Learning on the farm

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by Hannah Creaser

This is Hannah from the 2018 Nutrition team. Every day that I spend here I am fortunate enough to learn something new and one day last week was no exception! On Monday, the nutrition team had the opportunity to spend the day with the veterinary students visiting local farms. I walked into this experience knowing almost nothing about dairy cows and actually managed to walk away with a fair bit of knowledge! Growing up in rural New Brunswick, I was often around farms but never actually had the opportunity to visit one so this was a very exciting opportunity for me.

The first farm that we visited had an eager farmer named Gatwiri, who spoke very good English. She was excited to hear that we were students as she herself had taken agriculture at a local college so she wanted us to get the most out of the visit as possible. She was the very proud owner of three cows and a calf and said that she had hired people at one point to take of them, but wanted to make sure that they were getting the best care possible so she took over the job herself. Lee, Ashley and Remmie (a veterinarian who is works for Farmers Helping Farmers) discussed nutrition, cleanliness, reproduction and the comfort of the cows with Gatwiri.

The vets soon learned that two of her cows had not shown signs of heat in several months and it was determined to be because the cows were too thin. Remmie and Ashley performed a rectal exam to determine if the cow was going to be ovulating soon or not. It turned into a very exciting moment as Ashley actually found her ovary during a rectal exam! I think I can speak for all of us that we were extremely proud of her. I was just happy to be there to snap a picture of the moment.

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Ashley performing a rectal exam on the cow to see if she was going to be ovulating soon. This was the first time that Ashley was successful find an ovary.

After the rectal exam was complete, the vets wanted to check the cows for mastitis, which is done by collecting a small sample of milk from each teat on the cow and then adding a solution which will cause the milk to gel if positive. Lee offered to let both Madison and I collect a sample from a teat. As it was my first time milking a cow, I needed a little bit more direction than some of the others; however, after a few attempts I was successful!

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My first experience milking a cow

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Lee checking for mastitis, the cow tested negative


As we were wrapping up the visit, we all wanted a photo with Gatwiri. Although we went to other farms that day, this farm- and this farmer- in particular stood out to me not only because she was so kind, but also because she was so genuinely interested in not only her own learning, but also ours.
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One last photo with Gatwiri before we left to go to the next farm. Missing Madison who graciously took the photo.


This opportunity spent visiting farms was a wonderful example of the many inter-professional/ learning opportunities that have presented themselves to us during our internship here. One thing that I have realised is that no intervention is completely separate from another. So when the vets go visit a farm to talk about ways to get the most milk from the dairy cows, it means that they can sell more milk to the dairy and that they and their children can drink it more milk! When a farmer is able to sell more milk to the dairy, it means that she/he has additional income. If they have additional income, it means that they can buy more food, which is where the nutrition team comes: we provide education on which foods are nutritious (or not) and how to prepare healthier meals from the food they grow and buy. I have really come to realize that even when our interventions seem very disconnected, that they are actually integrated and, together, can make a difference for rural Kenyan farm families.  


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