In August, I was privileged to be invited by The Jersey Cattle Society of Kenya to judge the Jersey’s at the Kenya Livestock Breeders Show in Nairobi. It was a fantastic trip that allowed me to meet wonderful people, enjoy some great experiences and make many fond memories that I will never forget.
I arrived in Nairobi a couple of days before the show and was hosted by Mick and Jane Wilson-Smith. After a busy week with work and travel, it was lovely to unwind with great company and a cold beer! They were so accommodating and hospitable, telling me all sorts of stories and showing me a few tourist spots prior to the show. One of these was the Elephant Orphan Sanctuary – where orphaned elephants are cared for and rehabilitated before being returned back into the wild. We also visited the Karen Blixen museum – her actual homestead from the film “Out of Africa” – one of my favorites.
Then it was onto the show, which was a great success! There were a few aspects that really stood out for me that I would like to share…
The first, was the people involved. A small group of passionate Jersey farmers! It reminded me of my early days of showing my own cattle. It was a real family affair with a few farmers with lot of children or grandchildren in tow – all preparing their cattle together. There is something about watching children working with Jerseys that always makes me appreciate the breed more. They tolerate the children’s constant handling so well with all the grooming, brushing, pulling on their halters and correcting their feet. Then of course, after all that exhausting work, a child has an afternoon relax with their heifer in the stable and it’s as if she was designed to be a cushion as she quite happily lies there chewing her cud.
The second was the actual judging of the cattle. If there is one thing I love… it’s judging beautiful jersey cows being led around by passionate and proud jersey farmer. The classes were small but made up of good quality jersey cows. We chose a very good string of seven cows for the Inter-Breed. The Jerseys did exceptionally well winning the Supreme Champion and The Best Three of a breed. We had a group of animals with exceptionally good udders. The Grand Champion cow went to Big Time …… from Dr Romi Grammaticas. She was a very well balanced cow with a very good udder.
The Inter-Breed judging was very funny. The Holstein and Guernsey judge was Mr. Jos Knoef from the Netherlands and the Ayrshire judge was Mr. Michael Broadley from the UK. In the first class we had done our placing and were ready to line them up but to our surprise, as the Holsteins passed the ring entrance, three left the group and were replaced by three new ones. The two international judges were amazed and asked if they were allowed to do that. I told them not to worry and we should just go with the flow. We re-discussed the placings but unfortunately as they passed entrance again, two Guernsey’s disappeared this time being replaced by another two! Fortunately for us this was the last of the substitutions and no one else was sent on from the bench for this class. 🙂
After the show I was hosted by the Mills – Joe, Janet and Tanya – on their farm in the Great Rift Valley. They have a beautiful set up with a real good herd of Jerseys. It was interesting going through the herd and seeing what their breeding objectives are (under the guidance of our one-and-only Wikus van der Merwe). I look forward to visiting the herd again in a few years to see the progress. Tanya took me for a day to Arusha Lake National Park. It was beautiful – and I was truly privileged as I don’t think a trip to Kenya would be the same without a trip to a park.
The last day of my trip was hosted by Romi. She runs a small herd of lovely Jerseys on the outskirts of Nairobi out of one on the most beautiful dairies I have ever seen. Everything was organized and immaculate and you could see the love and care that the animals received. It was one of those farms that made me want to start milking again.
On the last night the Jersey community from around Nairobi took me out to dinner. The effort and hospitality shown to me was hugely appreciated and definitely made my experience of judging in Kenya – a treasured one.