Vet on call: Know all the vaccines your cattle need for good health

A farmer ploughs his land in Buluma village, Sabatia, Vihiga County, ahead of the planting season. For their better performance, animals used in such tasks need vaccination.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Some farmers will vaccinate against a disease but once it appears to have disappeared from their locality, they stop vaccinating to save on the cost of production. 
  • LSD causes nodules all over the skin and mouth, and ulcers in the gastro-intestinal tract. It is a viral disease that has no cure.
  • Other diseases that should be vaccinated against in cattle are acute (sudden onset) pneumonia caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida and Manheimia haemolytica. 
  • Farmers can prevent all these diseases and forestall attendant losses by vaccinating their animals as shown on the table above.

Lack of knowledge on livestock disease prevention can wipe out your profits in a flash. Losses come in preventable illnesses, veterinary fees, poor livestock performance and deaths. 

Sometimes as in the case of anthrax, there is the carcass disposal cost and medical costs for people, especially workers, exposed to the disease.

Betty from Kirinyaga rears pigs. She was doing very well until June last year when her sows started farrowing dead and very weak piglets. By November, 276 pigs had been born but only 76 had survived.

I guided her in carrying out a vaccination programme after I diagnosed porcine parvovirus infection in her herd. Her production has normalised since April.

Similarly, Jane from Kitui told me she lost her two bulls that died suddenly. She had already buried the carcasses. 

All indications pointed to an anthrax attack. I advised her to ensure herself and others, who were in contact with the animals 48 hours before death, sought medical attention.

A number of cattle farmers have in the last three weeks enquired what vaccines they should routinely give to their animals. 

I have said before that vaccination, in addition to preventing infections, also helps in fighting the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in both animals and humans. In most cases of infections by viruses and bacteria, drugs are used to treat both.

Prevention threshold

When we use these antimicrobials frequently, we run the risk of inducing the germs to develop resistance against the antimicrobials. 

This resistance is known to be problematic to humans when resistant bacteria infect them making previously curable diseases incurable.

Cattle farmers in Kenya should routinely vaccinate their animals against nine common diseases.

However, most farmers only know about and vaccinate against foot and mouth disease (FMD), lumpy skin disease (LSD), anthrax and black quarter.

Some farmers will vaccinate against a disease but once it appears to have disappeared from their locality, they stop vaccinating to save on the cost of production. 

Unfortunately, diseases do not announce their recurrence. They just infect the animals once the immunity goes below the prevention threshold.

FMD is a devastating disease affecting the feet and mouth of cattle. It causes lameness and inability to eat due to sores in the mouth.

Most affected animals die of starvation. Survivors may become permanently unthrifty.

Anthrax is caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Its hallmark is sudden death of apparently healthy animals, rapid bloating of the carcass and dark blood oozes from all body openings.

Anthrax also affects humans and other animals such as dogs and cats if they come into contact with the carcasses.

Farmers can prevent these diseases

Black quarter is another bacterial disease that kills suddenly. It causes blackening and death of the heavy muscles and profuse production of gas, hence the name black quarter.

LSD causes nodules all over the skin and mouth, and ulcers in the gastro-intestinal tract. It is a viral disease that has no cure.

Other diseases that should be vaccinated against in cattle are acute (sudden onset) pneumonia caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida and Manheimia haemolytica. 

There is also enterotoxaemia of calves caused by the Clostridium perfrigens bacteria. Calves may have severe diarrhoea or die suddenly. 

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) bacteria cause fatal pneumonia over a period of a few days in cattle in certain geographical regions of the country.

Finally, there is Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a viral disease that causes bleeding in all parts of the body. 

Humans and other animals may also be affected. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and causes many deaths.

Farmers can prevent all these diseases and forestall attendant losses by vaccinating their animals.

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