Cattle Well-Being A Cultural Question in Kenya

Victone Onyango
Written by
Victone Onyango

At Bayer, we believe that taking care of the well-being of animals is the right thing to do and that is goes hand-in-hand with the health of animals. Every day, we witness the remarkable commitment livestock professionals have in ensuring their animals are healthy and well-cared for. Victone is a delegate from the 2017 Youth Ag Summit and is passionate about the health and well-being of cattle in Kenya.

Kenya is a nation whose backbone is in agriculture. As a young man, agriculture was the traditional lifestyle and many people in my village never pursued a career outside of farming. We never even studied it as a subject in my high school. Yet, more than 10 million people in my country do not know where their next meal will come from and rely heavily on food relief programs. The climate of my home contributes to this since we are victims of drought through most of the year. But, every April, floods render us in the hands of humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross. With all this being said crop production in my village has never been successful. We rely on animals.

Smallholder farmer feeding dairy cow

In my tribe, animal agriculture has long been affected by cultural issues which have promoted the ancient way of keeping livestock. It is common for villagers to believe that if you keep hundreds of sheep, goats, cows and donkeys then you are considered a rich man. However, the question I continuously ask is about the quality of life for these animals, not the quantity.

Finding these answers had to begin at home. So, I approached my very conservative father to convince him to sell the 24 native cattle we had so that we could buy one grade cow which would be more productive. Long story short, I was very unsuccessful.

Treating cattle for parasites with spray

In 2011, I started college to study accounting. During this time, I met a friend who introduced me to an organization which was promoting sound agricultural practices in both crop and animal production and sharing these lessons with rural farmers. I shared the idea with my mum but she never got on board. So, I took a risk, took out a loan, bought a crossbreed cow, and took it back to my village. After nine short months, I lost the cow to parasites. This was a huge draw back on my pilot project.

I took what I had learned through the exchange program, various scientific articles, individual success stories, magazines and online research to understand more about cattle health and well-being in parts Kenya and how the success stories from around the world could be replicated in my village. During my research, I noticed that the main factor affecting the health and well-being our animals was parasites.

Smallholder cattle farmer in Kenya

Animal health on small farms can be dramatically affected by different types of parasites. Controlling parasites can be a challenge on small farms but is an important component in maintain cattle well-being. If you want to guarantee that you are ensuring cattle well-being on your farm through parasite control, here are a couple tips:

  1. If you think your cattle are suffering from internal parasites, deworm them through drenching or dosing.
  2. Find the source of the parasites and remove the threat. Something as simple as draining a swampy area that your cattle have access to can eliminate their exposure to parasites.
  3. Practice rotational grazing when possible. Rotational grazing can reduce the risk of cattle becoming a host to internal parasites.
  4. Eliminate pests in the places your animals will live. Performing controlled burns on your pasture can kill the parasite eggs deposited in them. Applying powdered medicines inside the animal barns and stalls can also protect against parasites.
  5. Dipping or spraying your cattle can protect them from parasites as well as ensuring that they are not bothered by pests and the itchy bites and dry skins they can cause.

Parasites can have a severe impact on livestock and therefore should be effectively controlled to ensure high farm productivity and cattle well-being. There is a great need to develop a simple parasite control teaching kit to help build capacity among peasant farmers right from the village or clan level in Kenya to increase the health and well-being of their animals.

Today, my family owns three crossbreed cows and two grade goats. By caring for their health and well-being we are experiencing more success on our farm, a more educated community, and a stronger belief in protecting the health and well-being of our cattle.

Victone Onyango
Written by
Victone Onyango