - 02The lead legged tick, seen here, can be a vector for diseases like East Coast Fever and babesia.

We had follow-up visits with two other farmers who had cows that were recently diagnosed with East Coast Fever. The cows presented as pale, depressed, anorexic, and with decreased milk production. Their temperatures were over 40oC. They also had petechiae (small internal bleeds presenting as red dots) across their gums. The lymph nodes in front of their front and hind limbs were significantly enlarged. Successful treatment depends on early diagnosis and luckily in these cases the treatment Patrick had offered 48 hours earlier was enough to make significant improvements in both cows. For future prevention, applying a tick-killing spray (such as permethrin) every seven days will be essential.

Blog 7 - 03Julia attempting to carry a load of Napier grass similar to the weight of those we mentioned in last week’s blog.

Two other farmers we visited were part of the youth farmer project we are running. On our second visit to their farms, we perform physical exams and California mastitis tests (CMT) on farmer’s cows. When we find positive CMT results or any other abnormal findings, we recommend follow-up with local veterinarian professionals like Patrick. The prevalence of mastitis is much higher in Kenya than in Canada. The majority of the farms we visit have at least one cow with subclinical mastitis. When cows have mastitis they give less milk, the milk is of poorer quality, and farmers have the added expense of treatment. Prevention through proper hygiene is one of the main things we are educating farmers about on our visits. An intramammary antibiotic given in the affected teats helps to prevent an increase in severity of the infection and stops spread to other quarters. We are currently working with the dairy to ensure they are using appropriate antibiotics to treat infections and prevent antibiotic resistance.

Another common thing we have to educate farmers on is the importance of mineral feeding. Though most farmers are feeding mineral, they are often feeding it inconsistently and in inadequate amounts. Cows are often getting less than a third of what they are recommended to receive in a day. As a result, farmers here struggle with their cows not coming into heat, low milk production, and illness associated with mineral deficiency. In addition, dry cows (those who are not being milked in the two months before calving) are often being fed milking cow minerals resulting in milk fever. Through the course of our day, we saw a calving cow presenting with milk fever and vaginal prolapse, as well as a mineral deficient heifer. By helping to educate farmers on proper mineral feeding hopefully we can prevent the need for emergency veterinary visits like the one we had to assist on.

Blog 7 - 04Another successful seminar, where we discussed mastitis prevention, reproduction, nutrition and cow comfort.

We also responded to a call from a farmer who reported a difficult calving. When we showed up it was evident that the cow was in the middle of an abortion, and needed assistance to pass the fetus. Once the fetus was pulled we estimated that it had stopped developing at the 7-month stage of pregnancy, likely due to an intrauterine infection caused by a natural bull breeding. Most farmers here use artificial insemination (AI) to get their cows pregnant but some still have their cows bred by a bull making them prone to infection and injury.

AI is performed by a veterinary professional and with Patrick, we visited 3 farms for AI. Without ready access to internet, it is hard for farmers to know which bulls they want to breed to, so they trust the veterinarian to make the decision for them. Patrick choses the sire based on conformation, genetics, and owner preference for imported or local semen. He makes his decision on the farm after talking to the farmer about their cow. To time the breeding, the veterinarians rely on farmers to recognize signs of heat. This is something we work with farmers on during our seminars. Occasionally when a farmer is struggling to get their cow pregnant, the veterinarians will use hormones to help time breeding but for most farmers, that option is out of the budget.

Blog 7 - 05Patrick performing AI on an Ayrshire cow.

Through the course of the rest of the day, we also saw a dog with kennel cough and dewormed each of the animals we saw. We also talked to a farmer about a recent anthrax outbreak in her area that had resulted in one human death. This was tragic news for everyone involved, but it is because of the support of Patrick and the other Wakulima Dairy veterinarians that the outbreak was handled before it turned into an epidemic. Spending the day with Patrick really highlighted the importance of veterinarians not just to animal health, but also to human health. By helping people keep their animals healthy, the veterinarians here are directly improving the health of the farmers and their families.

Blog 7 - 1Katy and Julia with two slightly unhappy puppies after a tandem deworming!

Blog 7 - 06Katy and Julia  at Chania Falls in Aberdares National Park where they took a chance to explore on their weekend.

Kenyan Dairy Farms

Text and photos by Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern
Julia Nguyen, OVC Veterinary Student and VWB Intern

The internships with the Wakulima Dairy group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.

This past week Kelsey Goodick, a FHF intern, visited us from where she has been working in Naari. It was nice to have an extra set of hands as we had a big week full of some challenging construction projects. While on a walk one afternoon to the nearby river Sagana, Kelsey asked us what surprised us the most about being in Kenya. At the time we both remarked about how many people live in the “rural” area of Mukurwe-ini. It was a surprise to us to be living in such a populated area, when we expected something more rural. Of course in a country smaller than Ontario with a larger population than Canada, rural has a bit of a different meaning. Over the course of the week, and a visit to Nairobi, I think this question highlighted some of the other differences we have noticed here in Kenya and got us thinking about them. Specifically, the way an average dairy farm works is much different than in Canada.

Blog 6 - 01Julia, Katy, and Kelsey at the river Sagana, a beautiful place for reflection, and an important water supply to the Mukurwe-ini area.

The average farm we have encountered in the Mukurwe-ini area has only one or two cows, and is managed by a single person or family. It will often have other animals such as chickens, goats, sheep, and dogs or cats. The cows are housed within wooden cow sheds. Within a typical cow shed there would be a feed bunk area, a resting stall, a milking stall, and the cow’s open “alley way”. The cow’s manure and urine is often collected and piled or pooled outside the cow shed and composted.  One farmer we met, Solomon Waribu, was in the process of installing a biogas system whereby he could use his cows’ waste to produce gas to use in his home.

Side note: While in Nairobi this weekend we visited the Kibera slum, an area of four square kilometers with a population of 1.6 million people. Kibera has eight different biogas facilities that collect human waste to create fuel. For 40 KSH, people can hook up to the fuel created and cook their meals.

Blog 6 - 02An average dairy shed here in Kenya. We actually constructed the stalls in this shed from scratch!

The farms in Mukurwe-ini are zero-grazing farms, meaning that the famer has to harvest all of the food the cow eats and bring it to her. This helps to minimize parasite borne illness and ensure the cow’s daily nutritional requirements are being met. The farmer is required to grow, harvest, transport, and process the forage entirely on their own. Since the land area of a single farm is often quite small (about 1 acre), farmers often have to lease land elsewhere to grow their crops. Once they harvest their crop (using a machete) they have to transport the forages of foot or by boda boda (motorcycle). We are always in awe of the amount of forages or water that farmers are able to transport on their own. Walking several kilometres with 100 lbs of napier grass on your back is no small feat! In addition, water supply can be an issue. Some farms do not have direct water access so they must rely on rainwater collection tanks or travel to rivers to fill containers and bring water back to their farm.

Blog 6 - 03A local woman carrying napier grass to her cow back home.

To prepare for the dry season, some farmers are able to make silage. Indeed, this is one of the key ways a farmer can ensure that their cows’ nutritional needs are being met year round, and it is something we strongly encourage on our farm visits. This begins with a large harvest of maize and other forages, then everything is chopped into small chunks with the use of a chaff cutter and packed into silage bags. The protein and energy of the forage is preserved through the ensiling process making it an excellent feed for cows. Silage and other forage is then fed to the cow several times throughout the day. Farmers’ component feed their cattle here, meaning that forage is fed separately from dairy meal, minerals and other supplements. This is different from Canada where cows are fed a balanced total mixed ration containing everything the cows need in a day. While a nice idea, it would be very hard for a Kenyan famer to determine the proper balance of nutrients need in a TMR and so it is easier to ensure the cow is receiving everything she needs by feeding separately.

Blog 6 - 04Peter Ndegwa (a farmer in our project) preparing forage with a chaff cutter for the ensiling process.

Blog 6 - 05Finished silage bags ready and waiting to be fed to nearby cows.

Since this is all a very labour intensive process, farms with more cows often do poorer than smaller farms. The more cows you have, the less each cow gets to meets its daily energy demands. Making milk is a very energy demanding process, and so if a single cow is getting the proper amount of food she can make much more milk than several cows whose energy demands are not being met. A good dairy farmer in the Mukurwe-ini area is producing an average of 20L of milk per day. Milking is done entirely by hand and collected into stainless steel cans. Milking one cow from start to finish will typically take about ten minutes. The farmer will then walk with the full can or cans to the nearest milk collection point (up to a few kilometres away). Here the milk is weighed and collected into larger milk cans which are then transported to the dairy. Farmers are paid for their milk every month. The rate is about 35 KSH per litre of milk, that’s equal to 45 Canadian cents per litre of milk.

Blog 6 - 06Farmers wait with their milk containers for the afternoon milk pick up. There are two pick ups per area per day. One in the early morning around 5:00am, and the other shortly after noon.

Blog 6 - 07A milk collection station, you can see here how the milk is weighed before putting it in general collecting tanks for transport to the dairy.

The differences we see in Kenya highlight how dairy farming is a lifestyle here as much – if not more – than it is in Canada. In most cases it is more than a full time job, but when farmers are successful they can make a decent living off a small dairy farm. One that will allow their children to go to school, and ensure there is food on the table every night. Being part of a supportive dairy group, that ensures a steady income, makes all the difference for the families we work with. By helping them to increase their milk production even a little bit we are working to make that living even more worthwhile. Plus, we get the bonus of improving animal welfare on farms, making new friends, and working with passionate and hardworking farmers in the process!

Kenya Halfway Point Favourites

Text and photos by Julia Nguyen, VWB intern and OVC veterinary student, and Katy White, VWB Intern and UCVM veterinary student.

The internships with the Wakulima Dairy group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.

It’s just over the halfway point of our internship in Kenya. We have visited 27 out of a total 40 farms. We have completed all three visits to 22 of the farms. The past two weeks’ work has been broken up by two adventures. We climbed Mt. Kenya, and travelled to Amboseli National Park to go on safari. This has given us some time to reflect on our experiences so far.

Blog 5 - 01Katy and Julia at the top of Point Lenana, the third highest peak of Mount Kenya. Point Nelion is featured in the background.

Blog 5 - 02Hippopotamuses and elephants seen during our Amboseli National Park safari!

One of our favourite moments about visiting farms (especially on the third and second visits) is seeing how the small changes we make are creating real improvements in cow comfort and milk production.  For example, on one farm we made the minor improvements of increasing lunge space and creating a softer stall base. On our second visit the farmer informed us that the cow has been resting more frequently, and that its daily milk production had even increased by one kilogram. This is the kind of news we love hearing. We can often see how much cleaner the cows are from not resting in the dirty alley way, or witness cows resting comfortably in their clean and dry stalls. In addition, to seeing and hearing about good changes to their farms, we have enjoyed getting to know the youth farmers within our service project. Most are very welcoming of us, and very engaged in learning better practices. One exceptional farmer, Solomon Waribu, has been elected Wakulima Dairy Director for his area since being in our project! We are looking forward to the remaining farms left in the project, and hopeful the work we are doing is engaging more youth and female farmers; improving their farming practices to have a healthier cow and a better livelihood.

Blog 5 - 03Here we are posing with the group of farmers who attended the seminar on our third visit to Solomon Waribu’s farm. Each has the dairy farming handbook and three calliandra seedlings we distributed.

Blog 5 - 04Two cows resting in their stalls on Tirus Mukuria’s farm.

Some of our favourite people involved in the project have been integral to its success. These very important people are: Priscilla our translator, Ephraim our driver, Gerald and the extension staff at the Wakulima Dairy, and of course Shauna our project leader. Without Priscilla, Ephraim, Gerald and the Wakulima extension staff our project would not be possible. Priscillia is an exceptionally friendly person and she makes each day brighter. She gets along really well with all of the farmers we meet, and helps to make sense of what we are teaching through clear translation. Ephraim is a real renaissance man. He helps us with anything and everything that comes up, whether that be hammering in a tricky nail, calming down a temperamental cow, or getting “the hustler” safely up steep muddy roads that seem impossible to climb. Gerald helps us coordinate all of the small details that can be hard to organize, especially when you don’t know the area or the language well. He worked for years at the dairy and with the extension staff of Wakulima has helped connect us to all of the farmers in our project. We are very lucky to have such hard working and welcoming people to work with here in Mukurwe-ini. Ruth (the wonderful woman who does our laundry), Samuel (our amazing chef), and Jeramiah (our trusty back up driver), are also all integral in ensuring that our days run smoothly. Each one of them brightens our day every time we see them. They have made it feel like home away from home.

We were sad to bid Shauna goodbye as she recently left to return to Canada. She was an excellent teacher and made every day of work fun. We both felt lucky to have learnt from someone so passionate about the work they are doing. Her research here has found sustainable solutions for dairy farmers that can be implemented easily, while providing real returns for the farmers and their cows. It was obvious how happy the farmers were to work with her based on her easy rapport with everyone we met. We are excited to continue on the work she has been doing, and look forward to a future reunion. Good luck with your last chapter Shauna, and thank you for all your support!

Blog 5 - 05A group shot from Shauna’s last day in Mukurwe-ini. From left to right: Jeramiah, Ruth (and her son Travis), Ephraim, Shauna, and Priscilla.

Blog 5 - 06We also have wrapped up all of our school visits! Thank you to the class 8 students (pictured here) at Gikondi Primary school for hosting us and letting us teach them about zoonotic disease, proper biosecurity on farm, proper cow handling, and dog bite and rabies prevention. They were our last school visit of the summer.

Two Posts from Kenya

June 5, 2016

By Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern

The internships with the Wakulima Dairy group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.

This was a long but interesting week. We had many farm visits, a school visit, two birthdays, and welcomed a visitor to our team. Emily, a veterinarian from Kenya who is starting her masters program with the Atlantic Veterinary College, came to see how the results of Shauna’s research are being applied. We had a series of unfortunate events that made some things more difficult than need be but thanks to the good humour of our team everything stayed fun! We have now finished more than half of our first visits on farms and have even completed all visits with our first farm. Here is a short recap of some of the more interesting moments of our week.

Monday:

After visiting several farms for construction we were feeling good about the small but effective changes we had been making. As we came to our last farm of the day though we realized our construction skills were going to be tested. The farmer had put in a cow shed that was offering shelter but was challenged by the fact that it was on a hill. As a result, there was no cow stall and so the cow had no where dry and comfortable to rest. Faced with the idea of constructing a cow shed from scratch I think we were all a little nervous. However, with some direction from Ephraim, our appointed foreman, and a little hard work we put in a completely new stall. It was rewarding to see our efforts validated when the cow checked out her new stall shortly after  finishing it. I think we will all be excited to see how our efforts have paid off at the next visit.

Blog3 - 1

A happy Shauna, Julia, Ephraim, Priscilla, and Katy after completing a cow stall from scratch!

Tuesday:

Another day of construction and some interesting veterinary cases cumulated with a lesson in cow handling. At our first farm of the day we saw lumpy skin disease. The cow was recovering and had been seen by a local vet but you could see the remains of nodules on her face. Lumpy skin disease is relatively common here and can be prevented with a vaccine and insect control. We also saw a case of endometritis, a uterine infection likely caused when the cow’s retained placenta had been pulled the week before. When a retained placenta is pulled it can cause damage to the uterus, making it vulnerable to infection. In this case the cow was not clinically sick, so supportive care was recommended and we educated the farmer on retained placentas. On our final farm visit of the day I learnt a lesson about heifers in heat. After giving a friendly heifer a scratch on the neck I diverted my attention to removing a low end board from her stall. Much to my surprise she decided she wanted a bit more attention and attempted to mount me. After a bit of a scuffle I came out with no more than a couple hoof prints on my scrubs, guess I will learn to pay more attention in the future!

Blog3 - 2

Shauna and Priscilla talk to some farmers about the benefits of the change in stall design we made for their cow.

Wednesday:

This was a day of lessons in the trials of Kenyan transportation. The day started with Shauna being called early to check on a friend’s cow with milk fever. Unfortunately, on her way back to pick us up for our day of work they got a flat tire! Not only was the tire flat, but so was the spare. With Ephraim and Shauna stuck on the side of the road with two flat tires, we had a bit of a slow start to the day. After 3 hours our trusty ‘80s era Toyota corolla, endearingly named “Hustler”, was back on four tires and we were set to start the day. Shauna wanted to stay around to be able to check on our friend’s cow if need be so Julia and I were off on our first solo mission. Finally on the road we were anxious to get started. It took some work to find our way to the farm (with no address we sometimes spend a bit of time driving around on dirt roads asking for help), so we were relieved when we made it within walking distance. Too bad our car had another flat tire! Luckily, Ephraim had the foresight to get our spare patched before heading back out on the road and by the time we had completed our visit we were good to go again! I don’t know what we would do without Ephraim…

Blog3 - 3

Our trusty car: the hustler!

Thursday:

With the chaos of the day before we had to add an extra farm visit to this day. Luckily, we had an extra set of hands with one of Shauna’s friends from previous year’s work. Kamau works in a position similar to what we do helping farmers improve their dairy practises. Many hands make light work and he was a very helpful person to have around. Before we knew it another day flew by. Julia and Ephraim also demonstrated their athleticism when a temperamental cow decided she didn’t want us changing her stall any more. Once they were safely on the outside we finished the stall, and I think the cow was secretly thankful.

Blog3 - 4

A couple of calves looking their best for a chance at some Napier grass.

Blog3 - 5

Two tired but happy interns after another day of construction.

 

Friday:

After a day of second visits educating farmers on nutrition and reproduction we visited a local all boys senior high school. One of the farmers in our project is a teacher there and asked Shauna to come teach the boys on cow comfort and care in Kenya. The boarding school has a small dairy and swine farm and boys from each year have classes in agriculture. We were slightly surprised when we showed up and they suggested that we might give a small talk to the whole school on the importance of education. “Don’t worry there are only 600 students!” Despite the practise we are getting in public presentations, I think we were all relieved when they decided to stick to the original plan of only 40 interested agriculture students. Shauna gave a great talk and the students were really interested and asked great questions. Many of their families have dairy farms and they all wanted to help their parents improve their practises at home. They also insisted on selfie before we left!

Blog3 - 6

Selfie at the Kaheti High Boys School.

 

Saturday:

Today we had our first seminar. Shauna gave a talk on nutrition and cow comfort, Julia on reproduction, and myself on mastitis prevention. Every farmer who comes to the seminar gets a book on dairy farming in Kenya, and the hosting famer who we have previously worked with gets their cows dewormed. Overall, the seminar went really well and it was nice to see how our work can come full circle. The farmers who come to seminars work together to help each other improve their practises, and demonstrate how dairy farming can make an excellent livelihood. Engaged youth are creating a sustainable future for themselves, and in the end both the cows and the people benefit. A true example of One Health!

Blog3 - 7

Priscilla and Katy teaching about mastitis prevention at the first seminar of the project.

We finished our week by going out for lunch with our entire team to celebrate Shauna’s 30th birthday! The people we work with are amazing and truly make every day we spend here better than the last. I feel very lucky to get to work such a fun group of people and know that this project is better for having them all involved. Who knew work could be so fun? To add to the fun, we have a few adventures planned for the next month: a trip to Ngare Ndare forest for a canopy walk, climbing Mt. Kenya, and visiting Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya. Stay tuned for more!

May 27, 2016

Back to School and Second Farm Visits

By Julia Nguyen, OVC Veterinary Student and VWB Intern

This week we re-visited some farms for their second visit and continued to visit other farms for the first time. We also visited two primary schools to teach lessons on animal safety, the prevention of zoonotic diseases on farms, and on the transmission and prevention of rabies.

On farm, the second visits focused on how well the farmer is maintaining the stall and if any improvements needed to be made. Maintaining a clean stall is important to the hygiene and comfort of the cow as well as to the quality and quantity of milk production for the farmer. The discussion will then lead into proper cow nutrition as well as calf nutrition. We emphasize providing constant water and forage availability to their cow(s) as well as proper mineral and dairy meal supplementation according to their stage in lactation and milk production. Proper nutrition is the basis of bovine health, productivity, and will also allow the animal to show signs of heat more prominently thus allowing the farmer to continue producing a calf and more milk. At the end of our second visit to farms, we give farmers a dairy farming handbook to read over before our third and final visit where we would hold a seminar to teach about the basics of dairy farming, ideal management and what practices have worked well on that farm.

On two separate days, we visited Ichamara Primary School and Mweru Primary School. Both schools are twinned with primary schools in Canada, through Farmers Helping Farmers. Katy and I taught a one hour class on the prevention of zoonotic diseases with handwashing techniques, proper cow handling, and the transmission and prevention of rabies infection. All the students were so attentive, respectful and welcoming. The lesson first began with introductions using a game to get to know the students’ names and what animal they have at home. After the lesson, we passed out cases for groups of students to go over and answer questions about how a specific illness or disease transmission could have been prevented and why it occurred in the first place. All of the students picked up the concepts well and were able to apply them to the cases. We said our goodbyes and thank yous at the end, which were reciprocated with lovely applause and flower hands of appreciation.

The combination of visiting youth dairy farmers and teaching at primary schools this week has emphasized the goals of our work here in Mukurwe-ini, Kenya. Our goals being to engage youth and provide them with knowledge and practices that are in the best interests for community health, the animals involved, and future generations.

Blog2 - 01

A cow checking out her improved stall. The small changes make a big difference in how often the cow decides to lay down and her overall hygiene.

Blog2 - 02

From left to right, Priscilla (translator), Beatrice (farmer), and Shauna (veterinarian, PhD candidate) are discussing cow and calf nutrition during our second visit to Beatrice’s farm.

Blog2 - 03

During our second visit, if the farmer has any cats or dogs we also deworm them if the farmer allows. We dewormed this kitten as well as three other dogs on this farm. All deworming medication is generously donated by Vetoquinol pharmaceuticals and private veterinarians.

Blog2 - 04

Katy and I teaching at Ichamara Primary School in their grade seven class.

Blog2 - 05

Katy and I teaching at Mweru Primary School in their grade six class.

Blog2 - 06

Selfie from Ichamara Primary School

Meet the Students — Kenya

Planned Project:

Collaboration between Farmers Helping Farmers and Veterinarians Without Borders Canada is helping to improve dairy cow management, productivity and animal welfare for smallholder farmers in Mukurwe-ini Kenya. Over 6000 farmers sell milk to the local Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. (MWDL), which is an integral source of income for many women and their families in the area. FHF has partnered with the MWDL for 20+ years to improve agricultural production as a foundation for sustainable community development, with the assistance of VWB over the past 6+ years. The 2016 project at the MWDL will be a service project based on years of research and work in this region. Past research results will be used to improve farmer knowledge and milk production. Specifically, youth farmers will be recruited and trained to help train current and new youth members of the MWDL in order to sustain the dairy as the current population of member farmers is aging. In addition to educating dairy farmers the 2016 internship will build on last years pilot project of One Health education in primary schools in the Mukurwe-ini area. The One Health topics will include topics such as how to identify and avoid transmission of diseases between animals and humans, such as Rabies.

Meet the Team:

DSC_0461

Katy White is a 1st year veterinary student from Banff, Alberta. She is currently studying at the University of Calgary and is interested in large animal medicine. Katy has worked with horses, sheep, cattle, and companion animals in both Canada and New Zealand. This will be her first trip to Kenya and she is very excited to have the chance to experience the culture, work with farmers in the area, and help with teaching.

DSC_0462

Julia Nguyen is a 2nd year veterinary student at the Ontario Veterinary College, and is from Toronto, Ontario. Julia has worked with small and large animals, as well as wildlife. She is interested in food animal medicine. This will also be her first trip to Kenya and is looking forward to all the internship has to offer, while also making a meaningful contribution within the community

Katy and Julia will be working under the supervision of Dr. Shauna Richards a PhD student at the Atlantic Veterinary College and board member of Farmers Helping Farmers. Shauna has been doing her PhD work in Kenya for the last 3 summers, and recently returned in February from volunteering with Vets Without Borders to assist smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya.

Why Did You Want to Volunteer in Kenya?

Katy: I view the VWB/FHF internship program as a unique opportunity to grow my career as a veterinarian in training, while also learning about a new culture and place. I plan on practicing as a rural vet when I graduate and I believe that the challenges I will face while working in east Africa could help strengthen my versatility, my personal confidence, and my mental fortitude. I think that the more diverse my experiences are in my formative years, the more prepared I will be for unexpected or adverse scenarios when I start my professional career. Prior to veterinary school I spent a year living and working on a cattle and sheep farm in rural New Zealand. I have seen first hand how important good animal husbandry is, especially when you are working with animals that your family relies on for a living, and the importance a strong community bond can play in maintaining health herd and a healthy human population. While in high school I took part in a Habitat for Humanity program in rural Honduras. We spent two weeks in Honduras helping with the construction of a new elementary school. Being exposed to a new culture was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and one that I would like to repeat. As a high school student I found that I learned more from my trip than I could give back, and I think this program would be similar, though I hope that now I have the skill set to give to help improve animal, human, and environmental health while in another country.

Julia: I applied to volunteer with Veterinarians Without Borders because I want the opportunity to help both animals and people at once. By fostering the relationship between humans and animals in developing countries, I hope to learn about how other groups of people live, how they interact with animals and how this influences their way of life. I hope that my clinical experience, interpersonal skills and motivation to help address public health issues will help enhance the project. Experiencing first-hand how impoverished communities maintain a sustainable lifestyle will most definitely change my worldview, and will most certainly be a humbling experience. In summary, I want to participate in this program to help and give back to communities in a developing country and in doing so grow and learn as a person and a future veterinarian.

What Are You Expectations for this Summer?

Katy: I expect this summer to be quite the adventure. The reading I have done on Kenya’s rich history and culture has fuelled my excitement. From all accounts the people of Kenya are generous and friendly. I hope to be able to create new friends while contributing to the worthwhile work of Veterinarians Without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers. I have been impressed by the results of this project from the last two summers and hope to be an effective member of the team. Veterinary school has impressed upon me the importance of One Health initiatives and I want to contribute to creating a healthy sustainable future for the people and animals we work with. Alongside my excitement I also feel nervous for any challenges that we may face. I know that part of working in a rural areas means adapting to situations where you do not have access to certain tools that you are used to. However, while I anticipate to there to be a few road bumps along the way I believe that Shauna, Julia, and I will make a good team and overcome any challenges we face together.

Julia: My expectations for this summer are to experience a truly immersive education in One Health by being able to help nurture the relationships between humans, animals and their environment. I expect life in a developing country to have its cultural challenges, feel homesickness and the challenge of experiencing a ‘new normal’ for the summer. These are challenges that I will face head-on and I am confident that this project is nothing less than an amazing opportunity and experience. I am excited for the new friendships and connections I will be able to make with people from across Canada and internationally. I am nervous about language barriers but I see this as a challenge in order to further develop my communication skills and learn a new language. I hope to make the most of this internship and make a contribution to the smaller steps for a greater solution within the communities of rural Kenya.

Sharing and Learning on the Back Roads of Kenya

Dr. Bill Hazen is a member of the first group of volunteers deployed through VWB/VSF’s Volunteers for Healthy Animals and Healthy Communities project. In the piece below he reflects on a wonderful partnership with a local vet tech.

I am currently in the small village of Ex-Lewa with a team of volunteers with Veterinarians Without Borders in partnership with Farmers Helping Farmers, an NGO from PEI. There are no “veterinary surgeons” servicing the area on a regular basis, the primary care is provided by technicians that have taken a 2 year course and are taught the basics in veterinary care. My mandate on this trip was to travel with the vet techs, assess their skill level and offer suggestions to improve the level of diagnoses and treatment. There are 2 vet techs in the Ex-Lewa area and one of them has come forth and eagerly sought out new information and techniques to diagnose and treat livestock.
His name is Simon Muchoki, he is 38 yrs old, married and father of 2children. He has been servicing this area for the past 14 years, initially employed by the Ex-Lewa dairy co-operative and currently has his own business, Ebeneezer AI and animal health services, with an office in the Ex Lewa market. Here is Simon with his mobile vet services.

blog 1

I have spent the last 2 weeks with Simon and have 1 week to go. I would not fit on his motorbike and with the state of the roads here, my degenerative spine would not be happy on a motorbike, so we have rented a car and driver. David is the car owner and driver and he not only drives us he is assisting us with restraint and in whatever way he can. Here we are getting ready to head out for the day.

blog 2

All Simon uses to make his diagnoses is a thermometer and a cursory physical exam, he does quite well, however, I am teaching him the value of additional information provided by a stethoscope such as heart rate, different lung sounds, stomach motility, and checking for a sternal grunt found in cows with hardware disease. I did bring stethoscopes donated by Dr. Wayne McDonnell a retired prof from the Ontario Veterinary College and have given one to Simon. Below is Simon checking the heart rate on a downer cow.

blog3

When dehorning I noticed he did not provide analgesia using a nerve block ( the same way a dentist freezes your tooth) to minimize pain in the procedure. I reviewed with Simon the technique and we froze all the rest of the calves dehorned that day. Simon uses a large piece of iron that was part of a truck spring and put in the fire until it is red hot and uses it for disbudding small calves or cauterizing after wire sawing the big horns. I think we need to educate the farmers as well on the benefits to their animals , so they will ask the technicians to do this for their animals.

The next picture is a cow with East Coast Fever, this is a tick borne disease causing a high fever, cough and swollen lymph nodes. They respond well if caught early, treated with oxytetracycline. This cow had a temp of 106.6 F (41.4 C). Here Simon is commending the farmer on the good body condition of her cows, due to the fact that she is cutting her Napier grass at the best height for high feed value, and also advising her after cutting the forage to let it wilt for a day away from the cows so the ticks will leave the plants and not expose the cow and minimize further cases of ECF.

blog8

One of the biggest impacts we have on milk quality is to reduce the incidence of mastitis and I have encouraged Simon to do a California Mastitis Test on all cows that are going dry. This is a very cheap and easy test, milking some milk onto a paddle and mixing with a soap-like solution, if there is subclinical mastitis the milk will gel. One of the biggest returns on investment is to dry cow treat these positive cows at dry off. We have supplied Simon with a CMT paddle and the solution is readily available here. The following two pictures are of Simon doing the CMT test and dry cow treating a positive cow.

Blog4blog5

Many of the calls I attended with Simon were for fertility issues. Either no observable heat or the cow being bred many times and not getting pregnant. I taught Simon how to assess the repeat breeder cow, and introduced him to a simple tool we use called avaginoscope. The vaginoscope is a clear glass cylinder that can be passed into the vagina of the cow and you can visualize her vagina and cervix and any the colour of the mucus looking for abnormalities. The pictures below show him doing the vaginoscopy. The cow had a slight whitish colour to the mucus sitting in the vagina, indicating she has a uterine infection and probably the reason for her not conceiving. He is shown infusing the same cow with an antibiotic solution to get rid of the infection.

blog9blog10

One day we had a heavydown pour that turned the roads into a greasy slippery mess. We got stuck several times and had to push the vehicle, with help from others, to get going. The one time we were stuck on a grade and had to call a local ox team tow truck to pull us 200 metres onto level ground. It was interesting watching the bulls respond to commands of their owner, just like a well trained team of horses. The towing fee was 500 Kenyan Shillings about $7.00 Cdn.

blog6

Simon has a strong bond with his clients and often will do what he calls a “sympathy call”. Heknows the owner has very little money and he will treat their animal for no remuneration.
We stopped in to one of his longest standing clients, Teresa Karioke. Simon has been working for her since he became a vet tech in 2002. He relayed a heartwarming story about Teresa, how she lost her husband when her children were small and how hard she worked selling milk to pay for school fees for her children. She now has one son that graduated as a mechanical engineer and is working at the Pickering Nuclear Generating station in Ontario, and another son that is an assistant to the minister of Revenue in the Kenyan government.
Below is a picture of myself and Mrs. Karioke, she gave me her sons cell number in Canada and I plan on sending this picture to him.

blog7

It’s been a great joy working with Simon who is passionate about his work. We learned a lot from each other. I taught him some veterinary skills and he taught me veterinary medicine Kenyan style, as well he has re-enforced in me the importance of compassion, kindness and empathy for our fellow citizens that are less fortunate.We have developed a personal friendship that will continue after I leave next week. Asante Sana
Bill Hazen DVM
Milverton Wellesley Veterinary Clinic

Last student blog of the summer from Kenya!

It is hard to believe that 10 weeks has gone by so quickly and that our internships have ended. The final few weeks were not only busy with finishing up the projects, but also full of new, fun experiences.

I (Maggie) also had a chance to visit the Meru side of Mount Kenya and help with the Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) project that has been started there. As Mira and Sarifa have previously mentioned, it was really interesting to see the differences in the management styles of cattle in this area, as well as such a new and rapidly growing dairy with such a promising future. Some of the major differences I noticed were that most farmers have larger herds of cattle, graze their cattle, and use more natural breeding as opposed to artificial insemination (AI). These different management practices resulted in different health implications; the tendencies I noticed were that the grazed cattle were in better body condition, but had considerable number of ticks, and I even saw one that had severe skin cancer from sun exposure.

While there, I also had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with the two Atlantic Veterinary College students (Emily and Krista) at the Mother Maria Zanelli Children’s Home, which is run by the Sisters of St. Theresa’s. I was extremely impressed with the facilities and the staff, and we had a lot of fun helping out with meals and playing with the children…they were very excited to learn “Red light, green light” and “Hot potato”!

Maggie (back) and Emily (front) with a group of children showing off their “Hot potatoes” (donated homemade dolls from PEI) at the Children’s home in Meru.Photo 1

When I returned to Mukurwe-ini, Emily came with me. It was a great week for her to visit, as we continued working on farms from the nutrition project, while also having the chance to accompany a local veterinary technician on his calls. The Wakulima Dairy has one veterinarian and four technicians whose services are available to members; it is a great system in which farmers can use their credits to pay for these services. Patrick is one of these technicians, and was kind enough to let two students (per day) accompany him for a couple of days. It was very interesting for us to see how veterinary services work in this area; in general, the veterinarian is usually called to challenging cases, and the technicians are called to treat the more common problems and to do AI, which is the primary method of breeding in this region. Despite being extremely busy (visiting 10-15 farms/day), Patrick was an amazingly patient and informative teacher and we learned so much in such a short period!

Maggie helping treat a cow for metritis (infected uterus) following calving.Photo 2 

That week, we also taught at our last primary school. Once again, I was blown away by the attentiveness and enthusiasm of the pupils and the questions that some of them had, which demonstrated some impressive critical thinking. As veterinary students, these teaching experiences have been invaluable to us. Not only have we been able to share knowledge that we are well versed in and that we believe is important in the daily lives of these children, but we have also been able to strengthen our communication skills while being inspired by the motivation and studiousness of these children. At the end of the lesson, we were actually told an unfortunate story of a women in the area who died of rabies only a few years ago; this tragedy really reinforced the fact that the diseases we taught about are very relevant and of real concern.

Students at Mweru Primary School going over the review activity on zoonotic diseases.

Photo 3

Photo 4

After teaching, we had the opportunity to spend the night billeting with some local farmers. Both Joyce and Esther are directors at the Dairy and were gracious enough to host two students each in their homes. It was a really enjoyable time full of cooking, meeting friends and neighbours, and engaging conversations! We also toured their farms, checked their cows for mastitis, and discussed some ideas for changing stalls to improve cow comfort.

Mira helping Esther cook our delicious dinnerPhoto 5 

Maggie and Mira have morning chai (tea) with Esther (right) and her friend Mary (left).Photo 6 

At the end of the week, we also had a chance to visit the University of Nairobi Veterinary School. We had a great tour of the facilities, and even got to try some yogurt made by the Department of Food Science that shares the campus. The campus was fairly quiet, as the veterinary students are out on 2-month rotations around the country; in Kenya, this is part of the curriculum for all students in second to fifth year.

Last week marked our final week of work, but we were fortunate to continue having new opportunities! The Dairy has several extension officers whose roles are working with and educating farmers in different topics. On Tuesday, Sarifa and I attended a training session that Elias, one of the officers, was holding for a new group of farmers. Farmers can come together and form a group (this one had 10) that can then request free training on subjects of their choice. This particular day, the topics were on cow comfort and calf nutrition, and we were excited (but a little surprised!) to get to teach the portion on cow comfort.

The following day, Mira and I accompanied Elias to several farms to see some silage making. In the past year, the Dairy has invested in several new chaff cutters that are available (free of charge) for members to borrow to make silage. In addition, when a cutter is borrowed, an extension officer also comes and helps/teaches the farmer the entire day that they are making the silage! This investment certainly seems to be paying off, in the past year, the number of farmers making silage has gone from 40 to over 200! This is very exciting as it means more reliable feed sources during dry periods, which translates into increased milk production and increased profits. It was really interesting to see the process on different farms, since each farmer has to work with what they have available and what they can afford. We saw a wide range of storage methods, from 200 kg bags to 1 tonne plastic-lined crates, to 2 tonne pits!

Elias (left) and Susan (right) packing maize silage into a bag that will fit 200 kg.Photo 7 

Mira checking out one of the crates that Elias is packing approximately 1 tonne of silage into.Photo 8 

Elias also brought us on a tour of the Dairy’s Demo Farm. This is a plot of land that they acquired just over a year ago and on which they are now growing several crops including Calliandra, sweet potato vines, desmodium, maize, and Napier grass. The crops are used for both educating the farmers, and growing seeds to provide to members (again, free of charge!)

Seeing Elias and the other Wakulima Dairy extension officers at work these two days and learning about all the services they provide to farmers was really impressive and inspiring. It was very evident that they really care about their jobs and that farmers are benefiting from their help.

On Thursday, Mira and Sarifa had the opportunity to accompany Patrick on calls again, while Shauna and I visited the final farms of the nutrition project. These last visits brought the number of farms I had been to up to nearly 150 and yet, I continued to be moved by the eagerness and generosity of the farmers.  In fact, while not surprising, it was definitely a nice treat to finish off the visits being invited into one last farmer’s home for chai and food!

Enjoying some chai and lunch at Supa Café, our favourite spot in town. From left to right: Maggie, Shauna, Priscilla, Jeremiah.Photo 9 

Friday was my final day in Mukurwe-ini, and it was definitely a great end to an amazing summer! The morning was spent helping our chef Samuel prepare a huge spread of Kenyan food including chapatis, Mukimo (potatoes, greens, and maize), beef stew, chicken, and stir-fried vegetables. That afternoon, we had a party to thank all the incredible people (and their families) that we have been fortunate to work with this summer. The party extended well into the evening, and was a blast of delicious food, heartfelt speeches and thank you’s, and bittersweet goodbyes. It was really nice to have a chance to express our gratitude to everyone, including (but not limited to) our awesome drivers, talented chef, skilled translator, incredible laundress, and all the wonderful employees of the Dairy.

Sarifa, Samuel, and Matthew (Shauna’s husband) working hard preparing food for the thank you party.Photo 10

 Maggie making mukimo for the thank you party.Photo 11 

This summer was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I began the internship with the hopes of helping farmers improve their milk production and maybe learning and improving a few skills myself, but in the end, got so much more. As student interns, we did get to share the knowledge we have from our schooling, and were extremely fortunate to actually see some nearly instantaneous results; extension officers told us that one farmer went from getting 8L to 15L of milk/day solely as a result of the stall changes we made to improve cow comfort. However, I had no idea this experience would be such an exchange of knowledge; for everything that we taught, there is no doubt in my mind that we received 10-fold back in return. In the past 10 weeks, I have learned more than I could have imagined about veterinary medicine, farming, teamwork, communication, Kenyan culture, and being resourceful, generous, and appreciative for all the wonderful people and things in my life. On behalf of Mira, Sarifa, and myself, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those that made this unique opportunity possible, including all those who donated time or money to our fundraising, Veterinarians Without Borders and all their sponsors, Farmers Helping Farmers, and all the wonderful people we were privileged to work with in Mukurwe-ini!

Group photo with all our wonderful colleagues and their familiesPhoto 12 

The 3 student interns with our amazing laundress and friend, Ruth and her son Cedric.

Photo 13