There is always work to be done on a farm, even if it is squeezed into a quarter acre plot and we were repairing the cow shed on a Saturday morning when a cow attacked my father.
He had swung at it casually to shoo it away – cows try to feel anything out with their muzzles – and it so happened that he had a hammer in his hand. He barely touched it but the cow reversed away, he made to continue hammering but saw out of the corner of his eye that the beast had only reversed so it could come at him better.
He leaned back and away but it still nailed him in the hips. We sprang to action. My brother hit it with the back of a spade and I think I beat its back with a stick. It backed away. Then we laughed as we asked Dad whether he was okay. He was, but said, “The bloody animal wanted to kill me.”
It was Saturday. By Wednesday, the cow had been sold to a butcher, with Dad keenly instructing me to go buy meat the next day at Karumaindo, the butchery where its meat was bound to be found hanging the next day.
In Githunguri, you have to be like my Dad when dealing with cows. His mantra has always been that cows are wild animals tamed, so when he comes home from taking the milk to the collection centre (which we call dairy, pronounced dayree) and finds pregnant Kairitu with some balloon-like thing in its rear, he doesn’t fret or bother telling Mum when he gets back to bed. He goes ahead to catch his 40 winks as usual.
He knows that just like would happen in the wild, the cow will give birth. If that doesn’t happen, the cow will probably need help, and a veterinary will come in and administer the appropriate medicine. But any dairy farmer will tell you a cow that needs help birthing is no good. Its organs will probably be ruined and it will have issues conceiving and even then, birthing, which ruins the balance the body needs to supply a steady stream of milk, the life juice of the people of Githunguri.
Being a dairy farmer requires a certain cold pragmatism. But there is still some pain felt when a promised good cow turns out bad. You can almost touch the anger and frustration in a farmer’s voice when you ask my father whether his newest cow has conceived and he tells you, “It seems that cow had a bad disease that the man who sold it to us didn’t say.” The last such cow he had of that sort had a crazy white discharge that made him conclude with a bittersweet laugh that it had a sexually-transmitted disease. He had to sell it at a loss.
Fresha’s own extension officers advise farmers in the green sub-county that they should be the ones milking the cows and not the other way round. That a cow that takes more than it gives is no good. Cows are not pets, as we used to think they were growing up in the 90s.
For my uncle, one Nduati Githere, they were going to be his way to riches. He called me Tuesday last week and told me the story you saw in the Daily Nation on April 21.
The advertisement used to be on the back page of the same paper about a year ago. With time, there was a story buried in the pages of Seeds of Gold magazine in the Saturday Nation. Seeds of Gold is a dope magazine, by the way. There are people who swear by it, like the Computer Science graduate who told me, and I believed because he was so damned serious, that a chicken should eat 15 grams of food in a day and if you give it more the rest is wasted labour. Your chicken, like your cow, should not milk you any more.
The cows my uncle set out to buy were of the Holstein variety, high-yielding and were to come all the way from South Africa. That’s why they cost Sh280,000 that was payable in installments of Sh35,000 after paying a deposit. Mr Githere paid in full for three cows. But then the whole thing started unravelling. Visits to their offices at Kimathi Chambers at the northern end of the street by the same name started yielding excuses delivered by listless receptionists and secretaries. They probably weren’t getting their pay and were starting to see through their employers’ lies and had probably overheard one too many conversations on the phone. The farmers, their hopes now drowned in the miasma of promises and missing directors, trooped to the police. A criminal investigation was started.
Mr Githere is a thorough-going man. He used to be an accountant or auditor, a bean counter at any rate, and he now has a long list of the prospective farmers who were also skinned along with him. They know the director of the company, that he is from Othaya, goes by the name Emilio Mwangi and harboured political ambitions, running for the parliamentary seat to succeed Mwai Kibaki in 2013 and coming closer to last.
The man preyed on the base instincts of the hopeful dairy farmer, a more moneyed version of the guy who buys a cow with a hidden diseases for Sh60,000. The one who sells off a cow with a reasonable yield – 15 litres of milk a day – for the promise of one that yields 25 litres a day because there is always a better cow that day.
Mr Githere’s story had good news value. I liked and asked my colleagues to use it because unlike the fellows who handed over money to Deci and other pyramid scheme companies and waited for it to grow without any evidence, Mr Githere and other dairy farmers were lured by the promise of flesh and blood, not riches generated through mysterious investments.
Perhaps wiser folk would have demanded to know whether the cows would be brought over by overland trucks, by sea or by air and what guarantee there was that they would come. Better else, how about a walking and breathing and milk-producing sample?
I believe, with all shadows of doubt, that my uncle and the other 140 conned – plus tthe contractor who put Sh10 million of his money into the construction of sheds for the farmers, will probably never see their money.
We have seen many like Emilio who have walked away. One even went to Parliament and has not stopped his deviant ways.
But if there is a way to give these people justice, I would be happy to see that justice given at whatever cost.