Small-stock farmers can suffer huge losses from parasites

23 June 2021 | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

Small stock production in Namibia faces significant health challenges, mostly associated with parasite infestations, which can result in huge economic losses for farmers.

The parasites are either internal or external and their prevalence is seasonal or depends on prevailing environmental conditions.

For example, internal parasites include tapeworms, roundworms and flukes, whereas external parasites are ticks, lice, fleas, mites and flies.

Agribank’s technical advisor for advisory services, Erastus Ngaruka, says the prevalence of these parasites is seasonal, where some prevail in winter and some prefer the summer months for their survival.

“In addition, parasites are host-specific; their survival or completion of their life cycle is dependent on the host availability.”

Other predisposing factors to parasite infestation are related to poor management of the kraal environment and the absence of or an inappropriate parasite control programme.

Ngaruka adds that parasite infestation results in huge production and economic losses for small-stock farmers in the country.

“Moreover, the control measures are cumbersome to some farmers, who may not understand or have limited knowledge of the types of parasites, life cycles, seasonality, symptoms, and remedial actions to follow.”

He says parasite infestation can be detected by marked symptoms or changes in the animal’s condition and behaviour, and through closer inspection of their presence on the body. Some of the parasite activities on an animal include blood sucking, feasting on skin, hair, and pre-digested feed in the rumen.

The most common symptoms include anaemia, diarrhoea, bottle jaw, runny nose, hair loss, and emaciation.

Year-round vigilance

According to him, the two distinct seasons for Namibian farmers to focus on livestock management programmes are winter and summer, and both present varying challenges when it comes to parasite control.

“With many parts of the country having received a lot of rain in the summer months, parasite infestations were a major concern, especially ticks, flies, mosquitoes, and flukes.”

The winter season is mainly characterised by the prevalence of mites, lice, fleas, and tapeworms, but still burdened with summer parasites, mainly the liver fluke.

Other internal parasites to look out for are lungworm and nasal worm, both causing distress in the respiratory system.

Cleanliness

Ngaruka said that the first and cheapest line of defence against parasites and diseases in small stock is to maintain a clean kraal environment.

“Farmers need to regularly observe their animals’ condition and behaviour.”

One of the approaches that any farmer should follow is to carry out basic post-mortem examinations on an animal that is slaughtered at the farm for home consumption Lastly, always consult local veterinarians, experienced farmers, or livestock experts for advice.

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