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VET ON CALL; Reflections on joy, trials of livestock agribusiness

Friday December 28 2018
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Jane Njeri feeds her goats at Eastleigh Estate in Elburgon, Nakuru County. The farmer has been selling each at Sh7,000 this festive season. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA

Today’s article is the last in 2018 and it marks two years of dedicated sharing of experiences with farmers on this page. In the course of the year, I received a lot of feedback from farmers who put to good use the information I shared and the advice I gave on specific cases.

It is encouraging and refreshing to know that farmers find the articles useful and they help them solve various challenges.

My write up today is motivated by the outcome of some of the articles I wrote.

The piece on gape worms in chickens (Seeds of Gold, September 29) has continued to elicit lots of reactions. This indicates that the problem is widespread especially in free-range and backyard chickens, but it is poorly documented. The good news is that farmers report good response to treatment with levermisole-based poultry dewormers.

Since many diseases make chickens cough and gape, I advise farmers suspecting the problem to seek the services of a licensed veterinary service provider to confirm the diagnosis. This is done by doing post-mortem on dead or selected birds and demonstrating the presence of the worms in the trachea.

The ravaging of pig farms in Kajiado, Kiambu and Murang’a by African Swine Fever (ASF) (Seeds of Gold, August 4) was a big setback to farmers. One farmer in Kajiado lost all his 400 pigs to the disease but he took it as an important lesson. The farmer reported restocking in November after revising his production methods. His main exposure to the disease had been sharing of feed supply with other farmers.

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Biosecurity measures

He put in place stringent biosecurity measures and started to acquire feeds on his own; and to stop all visits to his farm by outsiders. Preventing ASF outbreaks requires such measures since the disease has no vaccine or treatment. To worsen matters, all pigs in an infected herd must be destroyed.

I shared information on feeding pigs. One interesting feedback I got was from a farmer in Kirinyaga who was feeding his sow dairy meal and it was not thriving or producing enough milk. He had thought that since the sow had farrowed 14 piglets, dairy meal would help the animal to increase milk production like it does in cows.

Well, this farmer was on the wrong track. I advised him the similarity of cows and sows ends with the three common alphabets. The two species are miles apart in the anatomy and function of their digestive system and the way they handle nutrients in the body to produce milk. A sow, therefore, must be fed sow-and-weaner meal while the cow, dairy meal. His problem was that he was feeding too little sow-and-weaner to the mother of 14 piglets.

He was also worried about the pig’s weight loss. Weight loss in nursing pigs is a common occurrence especially for sows with large litters. A farmer should only be worried if the pig is not producing enough milk.

My articles on importing and exporting animals are still encouraging people to explore the trade. However, some people wade in without understanding the national and international requirements. In

November, I had an enquiry for an immediate import permit for slaughter cattle from Uganda that were already at the border. When I explained to the trader the process of importation, he realised he could never make any profit for the consignment he had.

The problem with his venture was that he had already bought the animals without doing calculations on the projected quantity of meat he was going to realise. He thought a 400kg cow would yield 350kg of meat. Actually, the estimated amount of meat should have been about 50 per cent of the live weight or 200kg. The trader informed me he decided to resell the animals in Uganda and restart the process now that he was enlightened.

Camel and cattle export

Another case was export of cattle and camels to one of the African Indian Ocean Island nations. The trader had received an annual contract to supply about 1,000 beef cattle and 50 camels once every month. The order was good but the trader had not carefully considered the operational requirements for servicing such a large order. I advised him to remember that he had to take into account the sourcing of the animals, keeping the animals isolated, medically called quarantine and fattening the animals to the required weight and form.

In addition, the animals had to be tested and be found to be free of all the diseases stipulated in the import permit within a stated period. The trader was able to reschedule his contract to formulate a good plan of abiding by the export conditions for the cattle and camels.

The cases of circling goats and sheep in Kajiado, Mwingi and Machakos elicited plenty of feedback. As expected, animals already affected died but when the rest in the herd and dogs were treated for tapeworms, the problem has not recurred. Farmers must routinely deworm their dogs, sheep, goats and cattle with high quality dewormers that kill all types of worms.

The disease is caused by tapeworms that lodge in the brain and destroy tissues. The worms circulate between the dogs and livestock and sometimes may also affect humans. The adult worm lives in the intestines of the dog. It lays eggs that pass out in faeces to contaminate pastures and water. The eggs are swallowed by animals when grazing or drinking water. They hatch in the intestines. The immature worms burrow into the body tissues and form water filled balls in organs including the brain. When dogs ingest the immature worms in the meat of affected animals, the worms mature and the cycle continues.
Happy New Year

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