Oh yes! Counties need to revive cattle dips

Communal cattle dipping which was common in the 90s ensured effective tick and disease control in livestock farms across villages. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Cheramboss, a breeder from Nandi County is an unhappy man. According to his email, he is unhappy because his neighbours are doing nothing to control ticks and other disease insects on their farms and this is spreading to his herd.

Cheramboss has done his bit; he says he sprays his herd twice a week; but his lazy neighbours are watering down his efforts.

Cheramboss ought to have directed his anger towards his neighbours or his Nandi county government but instead sought my assistance.

Jigger-infested feet

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He requested that I address his grievances through the Smart Harvest so that his Nandi County can pick up the issue and come to his rescue.

When I was a child, cattle dips were common.

We enjoyed chasing cattle through the wash; we even added our dogs on that list of livestock to be dipped.

We also dipped our jigger-infested feet into the wash killing the itchy things.

That was when veterinary services and by extension tick control was subsidised by government and supported by pharmaceutical companies that branded the iron sheets with their brand of acaricides.

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But what happened?

Following the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) this vital support was withdrawn as veterinary services were privatised. 

Cheramboss query brings to the fore the need to rethink this animal health intervention which is devolved to counties.

Many counties are also supporting farmers acquire exotic dairy breeds which have little resistance to tick or vector borne diseases.  

Mass tick control

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Ticks, tsetse flies and other disease causing insects don’t need a passport to pass from one farm to another or from one county to another.

They just move; in fact Cheramboss farm is a hot cake to the insects from his neighbours who are not spraying since there is less competition there!

Nature is sometimes unfair. This is called trans-boundary nature of disease causing vectors. 

This is the challenge that dips can solve better than individual spraying of livestock will ever achieve.

Through dipping farmers in an areas dipped their livestock effectively killing all the ticks on their bodies and there after killing those that came to suck blood later.

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The chiefs were vital in ensuring that almost every farmer dipped his animal and tick populations were drastically reduced.

At the same time, the government involvement ensured that correct insecticides were used in given areas based on the tick types and this helped in slowing down the current challenge of resistance developed.

The benefits

The Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council (KENTTEC) in its eradication of tsetse has revived some of these dips in Emsos, Meru and has attested to the collective power of dipping. But this are just few dips.

Sadly most dips are dead, the wash dips are home to snakes and lizards, the iron sheets and wooden rails vandalised. The lands are also probably grabbed.

But from Cheramboss complaint, it is clear there is need to revive this critical disease control model.

Indeed “no county has the right to export its disease vectors to another county” Dr Pamela Olet the KENTTEC CEO normally says.

Animal pests and especially those that cause diseases is a major constraint to livestock production.

The cost of treating such diseases is higher than controlling the disease insects and what a better way than through resurrection of the dips that died. With most counties investing in milk production through introduction of dairy breeds it the issue of dipping should be revisited.

[The writer was the winner of Vet of the Year Award 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council –KENTTEC, [email protected]]

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