Thursday, May 29, 2008
pin haraka saved from the slaughterhouse
Just when I thought the tragicomedies in my enterprise had some limit, I was only a fool to believe it, as they are unlimited and in a sense better than a reality TV show;” this is the real thing.”
On Friday, the 9th of May the best cow in the heard, a potential 12 bottles a day animal, heavily pregnant and weighing about 300kg, had a problem standing up and its hind legs gave way and lay on the ground, the vet was called and was given an injection to induce the birth of the female calf, the next day. The birth was free of complications but the animal as of today 29th May is still lying and unable to get up.
The animal had been saved from the slaughterhouse, (Dematagoda mas kade) over 6 years ago by the local village, who chipped in and bought the animal, a 80% Jersey heifer not yet 2 and gave it to us to take care. This was the fifth calf, all born at our farm with the third calf at my property in Polonnaruwa and I intend taking the fourth there sometime soon.
It was ironic that this animal turned out to be the best milk producer. I can only presume, those who sold the animal did not realize its true worth or maybe had stolen it for the money, it was not even fully-grown.
The vet came again a day later and administered the calcium and other vitamin injections for possible deficiencies and then again on 13th after we had broken the walls of the cattle shed to drag it out into the normal ground hoping that the earthen floor would be better for it to get a grip to stand as opposed to the cement floor in the cattle shed. There were no signs of a real illness as the animal was eating well, however a blood sample was taken. We had it taken to the lab in Welisara and came out negative reinforcing that there was no blood illness except perhaps a hairline fracture which was not apparent to the naked eye as there were no outward signs of swelling.
We made a frame and bought sheets to try and raise the animal up so that it can eventually put its weight on the hind legs, but as it was struggling our cowherd with 50 year of experience wrongly told us to leave it down.
For the workers in the farm this was a case of western medicine failing, and so we had to resort to native treatment. We went in search of the local person a few miles away who came in the clothes he was wearing at home, and then pronounced he could do nothing but that we consult the expert on cattle, the famous “harak veda mahattaya” (ayurvedic doctor specializing in cattle) and we left that evening in the dark in search of him in the Pannipitiya area where he lives. He must be well known as we just referred to his profession and fingers pointed in the direction of his home.
He was brought with his magic wand and reeled of a concoction of herbs we had to administer, most of which we had on the farm, but other oils had to be added. I cannot get my staff to work at the best of times, but it seemed all hands were on deck at night in this venture with wives, kids, and people in the area willing to lend a helping hand. It was like a circus in the cowshed with every pundit pronouncing the goodness of the puwak kola to rub the backside, or the kohomba kola to the mixture with garlic and herbs.
Of course after the first medicines were poured into the animal’s mouth and various oils rubbed on the animal’s neck his payment was in the form of a bottle of kasippu, the local moonshine which he promptly downed and was inebriated when I thanked him for his efforts and sent him in the cab in the dead of night back to his home. Actually we had to go the next day to pick up his preparation for 2500/-, which was obviously his real payment, to administer according to his instructions to the animal. So it was another trip for that and endless days of various preparations these past two weeks.
This veda promised the animal will be up in three days and its now two weeks and there is no more milk even for the calf, who now has to be bottle fed milk from the other cows. I therefore went to the vet today to ask him to euthanize the animal. He was not willing to do this as it is not customary in this society to do so even if the animal is suffering. He said local traditions can intervene to effectively scupper what he does if he resorts to this, as he is responsible for the welfare of the animals in his area and does not want to in anyway jeopardize his position.
I keep telling my staff it will be a miracle and world record if this animal walks, as no cow stands up after a few days, as its hind legs on which the bulk of its weight rests just loses strength and cannot withstand the strain.
I am caught in a catch 22 situation where I have lost the best animal and am still incurring a cost of feeding and administering medication to satisfy the people around who don’t have to pay the price of false hopes, another instance of just how our traditions and reality conflict at another’s expense.