The rains are here after a long drought and this means more feeds. With good management your thin animals will gain good weight. The weatherman has hinted that the rains will be above average and will linger on for a while. This is important information for any livestock farmer.
Farmers must therefore be aware of the good and the bad to tap into the opportunity presented by the rains or mitigate against negative effects.
Harvest that water
It is a time to harvest water and store it for the dry spell. It is also a time to plant napier grass, sweet potatoes and other grasses. Thanks to the rains within a week, you will see green vegetation sprout from the once dry ground.
Yes, lush pastures are pleasing to the eye and animals will eat lots of them, but there is a catch.
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The rains bring with them plenty pasture and it is a good time to consider pasture conservation.
Think about making silage now and hay latter because it will not be long before the grass mature and wither away with the next dry season.
What to watch out for
Be warned that the green grass that sprouts forth immediately after the rains isn’t good for your animals.
This is because it is deficient in fibre but very rich in moisture content and can easily cause bloating which if not treated will result in death.
Feeding your livestock purely on this young grass will cause diarrhoea which can further worsen the body condition. To avoid this, mix the green pasture with hay and gradually introduce the animal to green lush.
Sudden introduction of the animal to large quantities of lush pastures should be avoided at this initial stages.
Just as rains awaken long dried pastures so does it bring to life disease causing micro-organisms and vectors.
The moisture and warmth that comes with rainfall offers the much needed conditions form their multiplication.
How to prevent diseases
Disease vectors like tsetse flies, mosquitoes and ticks will increase in population and this subsequently increases the risk of infection.
To reduce disease incidences increase spraying intervals and feed your animals well to further improve their immunity.
This is a time for infestation with external and internal worms.
Consider carrying out strategic deworming using a broad spectrum dewormer.
How well is the drainage on your farm?
This is a fundamental question with the advent of the rains. Poor drainage can result in contamination or silting of boreholes and at the same time stagnant waters aren’t good as they provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
When animals stand in waters for long, they develop foot infections which have a negative effect on their productivity.
Ensure that your animals aren’t in wet environments and disinfect their feet using footbaths to kill any bacteria.
Make use of footbaths
Wet and muddy cow shades also predispose lactating animals to mastitis.
The cold conditions also predispose animals to pneumonia.
To prevent this, provide your animals with good shelter and don’t leave them exposed to rain storm. Calves are especially prone to pneumonia during this time.
Poor drainage can also lead to dampening of feeds stored on the farm.
Moulding of hay is common with the wet conditions and it reduces the nutritive value of feeds and makes them less palatable. Never feed your animals on rotting or mouldy feeds as they can cause fatal poisoning.
Finally, keep your local vet close during this rainy weather.
(The writer is winner of Vet of the Year Award 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council – KENTTEC, [email protected])