Identifying a sick animal early on will save a lot of money and resources

Duncan Serapelwane, an award-winning Bonsmara breeder, farms in the Kalahari near Morokweng, North West. He strives to breed cattle of the highest quality.

Host Angie Khumalo visited his farm during the fourth episode of the television series African Farming. She wanted to find out what makes Serapelwane such a good breeder.

In the studio, Khumalo talked to Dr Thapelo Makae, veterinarian at Elanco, to find out how she, as an emerging farmer, can become as successful as Serapelwane.

“Duncan is doing a stellar job. His animals are looking fabulous,” Dr Makae said. “If you want to become a successful farmer, he is a prime example to follow.”

He believes taking care of cattle by looking after their primary health needs, lays the foundation for breeding high-quality animals. 

“There are some basic things a farmer can do to identify sick and injured cattle early on, before separating them from the herd to attend to their health issues.”

Dr Makae advices farmers to always be on the lookout for cattle that is lacking in performance and growth, a tell-tale sign that there may be an underlying health issue.

“Start by observing these specific animals, to see what the cause of their behaviour might be,” Dr Makae suggested.

One should do a basic health examination of such animals, which can go a long way in assessing their health status. The examination should include looking at the following:

  • Body temperature. It can be a good indicator of illness. “If the animal’s body temperature is high, it might indicate a more serious health problem, and should be investigated further, or followed up by a visit from the veterinarian.”
  • General appearance. The farmer should also look at the general appearance of the animal. If the animal displays classic signs such as a drooping head and ears, it could be worthwhile to examine the animal further. An animal should be alert and aware of its surroundings (general appearance). He must also be able to walk easily and steadily, with all four feet bearing weight, stepping regularly – as irregular movement suggests pain in its feet of legs – and get up quickly if lying down (movement).
  •  Eyes and ears. According to Dr Makae the eyes can also show tell-tale signs of the animal’s health. Eyes should be bright and alert, with no discharge at the corners and ears should react to sound, stand upright, move to any sound, and flick rapidly to get rid of flies.

There are numerous signs to look out for and Dr Makae also believes in mentorship.

“Learning from the giants that already walked the road you are on, will help you to benefit from the experience they gained, be ready to learn from them.”

For information: Email Dr Makae,

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