Cow care in Africa

Cows are vital for farmers all over the world. But the way they care for the cow’s health depends on the local circumstances. In Africa, for example, farmers may put great effort in caring for sick cows. Sometimes with very little means. Here, a farmer from Kenia describes how she nursed a cow with milk fever back to health.

One of our prize milkers, called Kisumu, was calving for the sixth time, a couple of years ago.  The delivery was fine, smooth, with no complications for a cow her age.  After her morning milking, she went to rest before going out to the pasture.  By 0800hrs she had not gotten up.  All efforts to get her to go with the rest of the herd were futile.  The vet was called and he confirmed the farm manager’s diagnosis of milk fever. In my time on the farm (4 years) I had never seen the likes of hypocalcaemia!  The vet injected Kisumu with some calciject and ordered for more which he said he’d administer over the next three days and she would have to have as much mineral salt as she could stand per day with loads of water.  In the mean time we needed to help Kisumu stand up and move as much as possible so as to prevent her from getting ‘bedsores’.  She had to be milked in the laying down position and her calf suckled her from the same position.  Needless to say, I feared that mastitis would set in since all the milk was not being removed from the udder.  The calf had hay days as she could drink milk at will unlike the other calves which only got to have milk twice a day.

We had a big job on our hands which soon became evident the first time we helped Kisumu stand.  She was HEAVY! It took 6-9 men and me (a woman) to get Kisumu up on her feet.  We had to use two poles, one at her ‘armpits’ and one by the udder, a person at the tail and one at the head to get her up on her feet.  All this was done with much noise in the name of encouraging Kisumu to get up; yes our cows have individual names and they actually respond to being called.  Wow, now the real work came when we helped her walk to a different location of the dairy paddock.  This we did daily in the morning and the evening for two weeks.  Just as we were getting fatigued, Kisumu began to show signs of being able to get up on her own with some help from us. A whooop of joy rang out when we noted this and it gave us the moral not to give up on her.  Three days later she was getting up on her own and walking short distances.  Five days later Kisumu decided to go to the watering point, which is about 500 meters from the paddock and collapsed with fatigue.  We let her rest for half an hour, helped her up and slowly assisted her back to the paddock.  She rested in the paddock for the following two days and had an ample supply of water, though I think her mates tried to get her to go to pasture with them.  Come the fourth week she was well on the mend and has been well since that time.  The lesson learned was that the mineral intake of cows has to be incresed when pregnant and after calving until the calf is weened.  This is so much more economical than having to nurse a cow affected with hypocalcaemia back to health!

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