Each rainfall season is unique in terms of the commencement, distribution, intensity and associated risks, and farmers therefore need to adopt appropriate management strategies to circumvent possible adverse conditions.

This according to Agribank’s technical advisor for livestock and rangeland, Erastus Ngaruka, who said although rainfall brings relief, it is also associated with several adverse conditions that affect the farm environment as well as livestock and crops in particular.

The conditions include lightning strikes, floods, mud traps and pest and disease outbreaks.

Ngaruka said these conditions pose a significant threat to livestock health, nutrition and their general well-being, consequently compromising their productive performance and survival.

“Therefore, farmers need to be wary of these threats brought about by rainfall and find means of mitigating the consequences.”

Conspicuously erratic

According to him, a good rainy season should be perceived as one that starts on time as anticipated, is well distributed throughout the season and ultimately rehydrates the soil.

It also refills water sources and revegetates the rangeland.

However, recent rainfall activities have been conspicuously erratic, and their effects can be a concern, he said.

He added that the occurrence of pests has been a common threat in Namibia.

For example, the army worm outbreak in recent years in the northern regions and the locust outbreak in the south had devastating impacts on productivity and livelihoods, Ngaruka said.

“Crop farmers lost their yields to worms and livestock farmers in the south lost grazable materials such as grass to locusts.”

Livestock diseases

Moreover, he noted that livestock diseases during rainfall seasons are highly prevalent – the common ones farmers should look out for include footrot, sweating sickness, gall sickness and lumpy skin disease, amongst others.

Footrot is a bacterial infection of the hoof characterised by lameness and a smelly wound.

According to Ngaruka, the predisposing factors include dampness or wet soils. This can be prevented by keeping animals out of damp kraals or surfaces, he added.

Treatment includes cleaning and disinfecting the wound, use of footbaths such as copper sulphate solution at kraals and injection with common antibiotics when necessary.

“Furthermore, with the prevailing moist environment, the tick population is on the rise and thus the prevalence of tick-borne diseases such as sweating sickness and gall sickness should be expected.”

Ngaruka said sweating sickness mainly affects young calves and the symptoms include hyperthermia, anorexia, sweating, hair loss, sensitivity and pain.

Meanwhile, gall sickness is characterised by fever and anaemia.

It is important to note that these diseases are deadly if not treated on time, he stressed.

“They can be prevented by controlling tick infestations by means of applying common anti-parasitic remedies on animals such as Deadline, Eliminate, Delta-pour and many others that you can pour on along the backline of the animal.”

Risk to humans

Humans are also at risk of tick bites as some ticks carry the Congo Fever virus.

Congo Fever is a deadly viral disease that can be transmitted to humans through by a tick carrying the virus.

“It is worth noting that there have been cases of Congo Fever infections reported in the country in recent years.”

Therefore, Ngaruka said everyone on a farm who handles animals should take precautionary measures and seek immediate assistance from healthcare professionals for tick bites.

Lumpy skin disease

Another disease that is gaining prevalence during the rainy season in Namibia is lumpy skin disease.

It is a viral disease that affects cattle and is transmitted by biting insects such as flies, ticks and mosquitos, amongst others.

Ngaruka said the predisposing factor is a wet environment that influences the proliferation of insect populations.

“Animals are vulnerable as they are found loafing around water holes and sources that are breeding grounds for insects such as mosquitoes.”

According to him, lumpy skin disease is, however, preventable with an annual vaccine readily available at veterinary medicine shops.

“Lastly, it is advisable that farmers keep their farming environments clean and safe for themselves and their animals and to always observe and report abnormal livestock conditions or behaviours to the nearest veterinary office or livestock health experts.”

[Source – Republikein]

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