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Collapse of cattle dips triggers diseases in county

By David Mugunyu
The abandoned Joyceline cattle dip near Ol Joro Orok town. About 40 out of 70 dips that were rehabilitated by the County government three years ago have collapsed. PHOTO: DAVID MUGUNYU.

A large number of cattle dips in Nyandarua County have collapsed due to wrangling among members of the committees running them.

Out of 70 dips that were rehabilitated by the County government and handed over to committees to manage, only 23 are still functioning.

Livestock farmers in areas where the dips have collapsed are incurring costs because they are forced to wash the animals at home using hand spray machines.

The collapse of the dips is being cited as a possible cause of diseases that have ravaged livestock including blindness that has affected many cows in the County. But County officials maintain that the cause of the blindness remains mysterious.

Farmers are blaming the County government for its hands-off style when it comes to running of the public cattle dips.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries executive, Dr. James Karitu disputes this saying running of dips and tick control was liberalized in the 1980s through the World Bank imposed Structural Adjustment program that saw the government set free price controls in the agriculture sector.

He, however, added that the County government still facilitates replenishing of the dips by providing chemicals.

On the blindness that has affected many cows, Dr. Karitu said the County has written to the Nakuru Vet Investigation Laboratories requesting them to come and make a scientific inquiry to establish the cause of the blindness. Dr. Karitu was speaking on the sidelines of the Peer Learning Experience 2019 conference for county finance executives and their chief officers hosted by Nyandarua county last week.

“They have not yet come….this is a question of facilitation,” the Executive said.

He added that among the issues the scientific inquiry will look into is claim by farmers that the blindness could be due to substandard dip chemicals sold by private dealers.

Dr. Karitu said there many illnesses that can cause blindness in cows including the East Coast Fever (ECF) if a sick animal is not well treated.

“The well-known cause of blindness in cows is Pink Eye but the good thing is that it is treatable. If detected early the blindness can be reversed,” the Executive said.

One of the pedestrian theories being peddled around by both farmers and County officials is that the animals could have lost their sight after their eyes were pricked by grass as they grazed in open fields. Donkeys, goats, and sheep that graze in the same open fields don’t go blind.

An animal health assistant, Samuel Mwangi who is in private practice said that there are several theories as to why cattle blindness is occurring at high rates in the area in Nyandarua.

“It can be as a result of early cataract disease or injuries to the cornea or poisoning from chemicals used in commercial farms for killing weeds. Some pesticides are also harmful to animals,” said Mwangi.

Another vet who is based on Nyahururu, Charles Kamau supports this argument saying most livestock farmers who can’t access a cattle dip use hand sprays to wash the animals at home. He said the spray machines used on the animals is the same one used by the farmers to spray crops.

“If the machines are not well cleaned before using them on cows, the crop chemical residue might be what is causing blindness in a large number of cows in the County,” he said.

At Ndemi, Wanjohi ward, Kipipiri, James Gitau has five cows, two of which are blind.

“This heifer got blind late last year, I sprayed it for tick control and soon after it started showing symptoms of loss of sight,” says Gitau.

The farmer admitted that he had not sought help from any veterinary officer because his neighbor whose three cows went blind did not get any help despite traveling as far as Ol Kalou to consult vets there. Nyandarua has a population of about 400,000 cows.

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