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Managing healthy herd during rainy seasons

By Dr. Othieno Joseph
To avoid worm infestations, in cold weather provide plenty of good quality hay for the much-needed energy. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Rains brings with it more forage and abundant waters. Though this is a blessing, it comes with a fare share of challenges. Today we discuss these challenges and how a farmer can overcome them to maintain a healthy herd during the wet seasons.

Stress

Just like humans, cold is a stress factor to animals. During cold seasons, incidences of pneumonia are high and this is attributable to the cold weather. During cold seasons, young animals are likely to have diarrhoea and adults may come down with disease especially when the immunity is low.

To avoid this stress, don’t let livestock be rained on or exposed to cold winds. A better house with a good floor will do. This is the time to repair any leaks on the roof and provide warm bedding for the calves.

Soggy grounds aren’t good for livestock due to continuous exposure of cows to moisture. Crowding may occur as livestock fight for little available shelter in the process creating muddy grounds which are a predisposing factor to diseases. Muddy grounds soften the skin between the hooves and any scratching will lead to foot rot.

Trace minerals supplementation during this period can assist in improving the skin integrity. Farmers should avoid this by keeping animals on concrete floors and limiting grazing on open lands when grounds are wet.

Strategic prevention of Diseases and Deworming

Worms and disease causing micro-organisms flourish in cold weather; add a little warmth and you get infective stages of worms in their thousands. In other words, during wet and warm weather there is an increase in the population of internal and external parasites and subsequently infestation. It is a time to have your veterinary doctor around the corner to advice on strategic deworming of your herd.

Be warned that there is also possibility of flare up of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes spread Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a deadly human and animal disease. To avoid attacks, drain any stagnant pools of water around your farm and protect the cow shed with a treated net. Seek a veterinary’s help in judging whether you need vaccinations or just to be on the lookout for any RVF outbreaks. The most common clinical symptom of RVF are stormy abortions. Farmers also get infected when they touch body fluids of affected animals for instance when trying to assist the cow deliver or disposing of the aborted fetuses.

Tick populations also flare up with wet humid conditions. The farmer needs to increase the frequency of deworming their stock to strategically prevent attacks.

Nutrition

Wet conditions generally lead to growth of more forage. But this pastures are low in fiber or dry matter. To keep warm the animal will certainly consume more of such feeds. With that in mind, don’t keep the animals on lush green pastures alone as they will suffer from lush pasture diarrhoea.

When animals are transiting from dry pastures to lush pastures it leads to bloat and grass tetany. Grass tetany is caused by deficiency magnesium which is required for proper functioning of the nervous system. Bloat during this time results from consumption of succulent pastures. To avoid these problems, have a mix of hay in the feeding regime. In cold weather the strategy is to provide plenty of good quality hay for the needed energy and trace mineral elements.

[The writer was the vet of the year in 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council (KENTTEC) jothieno43@yahoo.com]

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