Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Friends in Far Places

Like a good number of my posts on this blog, this post is about cows . . . by way of Africa!

In 1985, we lived in Bangui, Central African Republic, on the campus of Bangui Evangelical School of Theology (which we called FATEB, for its French abbreviation).  Our three children (at left, pre-Kara) Jimmy, Katie and Jenny, were about the age our grandchildren are now.

In September of that year, we flew halfway across the continent of Africa to Mombasa, Kenya, for a three week language acquisition course.  As part of that course, we had to find a local language helper to help us learn a few words of their language.  It was rather intimidating to walk up to a perfect stranger and try to ask them to help us learn a language when we couldn't even speak it, but we found everyone we met to be extremely friendly and eager to help. Helen Karabok, shown here with her children, taught me a few words of her language, Kikuyu, and helped me practice my few words of Swahili.

At the end of the course, we spent a week on Shelly Beach at our mission guest house, and we discovered the Indian Ocean was as beautiful as the people who lived near it--

--although definitely less welcoming, as Jimmy discovered a lethal lion fish while we were snorkeling in a tidal pool!

While we abandoned that tidal pool for another one, it didn't stop us enjoying the beauty of the beach.

To this day, shells that we gathered on Shelly Beach glow softly in the curio cabinet by the front door, and Jim's children like to "listen to the beach" in them, just as he and his sisters did.

"What does Mombasa have to do with cows?" you might ask.  A week ago I received a new comment on an old post from a reader named Sylvia, mentioning that she has dealt with self-sucking cows, too, and had benefited from my post about combating self-sucking.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on her name and discovered to my amazement that her farm is outside Mombasa!  For more photos of their cattle, check out her blog.

I wrote back to Sylvia, telling her that we had been in Mombasa in 1985 and had loved it.  Today I heard back from her with photos of what she did for her cows.  Since she offered to share her experience with my readers, I decided to reprint part of her letter here, along with the photos.

Dear Susan,
Thank you so very much for your mail, unfortunately I only manage a reply today. Internet service for my laptop is giving me a really hard time and I am still to learn writing prolonged letters on my Smartphone…
It‘s really unbelievable that you have been to Mombasa in 1985! That year was the first time I came to Kenya too; we may even have met by chance… And for me it was love on first sight and no looking back ever since. You are so right, what a small world it is!
Thank you so much for your warning about the bra [Tamm Udder Support] and its dangers, it is so sad to hear about what happened to your beloved Siobhan.  I have come across this dreadful Pseudomonas mastitis, too.  First time was from utilizing a reusable cotton udder cloth for cleaning the udder before milking and which was dipped in an Iodine solution between cows.  Since then we are only using disposable kitchen towels.  Second time and years later Pseudomonas affected two cows and came out of the iodine filled teat cup for dipping the teats after milking!!!  So both times the things that actually were meant to improve sanitation and prevent mastitis were the actual cause of it!  We lost the pregnancies in all three affected cows, almost lost the cows themselves but managed to nurse them back to full health and production (minus one quarter…), which was much aided by the use of high doses of Gentamycin intra-mammary infusions.  That actually was the only antibiotic which seems to be able to do any good to treat Pseudomonas. 

One of the three cows, Barre, is now 10 years old and still with us today and has given birth to two bulls (which we both kept for breeding) and two lovely heifers, all since her misfortune. We have in-calf heifers now which are daughters from that first bull!
The bra I am using on Cholle might have the advantage that the part covering her udder is actually a nylon fishing net, which dries instantly and Pseudomonas doesn’t seem to like synthetics much… or we were just lucky so far. But I will replace it by that fabulous invention of yours as soon as I get the parts together.

The bull ring inserted in the way shown in the pictures doesn’t impair your taste test; also rumination is not disturbed in any way, although the cow is sore for a couple of days after placing it. Well I thought it’s a little revenge for the hours of headaches and heartaches she had caused us beforehand, not to speak of the 10 liters of milk that disappeared miraculously day after day…

The cow will still try to suckle initially, so your food color test can’t be applied right away, but eventually she will get frustrated as she can’t really produce the vacuum needed to remove the milk from the teats, or so the theory goes… We have tried it twice, with a 50% success. (That’s why the bra is still in use with one of the two…)

Ario which got totally cured from self-sucking with this ring, started the habit when she was on the ground for two months after she had broken her hip when making acquaintance with a nymphomanic herdmate days before her calving date, so your observation that self-sucking might often be caused by boredom, seems to fit right for her. Two months later she was back on her feet, but all the milk was gone and being recycled…
Well, as you can see, I love talking about cows too; actually it is the one thing I love talking about most in my life! If you want to use any of my observations or pictures in your blog, please you are most welcome, I think it is so important to exchange ideas and observations, as one lifetime is much too short to experience and try out everything by oneself…
I am so much looking forward reading more Adventures on Zephyr Hill Farm and it is so great to having finally met a true soul mate!
Thank you so very much again and my very best regards to you and all your loved ones,
If you've ever sought help for a self-sucking cow, you know that most people will advise you it's an incurable problem and tell you to butcher the cow.  Compared to that solution, the brief pain of a nose ring seems preferable to a death sentence!  That's why I felt it was worthwhile to share Sylvia's photos and solutions.  She is a true "Cow Mama" in the fullest sense of the word--going above and beyond what most people will do.

This last photo is the most recent one Sylvia sent me, testament to her healthy, happy cows!  It is, indeed, a small world when I find a friend in Mombasa through my blog.  And since we met because of our cows, I might add, "Cows make the world go round!"


  1. Great post Susan, how satisfying it is to know your post have helped others. I have to check out her blog it seems interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks, Gordon, it is satisfying to have found out you helped someone! What she's doing is very interesting, I think. I wish we could meet in person!


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