COMMENT: January disease jab is most welcome BUT farmers must stick to dipping regime

20 Jan, 2023 - 00:01 0 Views
COMMENT: January disease jab is most welcome BUT farmers must stick to dipping regime

The Chronicle

Our country has traditionally been affected by theileriosis during its rainy seasons.
January disease, as the infection is also known, has a fatality rate of more than 90 percent, which indicates that more than 90 percent of infected animals die of it. That is thousands upon thousands of deaths countrywide, spelling immense monetary losses and emotional pain on farmers.

It, regrettably appears that the burden attributable to the tick-borne infection, and possibly a few more others caused by the same parasite, may be growing.

We reported on Wednesday that about 700 animals died of January disease in Matabeleland South last year, at least 80 succumbing since the beginning of this month. More than 130 have died in the Midlands, we reported yesterday. In Masvingo, more than 500 had died between January and February last year.

Between 2018 and 2022, Government said last month, the country lost at least 500 000 cattle worth US$150 million, 65 percent of them dying of tick-borne diseases, including theileriosis.
The disease is caused by a species of theileria – a blood-borne parasite. Signs and symptoms on an animal affected by the notifiable disease include swelling of the lymph nodes under the ears and on the shoulder, cloudiness of the eyes and difficulty in breathing with froth from the nose and mouth. The affected animal collapses and dies within a few days.

Indeed, thousands of farmers in many parts of the country are losing their whole herds to the disease. It is a carnage, a carnage which must be stopped. Now.

Department of Veterinary Services

We regret the huge losses that our farmers have incurred due to the tick-borne diseases, but must state that they are some of the easiest to prevent. Cattle owners must just make sure that their animals have no ticks. They ensure that by dipping their herds in terms of the Government schedule. Just that.

Authorities have introduced a range of measures to fight the deadly disease. They include dip tank rehabilitation, production of a local vaccine, promoting dipping and introduction of the Presidential Tick Grease Programme. While the Government has been doing a lot to ensure greater cattle health, where there are gaps, the cattle owners themselves must step up to preserve their wealth by doing the needful. They can buy tick grease and use it on their animals. If they feel that applying tick grease is not effective, they can invest in small, portable systems that enable them to spray the bodies of their animals with the relevant chemicals. This can help in controlling ticks and promoting the good health of their animals.

Dr John Basera

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr John Basera said in view of the rising cases in Matabeleland South and Midlands provinces, the Government could take a decision to invoke the Animal Health Act much more seriously. The law binds farmers to religiously dip their animals with those who fail to do so facing arrest and prosecution.

“We are calling on all farmers to dip their cattle religiously for the next two years — we are going to invoke the Animal Health Act which stipulates that all farmers who fail to dip their cattle will be arrested,” he said.
Given the magnitude of the challenge, the Government has our support on its intention to invoke the law.

We are glad that the Directorate of Veterinary Services recently announced it had developed a vaccine to protect cattle against January disease. A pilot vaccination programme was launched in the first week of last month. It is our hope that the trial run succeeds so the vaccines can be made more widely available countrywide. Vaccination is important, yes, but as we have indicated dipping is much more effective. Therefore, the two must go hand in hand.

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