Puzzle of dairy cows killed for udders and reproductive parts

RIFT VALLEY |
Kapchemutwo residents in Elgeyo Marakwet County inspect the carcass of a dairy cow that had its udder and reproductive organs removed. [Stephen Ruto, Standard]

Owning a dairy cow is a source of joy for farmers in many a home. But in Kapchemutwa and Emsoo in Elgeyo Marakwet, this can only be a source of headache and heartache.

According to farmers from the two wards, unknown people have embarked on a mission to kill dairy cows, particularly Ayrshire and Friesian, by chopping off their udders and reproductive parts over what they suspect is sorcery.

Since 2019, at least six dairy cows have reportedly been eliminated through such killings in Chesingonyo village alone. Farmers in the three worst-hit villages of Chesingonyo, Korkitony and Kaptum have resorted to keeping indigenous cattle, which are not a target.

Paul Cheptaiget, a farmer, says he lost an Ayrshire in 2019. At the time, he was planning to venture into dairy farming.

He said with a series of cows’ killings, elders convened several meetings between residents and security officials, but the suspects remained unknown. “As elders, we wanted to establish why unknown people would cut cows’ udders and leave the cows for dead. We discovered that the sadists could be practising witchcraft because this is something that has never happened in this area,” Mr Cheptaiget said.

The livestock farmer said the unknown people started killing dairy cows in neighbouring Kapchelal village before extending the brutality to Korkitony and Kaptum. “An incident was also reported in Chegilet village in Emsoo Ward,” he said.

Mr Cheptaiget said it was taboo in his culture to subject domestic animals to torture, and perpetrators of such acts were often faced with misfortunes. Cheptaigei says it got to a point where strangers had to be cleared by village elders and local chiefs because local farmers believed the culprits were from other counties.

Mathew Kipchirchir, a farmer, said last year the neighbours found his neighbour’s Ayrshire lying dead and its reproductive system and the unborn calf removed. “It was a horrific morning. The body of the cow was swollen. The body was left there to decompose because even village dogs refused to eat it. We suspect that the killers injected some poison before removing the reproductive parts and the unborn calf,” Kipchirchir recalled.

Kapchemutwo residents in Elgeyo Marakwet County inspect a cow that was decapitated by unknown persons. [Stephen Ruto, Standard]

He said farmers lived in fear and were forced to keep a close eye on the cows.

According to Kipchirchir, the killers target dairy cows that are either lactating or pregnant. He said they also cut the cows’ tongues.

“Many farmers today cannot buy and rear dairy cows because there is fear that the killers will strike and chop off their udders or reproductive parts,” he said.

In May 2020, Lilian Kosgey found her Ayrshire dairy cow dead and its udder chopped off. “It was the only cow I had and my only source of income. The culprits should have just stolen the cow or even slaughtered it,” she said.

Ernest Kwambai, a resident, said a majority of local farmers were unable to deliver milk to a nearby cooler, established by the national and county governments. “We have a 3,000-litre cooler, but it is rarely full because of the fears of rearing dairy cows,” he said.

Chesingonyo village elder Nicholas Kuto said at least six cows have been killed in the area since 2019. He said most of the cows were killed while grazing in the forest. “The latest killing happened last month in Emsoo area.”

The udders chopped off from the cows have never been recovered. The suspects also remain unknown,” he said.

A local veterinary officer, who said he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspects may have been sedating the cows before killing them.

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