By Kudakwashe Gwabanayi
‘JANUARY disease’ is still among us. Yes, that cattle dreaded disease scientifically known as theileriosis is wreaking havoc in most communities.
Unfortunately this time around because there is a bigger pandemic – Covid-19 – claiming human life, there is little or no attention being given to January disease.
Cattle still remain a source of wealth and production amongst black farmers.
However, many farmers have been left without any cattle over the years due to this disease, which kills over 3 000 cattle annually.
In most cases, treatment literature of the disease has not helped much and farmers have had to resort to trial and error means to save their stock.
The symptoms that many have witnessed on their cattle vary from what is in literature. Local farmers have come up with chemical concoctions that they have used to treat the disease. Some have even tried traditional means and have gone as far as consulting traditional healers.
According to Wikipedia, theileriosis is a disease of cattle that is transmitted by ticks. The highest number of cases of theileriosis tends to be encountered in January when traditionally the rainfall activity will be high, hence the common name, January disease.
Farmer Abias Sanduza based in Hurungwe says during this time of the year, he encourages farmers to monitor their cattle every day in the morning and in the evening.
At the notice of any abnormality, farmers should notify their veterinary officer as soon as possible. On its part, the government has made sure that 90% of the districts have a veterinary officer, at least according to Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary John Bhasera.
The disease is caused by various organisms of protozoa and is transmitted by a tick known as the brown ear tick which favours being around the ears of the cow.
One tick can affect three cattle and they easily multiply as the female lays 5 000 eggs at once.
This is why it is important to be on the constant lookout because by the time you notice that one of the cattle is sick; the probability that five or six more are sick is very high.
While there are known symptoms like fever, anaemia, tachypnoea, depression, lethargy, jaundice and often eventual death, Sanduza says there are additional features that local farmers have noticed over the years depending the region.
These include:Salivating, tears, difficulty in breathing, swollen ears, raised fur, coughing, not grazing, blindness and cow dung with blood.
When these symptoms manifest, the cow would have been sick for more than a fortnight and in such cases it becomes very difficult to treat the disease.The disease is fatal.
Sanduza, however, says over the past three years, after several experiments and mixing of various chemicals and vaccines, the disease has actually been kind to his herd as he has been able to treat it.
“I now have 70 cattle because I buy them cheap from the community during the rainy season. When the beast falls sick, I buy it for US$70 because I know I can treat it as long as the disease is in its formative stages. When the rainy season is over, I then resale the same cow for at least US$400,” he says.
According to him, he uses butachem or butalex or buvaq or buvaquone (same drug with different trade names) and mixes it with nemaoxytetracycline drugs, for exampleg hitet, alamycin, fivox, oxyvet, terramycin, limoxin 20mls.
This is treatment for the sick cows. So once you have noticed that there is a sick cow in the kraal you then need to protect the whole herd because you would not know which ones would have been contaminated.
Sanduza uses antiprotozoal drugs, which are packed in sachets such as verizen, veriben, berenil, imizol to mention but a few and he gives each cow its sachet.
He dilutes the granules with 15mls of water and uses it along with oxytetracycline at 10mls. After this the cattle are then monitored for three to seven days.
The disease requires a lot of patience. However, prevention is always better than cure.
Farmers are always encouraged to dip their cattle, especially during the rainy season.
In addition, farmers are encouraged to make use of dip tanks or any other dipping methods that ensure that you get the cow fully immersed in water because the ticks hide in a position you cannot easily see as well as spray them.
Farmers need to invest in their own dip tanks. They are also encouraged to invest in their own vaccination and chemicals as the government almost always brings chemicals and vaccines too late.
Already, the government is worried that current dip stocks will run out in the next few weeks.
Speaking during the launch of the Zimbabwe Tick and Tick-Borne Disease Control Strategy last week Bhasera said: “Tick-borne disease is caused by people who are not dipping their animals and the government would like to encourage our farmers to dip their animals.
“Last year, the disease claimed over 3000 cattle in Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central provinces, leaving farmers distraught. Beef cattle, dairy cattle and pig producers are advised to practise strict biosecurity as a preventive measure, as foot and mouth disease can affect all cloven-hoofed animals, with pig and dairy cattle operations most seriously affected.”
Farmers are encouraged to maintain their stock in good health by doing the needful so that the national herd may be maintained. Cattle are after all a source of milk, meat, draught power and can be sold to bring in money. Cattle farming remains the most profitable adventure anyone can get into, provided they practise proper rearing methods.