Dr Ochieng’ Odede is the technical director at Sidai Africa (Kenya) Ltd. He spoke to Brian Okinda on the importance of controlling ticks in livestock, how this can be achieved and good herd health management
Why do we always have to control ticks in livestock?
Lack of proper tick control leads to poor growth of the animals, damage of animal skin, tick-borne diseases and death of livestock.
Tick-borne diseases are very costly to treat and more often than not, they cause death. They include East Coast Fever, also called Digana Kali, yellow fever (anaplasmosis), and red water or tick fever (babeosis).
The best way to control the brown and blue ticks, which cause these diseases, is by regularly spraying livestock; at least once every week.
Why is tick infestation still a major problem for farmers?
Farmers are grappling with the problem mainly because of poor tick control methods, failure to spray as recommended, partial tick control in the herd and ticks developing resistance to acaricides used over the years.
Many farmers only control the big ticks when they physically notice them on their animals. That means they do not control the pests in the initial stages and the small brown ear ticks, which are not visible without closer examination.
Ticks also hide in areas where most farmers do not check, and in case of large herds, physical examination becomes impossible.
Some farmers also do not spray or dip weekly as recommended. And if they spray, some do not do it correctly, leading to incomplete coverage of the acaricide on the whole body.
Farmers are advised to follow the recommended spraying procedure, which takes 10 to 15 minutes for every animal using a good knapsack sprayer.
What does herd health as an approach to livestock management entail?
This is a livestock practice that entails setting routine good farm management habits aimed at preventing diseases and improving productivity and health of livestock.
These management practices include good nutrition, adoption of cost-effective disease control measures such as routine vaccination, good hygiene and biosecurity, spraying against ticks and appropriate use of dewormers to minimise costs and increase productivity.
Why is it important to reduce antibiotic use in livestock?
Antibiotic use in most cases is caused by lack of proper herd health management.
This leads to livestock being affected by pests and diseases, creating the need to use antibiotics to treat suspected diseases.
Overuse or misuse of antimicrobial leads to development of resistance by the targeted germs being treated. This is a danger to the safety of livestock and livestock products such as meat, milk and eggs due to chemical residues that pose health risks to consumers.
On mastitis, what can you advise farmers?
Improved dairy hygiene helps prevent mastitis. Farmers should use a strip test and California Mastitis Test to detect cases of the diseases early. There are specialised teat dips to kill bacteria on the udder.
The cow’s udder, which contains the teats, plays the vital role of generating milk. It is thus essential that we protect this feature of the cow because mastitis easily attacks it.
High standard of hygiene should be maintained in the cowshed, by the milker, milking equipment and the cow should be clean.
Milking should be done gently after applying good milking salve. After the milking process, the cow should be fed on something pleasant enough to ensure it remains standing as it eats for a duration long enough to allow the milk openings on the teats to close, thus preventing mastitis infestation.