The absence of cow dung in a man’s compound is a symbol of abject poverty and its presence is a symbol of wealth.

Shepherding is the economic activity of the wealthy families. Marriage between families is determined by the social economic status. It is rich for the rich and the poor for the poor.

The cattle shed; “boma or nkanata” is a circular structure consisting of a thick wall of posts dug deep into the ground with an entrance that is closed with planks once the animals are in the shed when the night falls. Come rain or sun, the shed remains unroofed; hence, the animals have a difficult time tolerating the heavy downpour of rain.

The shepherds’ morning activity begins with milking the cows as the calves’ breastfeed simultaneously. Shepherding is solely the activity of the man. He drives his herd “ndiithia” to the green pastures in the morning when the sun has warmed the earth and the dew has either melted or evaporated into the air.

Green pastures are no man’s land; they are public and common grazing fields. The whole day is spent in the open fields and no one has the urge to return home for midday meal. One heavy meal taken in the morning suffices to sustain one for the whole day until the next meal in the evening.

Cattle are herbivores. And as such, they prowl the fields tearing and swallowing plenty of green and dry matter that is later chewed as cud when the animal is at its own leisure. When the sun is overhead and particularly in the scorching seasons, the animals take a break as the herd is driven to the river to quench thirst, “kunywithia ruuji.” The herd returns to the grazing pastures and instantly take a rest under the shade of tress while chewing the cud. The second round of grazing resumes when the direct rays of the sun change to oblique, “kwarura” and the heat of the sun abates.

Animals need mineral salts. A herdsman knows this by either instinct commonsense or experience. More often than not, the herdsman drives his herd to the salt links, “moonyone” for a whole day – until they have their fill. Salty clay soils are dried in the sun and wrapped in dry banana stalks. The solid salt is preserved at home, broken and crushed; it is given to the animals as supplementary mineral salts.

Milk, blood and meat constitute a staple diet for the people. It is a whole meal rich in protein, carbohydrates, starch and minerals.

Milk is drunk fresh without boiling. It is also preserved for a longer period of time in a special gourd, “ncengeerio.” A herb by name “mutero” with a favoured scent is used as a good preservative of milk. The stern of the herb is smouldered then rubbed inside the gourd into which is poured milk. Several gourds thus treated can preserve milk for a many days in a month.

Blood is extracted from a live animal to supplement the day’s meal. The animal is held by the horns while a rope is tied round the neck. An expert, using a miniature bow, “uta” and a miniature metal arrow, “rangi” pieces the enlarged carotid artery and the blood oozes profusely. The oozing blood is collected in a carrabass. The blood thus collected is consumed in three ways, namely: [a] drunk fresh. [b] Mixed with milk and preserved in a gourd treated with the flavor –scented herb. [c] Vegetables are cooked and once ready, blood is added, stirred and left to boil for a few minutes before it is served.

Once the animal is slaughtered, the meat is preserved in two ways so as to make it last longer. One method is to roast the meat then hang it in a smoky place, preferably above the hearth. The second method is to boil the meat then preserve them in a casket of honey, “giempe kia uki.” Honey is an ideal natural preservative of food as well as a curative ingredient.