Every successful farmer likes to show guests around their farm.
Because of the desire to inspire and sometimes acquire bragging rights, these farms are always full of guests; fellow farmers or starters. This could be catastrophic to your farm.
Whenever you don’t mind about people walking into and out of your farm areas, they could carry diseases from one farm to another endangering your flock.
Have footbaths with disinfectants, let people dip their shoes before accessing the farm, wash hands and even use farm clothing to cover their street clothing.
Even the vet could act as a source of disease pathogens when they move from farm to farm without properly cleaning up.
This whole scenario is known as biosecurity which ensures no diseases are transmitted to your farm from any sources in the environment, people or from objects also known as formites.
The animals that suffer most when biosecurity measures are not adhered to are poultry and pigs.
This is because viral diseases that affect them lead to high numbers of deaths and massive losses.
Watch out for ticks
Today, I want to bring to your attention a deadly pig disease known as African swine fever (ASF) caused by ASF virus.
This disease affects all pig-like animals both wild and domestic.
The main culprits being warthogs who maintain the infection until it gets to the domestic pigs.
Infection can occur through ticks (known as ornithodoros ticks) that transmit the virus or through people and their activities moving the virus from place to place.
Once a pig is infected, it becomes the primary source of infection to other pigs. This is because the virus is shed into the environment from body fluids or from droplets of air when the animal breathes.
So pigs end up breathing air contaminated with the virus or eating and drinking feed and water contaminated with the virus.
Prevention is the cure
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ASF occurs in pig farms as outbreaks and has the potential to affect all pigs in a farm and can also lead to death of all pigs in a farm.
Being a viral infection, it has no straight cure or medication, prevention is the only option to keep this infection off.
Whenever an infection starts in a farm, it takes only five to seven days for farmer to notice that his pigs are sick.
Unfortunately, by this time; the animals will be having a high fever and will have stopped feeding well.
The affected pigs will show signs of inactivity; depression and some will be unable to walk due to the effect of the disease on their joints which are most likely painful.
As the infection progresses, the virus multiplies in the body leading to reddening of the skin of the belly and the ears of the affected pigs.
Outbreak in Kenya
Soon after, the animals will start vomiting and having difficulty in breathing and in no time death follows.
Sadly, almost all affected pigs die from this disease.
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Whenever farmers notice this infection, they call the vet who is not able to assist much because they can only treat the symptoms of the disease but with limited success.
Usually what is left is a farmer swearing never to keep pigs again!
The only sure way to keep away this disease is through strict biosecurity measures as there are no effective vaccines in use in Kenya. Beware, there’s an ongoing outbreak in the country now.
[The writer is a researcher at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation. [email protected]]