News and knowhow for farmers

How to control East Coast Fever disease in cattle

ECF kenya
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Cattle farmers in Kenya can control East Coast Fever disease by vaccinating their animals and regularly spraying them with acaricides.

The disease occurs in countries on the eastern side of Africa such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and kills approximately 100,000 animals of all ages in Kenya according to data from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).

In cattle, the disease is very severe with 100 per cent mortality rate if not treated.

ECF is caused by a parasite adapted to the African buffalo and is transmitted from one animal to another by the brown ear ticks found attached to the ears and the tip of the tail.

An infected cow will struggle to breathe, have a nasal discharge, diarrhea and anemia.  


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To control the disease, the most simple and cheap way is to practice rotational grazing on their fields to minimize the movement of ticks.

Dipping or spraying the animals at least once in a week is also another method of controlling ECF with the effectiveness of this method depending on thorough wetness of the animal.

The mode is however, less effective as ticks develop resistance overtime and the chemicals used are sometimes toxic to human beings and as such it is recommended to follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Once a cow recovers from ECF, it is farmers can vaccinate the animal as this will ensure that it develops life-long immunity to clinical re-infection.

Farmers can also remove ticks manually rom the cows and is applied when the number of cows are few and the rate of tick infestation is low.

Cattle farming in Kenya is mostly confined to the semi-arid and arid lands of the country such as Turkana, Wajir, Garissa, Moyale, Kajiado and Narok.

The sector supports more than five million people directly and indirectly.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics there are 3,355,407 exotic cattle in Kenya. Traditional cattle population stands at 14,112,367.

Last year, the number of cattle and calves slaughtered in abattoirs rose by 5.3 per cent from 2.46m in 2016 to 2.59m attributed to the increased livestock off take occasioned by drought experienced during the period under review to cushion from losses according to the 2018 economic survey released last month.

During the same period, milk delivered to processors dropped by 17.4 per cent from 648.2m liters in 2016 to 535.7m liters.

Similarly, the quantity of processed milk and cream from processing plants decreased by 8.5 per cent and that of butter and ghee declined by 22.0 per cent. Production of cheese however, increased from 311.2 tonnes in 2016 to 338.3 tonnes in 2017.

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