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Common livestock diseases to watch out for

By Grace Chomba


Livestock keeping can be quite a hustle when it comes to disease control. It can be a great loss to the farmer if one is not well prepared. You need to be able to identify the symptoms of the disease and treat it properly.

A farmer should be on the lookout of the following common livestock diseases.

Foot and mouth

This is a highly contagious disease that causes wounds almost the same as blisters on the tongue, nose, mouth and toes of the animals. It mainly affects all cloven-hooted animals including cattle, swine, sheep and goats. According to world organization for animal health, the animal may experience fever, depression, hypersalivation, loss of appetite, weight loss and a drop in milk production. It can cause death in young animals. The disease is transmitted through coming into contact with all excretions and secretions from infected animals.

You require to restrict access to livestock and equipment, controlled introduction of new animals, monitoring and reporting illness, appropriate disposal of manure and dead carcasses and proper hygiene and disinfection of livestock pens, buildings, vehicles and equipment.


This disease is caused by bacteria that can be spread from animals to human. It is spread by infected animals during calving. The disease is transferred to humans by consuming unpasteurized milk from infected cattle. There are different strains of Brucella bacteria whereby some can be seen in cows, others in dogs, pigs, sheep, goats and camels.

It can be prevented by ensuring that your cattle are bred and bought from a reliable source, avoid borrowing or lending calving equipment and isolating pregnant or infected animals.


It is a highly infectious and deadly disease that mainly affects hoofed animals like cattle, sheep, goats, deer and sheep. According to Pashu Sakhi Handbook, it is caused by a relatively large spore-forming rectangular shaped bacterium called Bacillus anthracis.  The disease is contracted when the animals swallow anthrax spores during grazing on contaminated pasture.

Regular vaccination of animals can help control the spread of the ailment.

Rift valley fever

This is a viral disease that can be transmitted from infected animals to humans. The disease is spread through the handling of animal tissue during slaughtering or butchering, assisting with animal births, conducting veterinary procedures, or from the disposal of carcasses or fetuses.

The disease can be controlled by restricting or banning the movement of livestock and immunization should be implemented in case of an outbreak. During an outbreak, one should maintain good hand hygiene, wear gloves when handling sick animals or during slaughtering practices. Unsafe consumption of fresh blood or raw milk in infected regions should be avoided.

According to, there are a few signs that can help a farmer identify a sick animal. They include;

Eye problems – the animal will keep one eye shut and rub its face against fence posts, trees or rocks. The closed eye might appear cloudy. Eye discharge might occur which is a sign of pink eye or conjunctivitis.

Hoof problems - The hoof may appear hot, swollen or cracked. Pus or any type of discharge must be treated immediately.

Skin lesions- lesions across the back or circular patterns can indicate ringworm, rain rot or another fungal infection that can make your livestock miserable.


Respiratory problems - Coughing, wheezing, mucous discharge and similar signs can all point to respiratory problems.


Staggering cattle should be immediately investigated since they may be suffering from a severe neurological problem. Some cattle lay down and are unable to get up.








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