What you need to know:
- Across the world currently, emphasis has shifted on vaccination of animals against as many diseases as possible to minimise the use of antimicrobial drugs and associated resistance
The many questions I keep receiving from farmers on livestock vaccines and vaccination indicate that there is an information gap on the subject. It may also explain why many farmers are not keen on vaccinating animals except for the diseases that they have been used to.
Many cattle farmers are aware of vaccination against foot and mouth disease (FMD), black quarter and anthrax (Blanthrax) and lumpy skin disease (LSD).
Yes, these are the most common killer diseases of cattle present in almost all cattle-rearing areas and farms, regardless of practices, geographical areas and climates.
Anthrax is of special concern to both veterinary and human health managers because it causes severe disease and often death in both animals and humans.
The disease mainly infects people after they consume infected animal meat. In general, for all livestock species, many farmers know about the diseases that cause them direct financial losses through animal deaths or heavy reduction in production.
However, they are less concerned about other diseases that are less dramatic in causing losses.
Minimising drug use
Across the world currently, emphasis has shifted on vaccination of animals against as many diseases as possible to minimise the use of antimicrobial drugs and associated resistance.
I categorise most of the questions I have received from farmers on vaccination into two. First, farmers want to know how to determine the vaccines they should administer to their livestock. Second, why their animals get sick from a disease they have vaccinated against.
This is called vaccine failure.The first is easy. I have said many times in this column that farmers must consistently acquire knowledge that would make them highly informed as livestock producers.
Livestock farmers should obtain from the county government veterinary office and their private veterinary doctors the list of diseases that they should vaccinate against in their area. The county office normally gives the list that the national government has prioritised for vaccination in a given region and nationally.
The private veterinary doctor, on the other hand, gives the list of diseases that are not in the government’s priority list but they are important in the farmer’s productivity.
Diseases like FMD, LSD and Blanthrax are in the government’s vaccination priority list. Others like Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) are prioritised by region in the counties where they occur.
The government is more concerned with diseases that are an economic threat, called trade sensitive diseases and those that are a public health threat. Diseases like FMD impede trade and food security and have the potential to spread even across international boundaries.
Other diseases like enterotoxaemia of calves, sheep, goats and piglets are not in the government’s priority list of vaccination. However, they cause farmers severe losses by retarding the growth of animals and causing deaths of young stock.
Livestock farmers should, therefore, seek advice from their private veterinary doctors, identify such diseases in their area and implement vaccination programmes for the diseases.
I recall one farmer who was losing most of her piglets to collibacillosis but a vaccination programme almost eliminated the disease in her herd.
She carries out vaccination diligently to date with consistently good results.Understanding vaccine failure is a more complex issue. There are myriads of factors that can cause a vaccine to fail.
The good news, though, is that there are clearly established protocols of mitigating vaccine failure.The causes of vaccine failure are use of contraband products, improper handling of vaccines, improper vaccine delivery techniques and vaccination of inappropriate animals.
Animals are deemed inappropriate if their body condition is poor or they are already infected with disease. Such animals may fail to generate sufficient vaccine immunity to protect them from the disease. Only healthy animals in fair to good body condition should be vaccinated.
In general, a farmer should only use vaccines that are licensed for use in the country by the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS). Such vaccines are either registered for use by the Kenya Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) or the DVS has given special permission for specified use.
All vaccines for mass market must be registered for use in the country by the VMD.
Farmers should, therefore, always confirm with their veterinary doctors that the vaccines they use on their livestock comply with the licensing and registration requirements of the DVS and VMD.
Another general rule on vaccines is that they must be kept at all times in compliance with the manufacturers’ guidelines of storage and transportation. Generally, vaccines should be kept cooled at between 2 and 8 degrees Centigrade at all times until they are administered to the animal.
There are a few exceptions though where the vaccines may be frozen or kept at room temperature.Finally, vaccines must be administered to the animals in the prescribed manner. There are those given by mouth, nose and eyes for chickens.
Others are given on the skin, under the skin and in the muscle. These routes of vaccine administration are determined during the development process as the most effective in eliciting sufficient immunity in the animal.