By Dr Nderitu Nyaga
Many parts of the country are experiencing above-average downpours. This has led to flooding in some areas, ravaging both animal and human lives. In some regions, it has been moderate, promising a bumper harvest, making it either a boon or bane, depending on whom you ask and where they come from. Without a doubt, the season presents peculiar challenges to livestock farmers, but also comes with promise and opportunities.
In this article, I will highlight aspects relating to animal husbandry that are key for farmers to heed to ensure that they sustain production and the survival of their treasured livestock. We shall look at the different aspects of animal husbandry that cut across livestock ventures.
- Ensure that animal pens and roofs are not leaking. Leaking creates dampness and muddy dwellings, which not only deny the animal much-needed comfort, but also present a perfect breeding site for disease-causing microorganisms. Diseases such as foot-rot in ruminants and coccidiosis in poultry are predominant in such conditions;
- The animal house should be well-lit and take advantage of the rays of sun projecting;
- The drainage of the house should be easy to clean and stagnation of water or urine should be avoided;
- Do not place animal houses in waterways;
- As much as possible, animals should sleep under a roof;
- The space occupied by young animals should be warm enough to prevent pneumonia;
- The floor should be comfortable and dry. If you spread sawdust or rice husks on the floor, kneel on it to check the moisture. If your trousers form a wet patch then you know it is time to change the floor covering.
- Poorly stored feeds get mouldy and can be a source of poisoning to your animals. Even if it is in small doses that may not kill the animals, residues can be passed to humans through products. Ensure that you store feeds in a dry place;
- Lush green grass will increase due to enhanced rainfall. Though readily available and appealing to the eye, it has low nutritional value, is high in water content and has a very minimal dry matter content. Animals fed on these lush grasses will get full fast, have nutrient deficiency; and hence reduce production; Ensure that enough dry materials are available for your animals. Wilt the dry grass before feeding the animals. These measures will reduce cases of diarrhoea and prevent deficiency conditions such as grass tetany (hypomagnesemia/reduce magnesium levels in the blood);
- Ensure that your animals get enough feed, as its requirement increases as more energy is expended in temperature regulation;
- Plant fodder for your animals, collect as much water as possible. Remember, the dry season will come calling sooner than later.
- Deworming: The rainy season creates a field day for some pathogens and parasites. Ticks and worms infest more during this season. Deworm your animals using broad-spectrum dewormers and regularly wash them with acaricides to kill ticks;
- Flies, which transmit diseases, will increase and should also be controlled. There are drugs in your local agrovet shop;
- Mastitis in nursing animals also tends to increase. Enhance your hygiene practices to avert it;
- Foot conditions also increase; place foot baths appropriately for your animals;
- For all of the above measures, keep your vet on your speed dial.
Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology
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