Shortly before or during the rainy seasons - which should be a great joy to all Namibian farmers - many experience the numerous stock loss from parasites, to plant poisonings, to pests and diseases, you name it.
This year is no exception and farmers in most regions are already experiencing the devastating effect of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD).
At the moment, the people of Ovitoto and Khomas Hochland, Rehoboth, Otjimbingwe and Omaheke areas have to dig deep into their pockets and try to contain LSD outbreak in their areas. This is why LSD is the talk of the nation right now.
LSD is locally known as the ‘knopvelsiekte’, ‘omutjise wOzomburu’ and ‘epulwa’ and is commonly found in cattle.
It is an infectious viral disease transmitted by direct contact with infected animals or if animals are bitten by bloodsucking insects such as flies and mosquitoes. That is why the disease commonly occurs when fly activities are noted especially in the wet season or around water points.
Most of our farmers can now easily spot LSD by the obvious lumps or nodules (big pimples) that appear under the skin, especially around the face, neck, under the abdomen, on the legs or around the genital areas and udders.
The lumps are hard and are normally of the same size. Many of the lumps become sore and sometimes get infected and can become wounds. The lumps form scabs which may persist for months and leave scars after healing.
Another prominent sign is the high fever which can go down in 1-2 days but can go up again. This is followed by drooling of saliva and discharges from the eyes and nose. The cattle become weak and stop eating, resulting in rapid weight loss.
There is no specific treatment for LSD. Anti-biotics such as tetracycline or penicillin can be given intramuscular to prevent secondary bacterial infection (I can’t stress enough about the right dose here!). It should be noted that anti-biotics do not usually work for viral diseases but only to help with the recovery of bacterial infection that gets worse when the animal is weakened from the viral infection.
Farmers have their own remedies, of course. One villager once asked me how much methylated spirit is and if they should inject it in cows for LSD treatment.
I came to realise that most village farmers commonly use methylated spirit for almost any condition in cattle. I actually don’t know this one. Personally, I would rather avoid such un-prescribed remedies because of their various side effects. Some even put engine oil all over the body of an infected animal. Imagine!
The recommended way is to wash the wounds with a mild antiseptic and put wound oil to salve the wounds. A wound spray can also be used around the wounds, especially if they are bleeding. Giving metabolites such as multivitamins and multi-minerals also help in the recovery process from the disease. Also try to minimise stress to the affected animals as much as possible and keep them preferably in the shade.
Prevention and Control
Animals suffering from LSD must be isolated and should not be allowed to use the same feeding and drinking troughs as the unaffected animals, as the saliva and skin lesions are infected with the virus.
As a preventative measure, all animals older than six months must be vaccinated for LSD annually before the rainy season. But calves that are at risk from previously non-vaccinated cows should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccination for LSD is quite effective as long as it is timely done yearly and the vaccine is stored properly. I often advise our village farmers to at least vaccinate the bulls and their most valued cows and calves if they fail to vaccinate the whole herd.
Most often, when farmers vaccinate only during an outbreak, some vaccinated animals may succumb to the disease since they were already infected but had not yet shown clinical signs.
So, let’s get those cattle vaccinated for Lumpy Skin Disease before it’s too late.
Furthermore, since LSD is transmitted by insect bites, it is also advisable to dip, spray or inject cattle for external parasites before and during the rainy season.
Although LSD doesn’t kill animals in large numbers, the devastating economic implications of LSD are quantified in the cost of the vaccine and treatment of affected animals.
In addition, devaluation of the hides, decrease in milk production and abortions in some cows are experienced. The worst thing about LSD is the infertility in bulls that most often occurs if infected. So whatever you do, make sure that your bulls are annually vaccinated for LSD.
Finally, LSD is a noticeable disease and farmers should report any suspected cases to the nearest state veterinary offices. Garamushe!
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