Mkulima today the world is changing at a very rapid pace as a result of technological advancements. Just like anything else under the sun, there is positivity and negativity. The downfall of the information age is misinformation. Today we go over why listening to your vet officer is a sure bet to avoid losses and a path to a profitable farm.

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The vet officer

This article is based on the experience of Dr. Mugachia an animal health expert and all credits given to him. There are several fake or underqualified vet officers, pick a great team to look after your animals.

Media reports both local and international in the recent past have indicated that the top leadership of the United States of America led by then-President Donald J. Trump took lightly or ignored repeated warnings from experts concerning the COVID 19 pandemic.

He explained that this was a result of preventing the public from panic. Unfortunately, it led to the loss of lives and livelihoods.

Unfortunately, many farms and farmers also suffer losses as a result of ignoring facts and hoping for improved yields.

I have noticed farm managers with a background in science, such as vet officers or doctors, and vet paravets, find it difficult to say no to a client when the facts don’t add to the science.

This ignoring of facts just like in the United States with COVID 19 often results in costly outcomes.

I had interesting case days ago on a large-scale dairy farm. The mid-level manager reported by phone that there were two sick animals.

One was a pregnant cow and the other a heifer. The cow was showing symptoms of difficulty in breathing and had swollen lymph nodes and high temperatures.

The fever dropped from a high of 41 to 40.5 degrees Celsius after treatment. The cow’s health deteriorated and the manager was concerned the animal would die.

On the other hand, the heifer named May had a poor appetite and scone-like stool that resembles that of a donkey. The animal had not been treated as other factors appeared to be normal.

The first issue was to question if the animal was drinking enough water, but being that this was a large-scale zero-grazing unit with high hygiene standards and tick control this was easily ruled out.

The paravet or vet officer who had treated the cow said that it was administered with the standard therapy for treating east coast fever. After counter-checking the dosage and the weight of the animal, I concluded that the animal should have improved but this was not the case.

Further interventions revealed that the cow could be suffering from a mixed tick-borne disease infection.

These are theileria that cause the deadly but treatable east coast fever, babesia that causes red wet water, and anaplasma that causes anaplasmosis.

The treatment administered by the vet officer must have knocked off theileria and anaplasma, leaving Babesia to continue flourishing.

Theileria causes a high fever of about 42 degrees Celsius, swelling of the lymph nodes, and tearing.

Babesia on the other hand causes lower fever and internal blood loss because the liver destroys infected blood cells.

More tests revealed that the cow was infected by the mixed tick-borne disease while the heifer was dealing with the anaplasmosis.

The cow’s mucous membrane had started changing colour to yellow and the rumen was moving, with a fast-paced heavy heartbeat. My advice was to treat the animal for babesiosis.

In the case of the heifer, the mucous membrane was starting to turn yellow and the rumen was moving slowly and weakly.

Combining these signs with the hard scone-like stool I confirmed the suspicion of anaplasmosis. The cows were treated for their health issues and have since recovered.

The big question

The big question is how did the animals get infected yet they are under strict zero-grazing farming.

After talking to the manager we noticed there was an issue of tracking due to changes in management.

But we had a breakthrough from the farm’s headstock keeper who said the pregnant animals had been grazed on nearby farms to help reduce the cost of operations about two weeks earlier.

This was a directive from one of the farm’s directors to the former farm manager. The explanation for the infection comes from the timing of the open field grazing since it was on a rainy day.

Before he said grazing day as per the request the animals had been sprayed with an acaricide to help in the control of ticks.

The heavy downpour washed away the chemicals and the ticks flourished. The parasites were transmitted to the animals through the tick’s saliva when feeding.

The outcome of this was that the animals got infected with the deadly tick-borne disease that almost led to the death of one cow.

As a result of the sustained high fever, the cow lost its calf leading to losses on the farm and more costs as a result of the medication.

The combined cost of treating the animals is Kshs 10,000 per animal. This could have been easily avoided if the farm manager or the medical team advised the director it’s not a good idea to graze the animals in rain in an area with a vibrant deadly tick-borne disease.

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