To avoid infections, dairy farmers should observe regular cleaning of cow’s breasts.  PHOTO/LOMINDA AFEDRARU

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How farmers are managing antimicrobial resistance

What you need to know:

  • Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microbes evolve mechanisms that protect them from the effects of antimicrobials.
  • Antibiotic resistance is a subset of AMR, that applies specifically to bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) presents challenges for global public health and is impacted by both human, poultry and animal antimicrobial usage. 

Ineffective antimicrobial agents endanger the effectiveness of many interventions in modern medicine.
A case in point is that most treatment of common infections and for elective surgeries and transplantations and cancer treatment are not possible with AMR.  

Widespread AMR left unattended compromises the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including ending poverty, ending hunger, ensuring healthy lives and reducing inequality. 

The Uganda government is partnering with the global and regional calls to combating AMR and promoting prudent use of antimicrobials in animals, poultry and humans. The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is taking lead in implementing the animal sector-related activities and has developed essential veterinary drug list and guidelines for the use of antibiotics on the farm depending on the disease infection.

Background
In the animal sector, AMR presents a grave danger to sustaining food production and the livelihood of farmers.

Antimicrobial usage in animals threatens food safety and security and puts humans at greater risk of infection. 

At the agricultural practice level, farmers and frontline veterinary practitioners must embrace evidence based strategies and actions to meet this challenge. 

For all animal sickness, treatment should be based on the best available clinical judgement supported by veterinary expertise and laboratory investigation.

Famer perspective
As such Seeds of Gold caught up with Edward Tujunirwe in Kyakayingo Village, Kyankwanzi District to explain to farmers  the dangers of self medicating  on their farms.

Tujunirwe, who established his farm, Kyankwanzi Guest Farm in 2015, is keen in observing all the biosecurity measures to ensure his animals keep healthy.

“Generally antimicrobial use is a problem because sometimes viruses which are not known to the farmers infect our animals. However, I try as much as possible to reach out to the veterinary doctor to come on site and make diagnostics of the disease and the required drug and this has worked well,” he says.

Tujunirwe owns 10 acres of land where he has about 54 heads of cattle which are local and cross breeds. He also has 50 goats both local and hybrids.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a challenge especially when it comes to the use of ant tick medication in animals. It is the reason most farmers instead of cleaning the animals once a week, they will do it twice or three times,” he says.

How to avoid AMR
It is his contention that the goats are faced with the same challenge of viral infections but it is easy to deal with them because their medication can be mixed in the drinking water.

On his farm he has provided a solution to the challenges before they arise. He does this by ensuring there is always clean water for his animals because in most cases some of the challenges arise from animals drinking dirty water. He also provides standard food supplements to his animals as well as dipping them in recommended acaricides every week to control ticks because ticks are the major cause of East Coast Fever in animals.

He deworms the animals using recommended drugs as prescribed by the veterinary doctor, keeps their housing clean at all times and ensures the keepers wear gumboots at all times when on farm.

Once he purchases a new goat or cattle, he has to isolate them from the rest for one week to observe any disease challenges as well as wash them with soap and later with the prescribed acaricide. 

He gives them mineral blocks and also feeds his goats with Jackfruit which he says has worked well because it contains natural sugars and Vitamin A which is good for their health.

Learning camp 
Dr Jolly Kabirizi, who holds a PhD in animal science and is a practising dairy farmer on her 20 decimal land in an urban setting at Segguku, Entebbe says antimicrobial resistance occurs as a result of negligence.

Due to the passion she has for her 10 heads of animals and with close observance of the animals she ensures she to follow the guidelines outlined by agronomists. 

“On my farm I attend to other farmers who come to learn and I usually tell them that the farmers foot is the best manure, meaning you must be on your farm at all times monitoring the animals. It is what I do and I have been able to eliminate the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. Most importantly usage of the right doze of drugs and avoiding the adulterated ones has helped,” says Dr Kabirizi. 

Agronomy note
Dr Robert Ddungu, a private veterinary practitioner in Wakiso District told Seeds of Gold that AMR is major problem in most farms in the country. “Most of the cases I have handled in cattle are usually mastitis which affects the udder of the cows as a result of poor hygiene practices. I prefer administering injectable anti-inflammatory medication which responds well. I also advice farmers that when their animals and poultry are faced with disease challenge, they must call a veterinary doctor,” he says. He advises farmers to avoid self-treatment because they may administer under dose or overdose to their animals and poultry. 

Prevention  
East Coast fever and other tick-borne diseases such as helminthiasis, mastitis, brucellosis, rabies and various parasites are some of the commonly diagnosed cattle diseases in Uganda.  Farmers are advised to prevent infections as well as promotion of health and wellbeing of cattle.

The burden of disease can be reduced through implementation of stringent infection prevention programmes involving biosecurity practices, routine isolation and quarantine of new animals, routine surveillance and action when necessary and vaccination.

Cleaning buildings and equipment, paired with good hygiene, will make a difference.  Sufficient intake of colostrum provides essential antibodies to protect calves as their immune system is developing. 

Balanced diets with adequate levels of trace elements, vitamins and antioxidants are essential if the immune system of cattle is to work properly in tackling disease.

If the cattle are free of infection, seek veterinary advice about their vaccination before moving them to the herd.

Feeding and bedding
• Farmers should buy feeds from certified agro input outlets.
• Clean the floor area with clean water mixed with detergent to remove dirt before disinfection. 
• Sharing of pasture and water with neighbours can be a cause of disease and present vector challenges on a farm.
• Always prevent neighbours from grazing on your farm since this can lead to acquiring multi-acaricide-resistant ticks that are difficult to eradicate. 
• Obtain semen from reliable sources by always requesting the record for the sire. 
• Use tsetse fly traps or appropriate insecticide to reduce the population of tsetse flies, which will in turn reduce the burden of Nagana on your farm.

Challenges
The challenges the farmers identified include acaricide resistance to ticks and this cuts across all farms.

There are adulterated fake antibiotics on the market, spread of diseases by birds to the animals, unnecessary visitors who come on farm and costs of paying veterinary doctors to come and treat animals on farm among others.

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