There has been an adverse dry weather condition with the highest temperature rising to 25 °C or more from the month of December to date and this has had an impact in the livestock sector across the country.
Much as crop farmers have faced the same challenge over the last two months which is still stretching to the month of February, farmers engaged in animal husbandry could suffer more.
Former Kotido District veterinary officer Pascal Panvuga, now a board member of Karamoja Livestock Forum, explains challenges livestock farmers across the country face during the prolonged dry spell.
Heat stress also causes rampant disease outbreaks. For cattle, they suffer from diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) which is highly contagious.
This disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, camels, sheep, goats and pigs. Animals can become infected through inhaling, ingestion and direct contact.
During the dry spell, these animals are also prone to contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP). It is an infectious disease which affects the lungs and is spread by inhalation or direct contact.
Most animals suffer from Black Quarter which is an acute infectious and highly fatal bacterial disease of cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats. It arises when there is anthrax outbreak.
Pigs are prone to African swine fever while poultry suffer newcastle disease, which can wipe out 70 per cent of birds at any given period of attack.
Food and water of adequate quality and quantity are by far the most important ingredients in keeping an animal healthy.
Some poisonous plants such as lantana camara during dry spells remain green, therefore, attractive to animals.
Livestock farmers should, therefore, be careful on where their animal graze.
However other factors will interact to affect an animals’ susceptibility to disease during drought. Farmers are advised to observe factors such as condition of different classes of stock when drought sets in, stage of pregnancy, any present disease, current immunity levels to common diseases, either through vaccination or previous exposure, current parasite burdens such as worms, fluke, lice, ticks and flies. They must avoid crowding at feeding and watering points to avoid infectious agents such as viruses and bacteria and quality of water source is important. Some of the recommended appropriate vaccines include BoviShield for bovine viral diarrhea and IBR vaccinations can be administered or cattle master, depending on disease type. Additional practices recommended during drought include the following.
Give vitamin A, D and E either in feed or as an injection after two to three months on dry feed. If grain feeding, add one per cent limestone by weight of grain to correct any possible calcium-to-phosphorus imbalance.
Dr Halid Kirunda, the director Mbarara Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MbZARDI) advises farmers to adopt the following. Farmers must harvest rainwater during rainy season, and keep it in reservoirs to be used during dry spell. For those rearing animals on large scale, release them to graze in the morning after 9am when the dew is dry. Thereafter, they should be kept under shade.
Farmers must adopt simple technologies such as dam liner where a pit of any chosen size is dug and polythene paper used as its liner for collecting rainwater.