By Louis de Jager, Kameelboom Akademie, Comprehensive practical farmer training
To keep animals productive and to farm profitable, there are a few things that need constant attention:
Before the mating season commences, all bulls and rams need to be tested for fertility by a veterinarian or animal health technician. Veterinarians can also run tests for sexually transferable diseases like trichomoniasis and campylobacter in cattle. Bulls and rams should also be examined physically to detect any deficiencies. Make the ram “sit” and push the sheath downwards for the penis to protrude. If the tip is not wet and smooth and shiny but red and covered with small ulcers, the ram is most likely infected with peestersiekte. There is no cure for the infection yet and the herd can be infected. Get rid of this ram and check the other rams for possible infection.
Vaccinations to prevent diseases
Certain diseases may cause major losses in cattle with a health risk to humans, and therefore these vaccinations are compulsory. The diseases are anthrax, botulism and black quarter. Supavax is a vaccine that is developed specially for this purpose and cattle should be vaccinated annually. Another compulsory vaccination is brucellosis and all heifers between 4 – 7 months should be vaccinated. The disease causes abortions in heifers and will always be in the system. Humans may contract the disease called Malta fever when eating contaminated meat or drinking contaminated milk.
Another annual vaccination that is recommended is for the prevention of pasteurellosis. If abnormal high rainfall is expected and there are many mosquitos, consider to vaccinate all animals in October (before the rain) against Wesselsbronsiekte and Rift Valley fever. This vaccination is difficult to foresee, but it can prevent great losses.
Other possible diseases in cattle that may occur in this region are the notifiable diseases like lumpy skin disease, malignant catarrhal fever and tetanus. Some diseases, like ephemeral fever, may be linked to feeding deficiencies. Rabies may occur in cattle, sheep and goats if bitten by infected animals. Be exceptionally careful that the saliva of infected animals does not make contact with the skin. Domestic dogs and cats can be immunised as a preventative measure.
It is essential that sheep should be vaccinated at least once a year to prevent pulpy kidney, botulism, pasteurellosis and blue-tongue and immunisation against tetanus will also proof to be a sound practice. In wet years blue-tongue may cause considerable losses. Enzoӧtic abortion is another option to consider.
Again, if you suspect abnormal high rainfall for the next season, vaccinate the sheep to prevent Wesselsbronsiekte and Rift Valley fever. To safeguard yourself against losses amongst goats, they should be vaccinated against pulpy kidney, pasteurellosis and botulism. Vaccinations against enzoӧtic abortion and E.coli should be regarded as a standard procedure. As a preventative measure, kids should be vaccinated against scabby mouth at the age of three weeks.
Animals should not be drenched for the sake of drenching, because unnecessary drenching may cause the internal parasites to become immune against the active ingredients contained in the remedies. When animals are slaughtered or die, the intestines must be examined to determine the type of internal parasites the animals are infected with.
The biggest problems encountered in this region are tape worms, wireworms, nodular worms, nasal bot and also liver fluke. Animals should be dewormed at least twice a year. It is advisable that lambs and calves should be drenched to combat milk tape worm and adult cattle to combat wire worm. Do not use the same active ingredient repeatedly. Read the instructions carefully and adhere to the prescriptions. Consult with the suppliers and veterinarian about the different remedies.
Animals are treated when they are sick or infected with internal or external parasites. Handle animals with care not to inflict injuries in the catching process or in kraals and crushes. Animals are treated with antibiotics to control fever or inflammation. It is sometimes necessary to boost the animals’ bodily constitution and it is advisable to inject Vit. B complex. For pain and fever, remedies like Predef or Fenylbetasoon may be administered. If animals suffer from the intake of poisonous plants, PPR or activated charcoal can be administered. Constantly be on the lookout for sick animals and start treating them as soon as possible.
Good grazing is a prerequisite for healthy animals. They are less susceptible to diseases and will not eat poisonous plants. See to it that the animals have enough food and also he necessary licks in support to counter deficiencies. An ample supply of good quality clean water is not negotiable. Improve general management and make a note of everything that happens on the farm. Calving and lambing dates as well as weaning mass are just a few management points that require attention.
See to it that the animals have enough fodder, enough lick supplements, enough water and ensure that animals stay healthy. Animals that have enough fodder and water and are clean of internal and external parasites WILL produce undisturbed.
The meaning of all the diseases
Trichomoniasis: Commonly referred to as “trich,” is a venereal disease of cattle caused by a protozoa organism, Tritrichomonas foetus. This small, motile organism is found only in the reproductive tract of infected bulls and cows. Infected cattle can lead to major economic losses due to infertility, low pregnancy rates, an extended calving season, diminished calf crops and occasional abortions in pregnant cows and heifers.
Campylobacter: It is an infection by the bacteria Campylobacter spp., and is associated with a number of disease conditions in cattle, primarily related to poor fertility in breeding cows and diarrhoea in young stock. Campylobacteria are also potentially a zoonotic pathogen which can cause diarrhoea in humans and is therefore of importance in food production.
Pizzle Disease (Peestersiekte): Pizzle disease is an infectious disease of sheep that is transmitted between the ram and the ewe during mating. It is also possible to convey the disease during artificial insemination. Flies also play a minor role in the distribution. All sheep are susceptible. The disease is caused by a group of germs known as Mycoplasmas. They are known for not causing a very strong immune response in animals. Animals can therefore often remain infected for long periods of time. The mycoplasmas cause a severe redness of the urethra and sheath that later develops into large sores that are very painful. The urethra can be so severely affected that it swells and no longer withdraws from the sheath. The mucosa then dries out and gets serious damage. The restored urethra often shows severe scars. The disease in ewes is less serious, but the lower part of the vulva becomes raw with sores and when it restores, it is no longer the typical colour, but pink and the sharp tip of the vulva is gone.
Anthrax: It is an infectious bacterial disease of animals, caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It can affect humans and a wide range of animals. Cattle and sheep with anthrax generally die suddenly. Just prior to death, animals may show signs of high fever. Blood may be present around the nose, mouth and anus of carcasses. However, in many cases you may not see this sign, so it should not be relied upon to diagnose anthrax. If livestock die suddenly, even when there is no history of anthrax on the property, anthrax could potentially be the cause.
Botulism: This is a rapid onset, usually fatal disease caused by the botulinum toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Typical signs include hindlimb weakness progressing to paralysis, collapse and death.
Black quarter: Blackleg, black quarter, quarter evil, or quarter ill is an infectious bacterial disease most commonly caused by Clostridium chauvoei, a Gram-positive bacterial species. It is seen in livestock all over the world, usually affecting cattle, sheep, and goats.
Brucellosis: Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Brucella. The bacteria can spread from animals to humans. There are several different strains of Brucella bacteria. Some types are seen in cows.
Pasteurellosis: Pneumonic pasteurellosis is most commonly seen in recently weaned, singlesuckled beef calves after housing or transport to a new herd/premises. The disease is commonly associated with mixing and confining calves of multiple origin at cattle markets or new destinations and is often seen within a couple of weeks after arrival at a fattening unit.
Wesselsbron Disease: Wesselsbron disease is an insect-communicable viral disease that impairs sheep, cattle and goats. The virus causes relative high mortalities among newborn lambs. The Wesselsbron virus affects especially the liver and central nervous system.
Rift Valley fever: It is a viral disease of cattle and sheep. The disease is spread to livestock through the bite of infected mosquitoes during years of heavy rainfall. The disease causes high death rates in young animals and abortions in older animals. Outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever have caused famine in endemic areas.
Lumpy skin disease: It is a viral disease of cattle typically characterised by nodules or lumps on the skin. Up to 45% of a herd can be infected and the mortality rate may reach 10%.
Malignant catarrhal fever: It is caused by a virus transmitted from pregnant or recentlylambed sheep or goats to cattle although several months may elapse between such contact and clinical disease and the actual method of transmission to cattle remains unknown. Cattle do not transmit MCF to each other and the virus concerned, ovine herpesvirus 2 does not cause particular problems in sheep or goats.
Tetanus: It is caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. This bacterium is found in the soil and the guts of animals and humans. The disease starts when the organism gets into wounded or damaged tissue as a result of contamination. In the absence of oxygen the bacteria multiply and produce a local infection. As they grow, the bacteria produce toxins, which spread along the nerves to the brain and cause the clinical signs of tetanus. The disease is seen in all ages of stock. Calving and castration seem to be the most common procedures linked to the development of tetanus.
Enzootic abortion: Enzootic abortion (chlamydiosis) is generally caused by Chlamydia psittaci germs. It occurs countrywide and the germs may be found in the intestines of healthy sheep. They can even cause miscarriages in pregnant women who handle sick sheep or lambs. The disease usually spreads among sheep during lambing. Sheep pick up the germs by mouth when they graze in an area contaminated by infected afterbirth or infected uterine fluid of lambing ewes. Lambs can be infected at birth too. Chamydial infection can remain dormant in the ewe lamb until it aborts during the first pregnancy. Outbreaks usually occur within a year or two of bringing infected sheep onto the farm.
For practical training in the agricultural industry, contact Louis de Jager at 082-211-1533.