Keeping parasites at bay, while managing resistance

Keeping your cattle in top shape takes planning, especially when it comes to disease management and parasite control. Kleinjan Gasekoma, the first black farmer who won the prestigious BKB Commercial farmer of the Year award, knows what it entails to keep in his Braunvieh cattle in top condition.

He told Angie Khumalo, presenter of Mzansi Wethu’s new show African Farming, all about it, during her visit to his farm in the North West province.

Khumalo then wanted to know from Dr Thapelo Makae, Elanco veterinarian, if he has any valuable tips to keep cattle in good condition. He highlights the importance of a good parasite control programme. “Most diseases animals catch, originate from parasites like ticks,” he says.

“There are different ways to treat external and internal parasites, for instance using dips.”

He advises farmers to incorporate parasite control measures in their routine when they brand and vaccinate a cow but warns that a cow’s weight plays a crucial role in calculating the right amount of treatment to give when treating internal parasites. Cases of extreme resistance are growing in South Africa; therefore, treatments should be administered with the utmost care.

Some parasites (internal and external) are only encountered in specific regions and weather also plays a role. For instance, in winter and autumn, the larval and nymph stages of multi-host ticks are more prevalent. In areas where brown ear ticks are present, it is best to apply dips in the winter, to control an outbreak.

To make sure cattle are protected against Asiatic redwater, it is crucial to vaccinate animals during the winter months, and farmers should order vaccines in time.

Then there is also lumpy skin disease to consider, as this disease is also transmitted by ticks, and outbreaks can occur during the rainy seasons. Farmers in the winter rainfall region should be on the lookout for brown stomach worm infestation when good rain has fallen after drought.

Farmers must also be on the lookout for wireworms, as these parasites not only manifest in the winter months but infestations are also widely reported in summer months. When temperatures rise, wireworm outbreaks become more prevalent, as the eggs require humidity, a temperature of about 15 °C, and oxygen to hatch.

Given all these variables it is best to consult an animal-health agent or a veterinarian to assist the farmer in developing a good parasite control programme. A veterinarian should visit a farm at least twice a year, to accurately assess the situation.

To prevent cattle from developing resistance to parasites, it is imperative to work closely with a veterinarian. If blanket dosing for the pests is given when the presence of the parasites is relatively low, it leads to resistance.

For information: e-mail Dr Makae,

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