Making sure your herd is in tip-top condition

Angie Khumalo, host of African Farming on Mzansi Wethu (channel 163), visited Kobela Mokgohloa, a young commercial farmer, to learn from his successes in episode six of the series. Mokgohloa and his family farms with cucumbers and Limousin cattle on Korema Farm in Winterveldt.

Khumalo invited top experts in the farming industry to share their knowledge during a studio interview in the episode. She wanted to know from Dr Thapelo Makae, Elanco veterinarian, what an aspiring commercial farmer can do to ensure that his cattle are in top condition like those on Mokgohloa’s farm.

“Kobela’s Limousin cattle are beautiful!” she said.

Dr Makae said a farmer should inspect his cattle regularly, looking out for signs of health problems or illness. He mentioned five different features of a cow the farmer can inspect, to identify health problems before they become a bigger threat. It is essential to check a herd daily for signs of sick cattle and this should form part of the farmer’s daily routine.

According to Dr Makae, a farmer must regularly inspect a cow’s eyes.

“Normally it should be pale pink, if it turns white it can be a sign of illness.”

If the cow rubs her face against posts, trees or rocks, or keeps one eye shut, it may be an indication of a problem. And if there is a discharge, or one or both eyes appear cloudy and the cow avoids direct sunlight, it might be time to call the veterinarian.

Dr Makae said the second step is to check a cow’s nose. “Look out for nasal discharge that can be a sure sign that something is wrong.”

An abnormal discharge is usually white, green, yellow or bloody and may be an indication of pneumonia or acidosis, as sick cows are usually too depressed to maintain their noses by licking it clean and as a result feed particles and nasal discharge will stick to it.

The third step is to inspect the jaw. According to Dr Makae swelling of the jaw can be a symptom of intestinal parasites. The common terms for that is bottle jaw or brisket oedema.

“A good dewormer should do the trick,” he said, but this can also be an indication of other more serious diseases like Johne’s Disease, which should also be ruled out as one of the causes.

As a fourth step, body condition scoring can also be applied to ensure an animal is healthy. It is a fast method of assessing the overall condition, or the thinness or fatness, of a cow.

“Last but not least, a farmer should inspect a cow’s dung. While it not pleasant, examining it is helpful in accessing an animal’s health.”

There so much more a farmer can do, for more information: e-mail Dr Makae,

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