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Vet on call: Cement pens to milk more from your herd



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I have been writing this column for about two years.

The feedback from readers, either in form of questions or confirmation of how they used the information shared in specific articles, is impressive.

The feedback has come from farmers, veterinary paraprofessionals, technically called paravets, and fellow doctors.
Farmers mainly want to issues clarified and appreciate information.

Muriuki, for instance, realised from one article that his cows were not producing adequately because they were being housed in muddy pens.

He cemented his pens, built good drainage and is now happy because the animals’ body condition and milk production have improved.

Kamau read the article on the role of nutrition in conception. He increased mineral salt content of the feeds and his five cows got pregnant in three months.

The article that gave a lot of feedback from farmers was the one on gape worms in chickens.

I got indications and confirmations of the worms though there is only scanty documentation of the parasite occurrence in Kenya.

Veterinary doctors normally want to know the locations and farms that cases I describe occurred, with a view to carrying out investigations.

Most of the feedback comes from government veterinarians or from the Directorate of Veterinary Services.

The articles on suspected African swine fever in Kiambu, Kajiado and Murang’a counties elicited such feedback.

The other one was the skin worm infestation (myiasis) in dogs and goats in Kitui.

One group of service providers stands out prominently because working closely with it, we are able to almost instantly provide farmers with improved services.

These are the paravets. They are animal health and production service providers recognised and licensed by Kenya Veterinary Board as supportive to the work of doctors.


They study animal health and production at certificate, diploma and degree level.

They are licensed to practice at limited aspects of intervention.

I exhaustively discussed them in the March 11, 2017 Seeds of Gold.

Maina, a paravet from Murang’a, wanted to know how to deal with an outbreak of mastitis in a large farm where the farmer is not willing to discard all his milk.

I advised him to treat the cows with clinical mastitis and then the ones with subclinical mastitis once milk from the first group is ready for consumption.

Then there were James and Muilu from Kajiado and Mwingi respectively. They had sheep that were just going round and bleating before suddenly dying.

The treatment they gave had no effect on the disease. I advised them to deworm the sheep and dogs every three months though the affected sheep were unlikely to recover.

Four months later, they informed me they had not seen new cases.

One of the main causes of the condition James and Muilu observed is a tapeworm whose intermediate stage attacks the brain of sheep.

It forms a fluid filled ball in the brain and kills tissue. This causes improper functioning of the brain.

Sometimes, the affected sheep or goat will keep the head raised. At other times, the animal may run before collapsing and dying.

The culprit worm matures in the dog but the intermediate stages develop in ruminants.

There was also an inquiry by Mugo from Murang’a. The urine of some animals in his farm had blood clots. Some animals produced red urine. Few animals recovered on treatment.

When I discussed the livestock management and environmental conditions with the paravet, I diagnosed red water disease mixed with bracken fern poisoning.

Mugo reported later that he sorted out the problem but the bracken fern cases died.

The plant poisoning is actually not curable if it has advanced to production of blood clots in urine. The permanent solution is to prevent the animals from further exposure to the fern by removing them from pasture infested with the plant, followed by eradication of the plant.

Last week, I got a call from Eddy in Machakos. He had been treating a cow for East Coast fever and uterus infection. Both diseases appeared to have disappeared but the body condition of the cow had not improved.

Interestingly, the farm owner had called earlier and informed me the cow was discharging white fluid from the vulva.
I instructed Eddy to do a thorough exam and confirm if the uterus had abnormalities.

If the uterus had fluid, he would have to flush it out. He would also have to give injectable antibiotics and review the cow daily for three days.

Eddy reported the following day that the uterus was okay and the vital parameters were within the normal range. However, the cow was weak though it was eating well.

I instructed Eddy to increase the quantity of good quality grass and ensure the cow ate to its fill.

The feedback has led me to devise a strategy of cooperation, collaboration and coordination with all.

The strategy is most effective with paravets. I cooperate with them through sharing of information, consultation and feedback. I help them with diagnosis by phone or farm visits.