I have always loved cows with a big udder. When we were little boys, we would compete with fellow boys over whose cow had the biggest udder after calving.
Our internal competition would extend to the evening, where we would ‘measure’ which cow had the biggest stomach as they went up the Mahihu hills on the way home.
My father’s cow, Munge, inherited from my grandfather, always embarrassed me even after it passed through the river for that reluctant gulp of water.
In due course , I developed a bad attitude towards cows with small udders. Conversely, I developed a worship attitude towards the Friesian cows I always see on cattle salt packets.
So when Kimenju, the local cattle broker, called me to ask if I was interested in a cow that produced 40 litres of milk a day, my heart missed a beat. My small dairy section is picking, only that I am yet to see any serious money from my two Aryshires.
“It is a cross breed of Aryshire and Jersy. It is milked three times a day,” assured Kimenju.
I trusted him because last year , a “toggenberg” milk goat he helped me buy produces two litres shy of the three litres he had promised. It wasn’t a bad estimation, after all.
Kimenju’s offer was irresistible. I had some Sh70,000 savings at Kenya Ni Moja Sacco, and so the Sh65,000 Kimenju was asking was ‘within budget.’
“The owner says we can come at 6.30pm. Your first milking will be the following day,” he explained.
I asked Kabuthia, the local Canter owner, to help me ferry the grade catch. After agreeing on a Sh3,000 fee, we set off for Mutomo Edge farm.
“We have just milked the cow,” the pot- bellied farmer owner told us as he showed me a bucket full of milk when we arrived. “The other bucket was milked in the morning and noon. In total it is 40 litres,” the cow owner insisted.
Shaking his head to affirm the impressive statistics, Kimenju looked at me and said: “This offer is irresistible. He wouldn’t have sold the cow were it not for school fees,” he explained.
The cow owner went into the store and brought some salt wrapped in a green paper bag. “Always ensure it has this every day. Otherwise it will only produce 35 litres,” I was warned.
Back home, the night was long. I couldn’t imagine 40 litres of milk from one cow. With a litre going for Sh35, I saw myself earning Sh511,000 in one year from one cow!
The following morning, I gave Muchiri, the farm boy, tough instructions to handle the grade wonder with care. I personally supervised the milking as I wanted to have a real view of the milking spectacle.
By the third teat, there was about seven litres of milk in the bucket. “It can’t produce more. Maybe it is tired,” Muchiri said in a panicky voice. He feared he might have “mishandled” the cow.
Three, four, five mornings later, the cow could only produce 10 litres. Not even an increased ration of the wonder salt did any magic.
On the seventh day, I returned to Mutomo Edge farm, breathing fire. The farm hand I found was different from the one who we had ‘milked’ the cow with. “Boss, is in Nairobi, he went six days ago,” the farm hand said innocently.
He looked unperturbed at my ranting that I was sold a fake cow at this ‘farm.’ “Which fake cow? Our five cows here are not fake?” he replied.
I looked around and realised there were five cows out of the six I had seen the previous time. “I am new and I only found five cows. I do not know of the cow you are saying,” he said suggesting I was wasting his time for the day’s chores.
My last question rattled my nerves. “How many litres does your biggest cow produce?” I needlessly asked.
“Mmmmmhh!!! I think 12. I was told during the rainy season, it can go up to 15 litres,” he said.
He quickly added: “There were seven cows but I was informed two were recently sold after the daktari said they cannot calf any more.”
It dawned on me that I had been sold a cow that had been condemned by the daktari. Maybe the 40 litres was what it produced several years ago.
I picked my phone ready with un-savoury expletives against the cow owner. It was ‘mteja.’ I tried Kimenju. ‘Mteja.’ I returned to my farm, knowing it is not easy to find a wonder 40-litre cow