Dos and dont's to keep common livestock diseases at bay

Kenya Veterinary Association personnel. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Just like humans, animals fall sick once in a while. The severity of the disease determines if the animal lives or dies. When an infection happens, the animal is affected in several ways and so is the owner and consequently the livestock business. It is therefore in the interest of an animal investor to keep diseases at bay.

What causes diseases?

Diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, internal and external parasites like fleas, ticks and mites, fungi, nutritional deficiencies, chemical poisons, as well unknown causes. Notably, infectious diseases pose the greatest threat to livestock health and especially so to naïve animals or herds. These infectious diseases are introduced into and spread within herds or flocks through: introduction of diseased animals, introduction of healthy animals that have recovered from disease but are still carriers or can still transmit the disease to other animals, rodents and free-flying birds. Additionally, shoes and clothes of persons, staff or visitors, who move from one farm to the other can spread diseases.

Examples of diseases per species

In pigs: African Swine Fever, Brucellosis, Foot and Mouth disease, Escherichia coli, Leptospirosis and Mastitis-Metritis-Agalactiae Syndrome. In chicken; Fowl pox, Fowl typhoid, New castle disease, Gumboro, Marek’s and Coccidiosis. In cows: Mastitis, Brucellosis, Trypanosomosis, Rift Valley Fever, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia, East Coast Fever, Foot and Mouth Disease and Lumpy skin disease. 

How do these diseases manifest?

The common signs of ill health include altered breathing rate, loss of appetite, abnormal colour or consistence of the milk, fever, rough hair coat and ruffled feathers. Other symptoms are sneezing and coughing, head shaking, head pressing, abnormal gait and  consistency of the faeces (diarrhoea and constipation).

Economic impact of diseases

This refers to the monetary implication that can be attributed to a disease incidence. Majorly, diseases impact on growth rate, production, reproduction and trade. On growth rate, sick animals take time to recover as they may not be able to feed normally thus taking time to attain the market weight like the case of broiler chicken and pigs. Sick animals perform below optimum in terms of production of eggs or milk. For reproduction, diseased animals may fail to reach puberty and come on heat. They may even abort and eggs have low hatchability rate. 

The cost of treatment and vector control is also huge and this eats into the profit margins of the farm.

Prevention, treatment and control of diseases

Always seek the guidance of a veterinarian before planning a health programme. Select a reputable, reliable source from which to purchase animals, one that can supply healthy stock.

Vaccinate each herd or flock on time. Work out the vaccination programme in tandem with local disease authorities. Keenly observe animals for signs of disease, and if a disease problem develops, obtain an early, accurate diagnosis and apply effective treatment, control, and eradication strategy for that particular disease. Always maintain accurate records regarding the flock or herd health. These should entail animal bio data, vaccination history, disease problems, medication and recovery.

[Dr Paul Kangethe is a Veterinary Surgeon and the Resident Vet at FarmKenya, [email protected]]

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