Report: International Smallholder Dairy Health Management Rotation 2018
By: Dr. John VanLeeuwen
The January 2018 trip was a very successful trip again, with many animals receiving treatment or prevention interventions, many farmers being educated or assisted, three Canadian veterinary students and a Canadian vet receiving training in treatment and health management of dairy cattle on smallholder farms, many Kenyan animal health personnel receiving continuing education, and six communities increasing in animal health, self-sufficiency, and quality of life due to our veterinary activities. During this visit, we worked with farmers of the Ex-Lewa Dairy Co-op (ELDC), Buuri Dairy Co-op (BDC), Ngusishi Dairy Co-op (NDC), Kiamaruga Dairy Group (KDG), Lunuru Dairy Co-op (LDC), Naari Dairy Co-operative Society (NDCS), and Wakulima Dairy Ltd. (WDL). There is a very strong desire for veterinary services and extension in these areas. The details of these activities are described in this summary report.
On January 19th, 2013, the “vet team”, including myself, and three senior vet students, Ashley Butt, Stephanie Hatayama, and Jaimee Gillis, left for Kenya with many suitcases and boxes full of veterinary medicine. Prior to leaving, various veterinary pharmaceutical companies provided product support for the project. These products were greatly appreciated by the veterinary team to enable them to provide suitable treatments for the animals that they encountered. The remaining products were left with the dairies to use after our return to Canada. This team was joined a veterinarian, Dr. Gerry Smith from Alberta, who heard about our work in Kenya and wanted to work with us for the last 10 days of our 3 weeks in Kenya. He was volunteering with Vets without Borders in Tanzania, working primarily with poultry and beef cattle, as per his experience in Alberta, but wanting to expand his experience with dairy cattle in Kenya
While in Kenya in 2018, the veterinary team checked over 150 animals from over 100 farms over the 3 weeks. At each farm, numerous neighbouring farmers congregated, sometimes with a cow or calf in tote, to observe and ask questions regarding their cattle. It was estimated that over 800 farmers received health management information and/or services from the efforts, a new record. The major health problems observed included infectious diseases, parasite infestations, udder infections and insufficient nutrition, leading to low milk production, poor reproduction and inadequate growth.
The Canadian veterinary students learned a lot from the Kenyan veterinary students, animal health technicians and veterinarian, particularly about life in Kenya, and the great challenges of international development work, self-sustainability, veterinary medicine and producing & marketing milk in poor, remote areas of Kenya. The Kenyan veterinary students, technicians and veterinarian learned about life in Canada and about some of the pertinent new techniques and theories of dairy cattle health management that are the product of recent research. Kenyans have limited access to recent research findings due to journal fees and internet “challenges”. The Kenyans also received practical experience on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of common animal diseases and dairy management problems encountered in East Africa.
The California Mastitis Test was not being used in Buuri or Ngusishi, with many episodes of rejected milk due to poor milk quality. There was strong need for extension and seminars in the new areas. We left them a CMT paddle and CMT solution to help identify mastitis, and trained them on how to use it, referring to relevant chapters in the Dairy Handbook. The Handbooks were handed out to farmers attending our seminars who did not have one yet, and they were as popular as ever.
As with other years in Kenya, one highlight of the trip was the “walk-in clinic” for cattle in the Mbaria Market area near Kiirua where animals could be examined and treated if they were sick, or simply treated with a dewormer if they were healthy and not recently dewormed. When we arrived, there were already 20 cattle waiting for us. And that was a sign of things to come. Fortunately, we had a great system going, very efficiently moving cattle through the handling facilities, with help from other members of Farmers Helping Farmers. The final tally was over 350 animals dewormed and 50 sick animals examined and treated in one (long) day.
Highlights of the trip are numerous but here are a few. It is always encouraging to hear about the higher milk volumes that the Dairy Groups are collecting. In particular, the Naari Dairy Group has increased volumes to 4,800 Kg/d, and the Ex-Lewa Dairy Group is now up to 2,400 Kg/d. It was also great to see a new cooler, generator, and associated equipment delivered to the Naari Dairy Group, and hopefully they will have the equipment installed and in working order in short order. Another highlight was talking with Margaret Nyangaru of the Karima WG in the Kiamaruga Dairy Group area. Before she went to our seminars, all calves died, cows frequently got mastitis, and had poor production and reproduction. Cows would not get pregnant, so she would sell them for meat. Since the seminars, she has had no calves die, no mastitis, good reproduction, and good production. One cow never gave more than 12 kg/d before seminars, and that same cow gave 42 kg/d after implementing seminar information. She says she used to make more money in coffee than milk, but now it is the opposite. She lives in another region of Kiamaruga than where the seminar was, but she came especially to that region to hear us talk since she wanted to learn more from us. I took her photo, and asked if she would allow us to share her photo and story in Canada, to which she agreed. A great story. A board member at the Kiamaruga Dairy Group said that he has seen milk production go up and mastitis go way down in the area. This was all very gratifying.
It is always wonderful to go to Kenya to work with the Kenyan people. They are so appreciative of what we offer, and are such happy people, despite living in poverty. This attitude certainly helps us to put things in the right perspective, and to really appreciate what we have in Canada.
I look forward to going back to Kenya again to continue to assist these dairy groups toward self-sufficiency. Thank you again to all our supporters for your assistance in making this all possible.