Brian Okinda
Digana Kali
East Coast Fever
Sidai Africa

Why those ticks on your farm are a ticking time bomb

Dr Ochieng’ Odede is the technical director at Sidai Africa (Kenya) Ltd. He spoke to Brian Okinda on the importance of controlling ticks in livestock, how this can be achieved and good herd health management

Tick-borne diseases are very costly to treat and more often than not, they cause death. They include East Coast Fever, also called Digana Kali, yellow fever (anaplasmosis), and red water or tick fever (babeosis).

The best way to control the brown and blue ticks, which cause these diseases, is by regularly spraying livestock; at least once every week.

Farmers are grappling with the problem mainly because of poor tick control methods, failure to spray as recommended, partial tick control in the herd and ticks developing resistance to acaricides used over the years.

Many farmers only control the big ticks when they physically notice them on their animals. That means they do not control the pests in the initial stages and the small brown ear ticks, which are not visible without closer examination.

Some farmers also do not spray or dip weekly as recommended. And if they spray, some do not do it correctly, leading to incomplete coverage of the acaricide on the whole body.

These management practices include good nutrition, adoption of cost-effective disease control measures such as routine vaccination, good hygiene and biosecurity, spraying against ticks and appropriate use of dewormers to minimise costs and increase productivity.

Overuse or misuse of antimicrobial leads to development of resistance by the targeted germs being treated. This is a danger to the safety of livestock and livestock products such as meat, milk and eggs due to chemical residues that pose health risks to consumers.

Improved dairy hygiene helps prevent mastitis. Farmers should use a strip test and California Mastitis Test to detect cases of the diseases early. There are specialised teat dips to kill bacteria on the udder.

The cow’s udder, which contains the teats, plays the vital role of generating milk. It is thus essential that we protect this feature of the cow because mastitis easily attacks it.

High standard of hygiene should be maintained in the cowshed, by the milker, milking equipment and the cow should be clean.

Milking should be done gently after applying good milking salve. After the milking process, the cow should be fed on something pleasant enough to ensure it remains standing as it eats for a duration long enough to allow the milk openings on the teats to close, thus preventing mastitis infestation.

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