Farmers must try everything possible to protect their animals from disease and parasites. Farm bio-security involves a range of basic measures that farmers can implement to protect their livestock from disease and parasites.
Protecting the animals is important because diseased or parasite-infested animals are less productive and their products are often of inferior quality.
This affects the general farm output and subsequently the farmerâ€™s income. If it is a dairy farm, there will be reduced milk yield. If it is a poultry farm, there will be reduced egg production. Diseases also lead to slow growth in beef cattle.
Products like milk and beef might be declared unfit for human consumption, while others like skins and hides might fetch poor prices on the market because they are inferior.
Once the animals fall sick, treating them increases the cost of production, which reduces profitability of the whole farm enterprise.
A diseased and parasite-infested farm is also a danger to other farms in the neighbourhood, as diseases may spread to those farms, and, in some cases, can even be transmitted to human beings.
All these ultimately affect the quality of life of not only the farmer, but of all the people dependant on animals and animal products for their livelihood.
A livestock farmer should get as much knowledge as possible about the animals she or he is involved in so as to avoid costly mistakes.
It is also important to equip your workers with basic knowledge for disease prevention and control. These include;
– Ensuring that cows with infected udders are milked last.
– Promptly reporting sick animals to a veterinarian
– Isolating sick animals so that they do not mix with those that are not sick and also so that they do not cross to neighbour’s farms.
– Developing a disease management routine based on professional advice and sticking to it.
– Strictly following the vaccination timetable, as well as the parasite, pest and vector control programme given to you by your extension service provider. These include routine tick and tsetse fly control measures.
– Employ professionals like veterinarians and animal production and management specialists.
However, watch out for quacks who ask for a lot of money, provide poor services and may even contribute to the spread of disease on your farm.
– Restrict entry into your farm of visitors and animals or animal products from other farms.
Visitors should have their clothes, shoes and vehicle tyres disinfected before they are allowed on the farm.
– All new animals must be medically examined and cleared before being brought to the farm. Once at the farm, they should be isolated for a few days while assessing their health.
– Buy your animals from well known sources. You should be able to trace the health history of the animal you are bringing to the farm.
– Put in place a proper system for disposing of dead animals or infected animal material or products. Options include burning, burying or subjecting them to chemical treatment to kill the germs.
– Pay special attention to your water and feed source. The area where feeds are mixed, plus the people doing the mixing must be scrupulously clean. Communal grazing grounds and watering points present a high level of risk of infection within and across farms.
– Sacks for packing feeds should not be reused.
– Egg trays used to take eggs to the market should not be returned to the farm, or they should first be disinfected.
– Where processing is done on the farm, it is important that a one-way movement of animals and their products is instituted in the system.
– Proper record-keeping is vital. This should not be restricted to only disease but include all other areas because they are inter-related.
– Follow the laws and guidelines issued by regulatory and professional bodies. From time to time the Government imposes quarantines (restricted movement of animals) for purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of diseases.
– For bio-security to be effective, whether at the local or national, even global level, several players at various levels have to carry out their responsibilities.
What the government must do
Institute, publicise and enforce bio-security-related laws, policies and regulations.
Acquire and distribute vaccines promptly to ensure effective disease control.
Put in place strict measures to control the importation of animals and animal products to avoid importing infections.
Work with neighbouring countries to come up with joint programmes to control animal diseases along common borders.
What research institutions must do
Come up with bio-security related skills-based training programmes for farmers, farm workers and animal products processors. Makerere University is already doing that.
Engage in strategic research to solve local problems of production and disease control. It would be nice to hear of a locally produced animal vaccine.
It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure the bio-security of their animals.