Sometime last week, a dear friend, Baba Kamau, called me to handle a peculiar issue. His precious cow had swallowed a polythene bag and according to his investigations, his malicious neighbour was to blame!
But I strongly believed he was to blame on two accounts. First, his farm was not fenced and two; there were polythene papers all over his compound.
The farmer was so furious he wanted to take legal action against his perceived “enemies”; so I was to be a witness! But after a close inspection of his farm, I saw a few crucial pointers. Baba Kamau hadn’t embraced animal husbandry. First his recently constructed zero grazing unit was wanting.
Looking at the way things were casual at the farm, I had a strong feeling Kamau wasn’t ready for dairy farming. He was barely prepared for what it entails. Here’s the thing: Baba Kamau was in his late 50s and knowing how intense dairy production is was, I felt he was going into it late in life. So, here is how he found himself as a dairy farmer.
Baba Kamau a father to beautiful twin daughters; Wanjiku and Njeri and they were getting married all at once and the bachelors warming up for Uthoni had told him to prepare a zero grazing unit for two Friesian crosses. This is one way farmers acquire dairy stocks; but I prefer getting the farmer to save and buy the foundation stock.
Now the animals had barely stayed for six months at Baba Kamau’s, when one of them calved down but immediately started exhibiting some abnormal signs. It started eating soil, bones and other objects something that according to him was abnormal but he didn’t report to me as he thought that was the “cow’s madness”.
Baba Kamau was indeed a green horn in matters dairy farming despite his immense success in crop agriculture. He should have realised that the animal was suffering from lack of minerals and this can easily predispose it to eat polythene papers which were all over his farm.
The cow had showed some signs of sickness and that is how it ended up at the local butchery albeit at a salvage price... on this too Baba Kamau didn’t bother to inform me or any other vet in the vicinity about the decision.
Bucket full of ‘jualas’
But the reason he had called me to his farm that day was funny. Apparently the butcher man was a good friend of his so in the process of slaughtering the animal he also did his version of “postmortem” and discovered dozens of polythene papers in the rumen.
The butcher carefully extracted this find and brought it back to Baba Kamau in a bucket. He convinced him that that was the cause of ill health – which was true looking at the bucket full of polythene papers mixed with ruminal content. Being village friends who apparently shared the perceived malicious enemies disguised as neighbours they had planned to take a legal action and they wanted me to rubber stamp the allegations by way of a professional report.
I wasn’t going to sell my profession for a morsel – but took the opportunity to turn the blame on Baba Kamau; the evidence he wanted used against his perceived enemies when viewed critically traced back to his compound — the paper bags littered all over his compound. Cows — especially when they don’t get enough minerals — will easily ingest polythene papers; this greatly interferes with digestion and can cause bloat which can kill an animal. The polythene papers lounge in the rumen and only surgical operation can remove them - this is an expensive excessive for a condition so easy to prevent.
The writer is a veterinary surgeon working with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council – KENTTEC