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close this bookBetter Farming Series 11- Cattle Breeding (FAO - INADES, 1977, 63 p.)
close this folderLooking after cattle
close this folderThe health of the herd
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDiseases
View the documentCattle must be vaccinated
View the documentHow to take care of wounds
View the documentWhat to do about parasites


An animal can be in bad health. An animal in bad health loses weight, and may even die. A good breeder looks after the health of his herd.

An animal can be in bad health because of

· diseases
· injuries
· parasites.


There are many diseases which prevent animals from growing and may even kill them.

The animal husbandry services have done a lot of work on diseases.
Nowadays rinderpest and other serious diseases are much less common.
All the same, there are still many diseases to treat.

These diseases can make a farmer lose a great deal of money.

A good way of controlling diseases is vaccination (see Booklet No. 9, page 10). So too is feeding the herd well and housing it well.

A good breeder looks after the health of his herd.

· When an animal is ill, you must go and see the veterinary surgeon.

He will tell you what medicine to give the animal.

· You must keep the animal alone, by itself. Why? Because of the danger of infecting other animals.

There are two kinds of diseases:

· contagious diseases:

These are diseases which can pass from one animal to another. If one animal in a herd is ill, it can give this disease to all the other animals. For example, rinderpest (see page 34) and anthrax (see page 35) are contagious diseases.

· noncontagious diseases:

These are diseases which do not pass from one animal to another. If one animal is ill with such a disease, this disease is no danger to the other animals.

· When an animal has a contagious disease, it must be kept by itself.

Do not leave the animal with the rest of the herd. In this way you avoid contagion for the rest of the herd.

Do not eat the meat of animals that have died from certain contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. This disease can be passed on from animals to people.

Do not mix your herd with herds passing through, especially if they come from far away. Passing herds may bring diseases with them.

Do not mix with your herd an animal you have bought or which comes from somewhere else unless you are sure it has been vaccinated.

To make a country's animal husbandry modern, a veterinary service is necessary, and all farmers should follow the advice of this service.

If an animal dies of a contagious disease, burn the body, or bury it 2 metres deep with quicklime to kill the germs.



The disease begins with a high fever. The animal is tired; its breathing gets faster; it shows lesions on the mucous membranes, first on the genitals, later on the lips, the nose, and around the eyes; pus oozes from the lesions; the animal slobbers.

During the first few days of the disease, the animal is very constipated. Later, it has severe diarrhoea in which blood can be seen and which stinks very badly. After a few more days, the animal dies.

This disease is highly contagious. It can cause the whole herd to die within a few weeks. Contagion comes through drinking water being dirtied by pus or the excrement of sick animals.

There is a vaccine for this disease.


At the beginning, this disease is hard to recognize. The sick animals cough in the morning; They have a slight fever and eat less. l he disease may go on like that for several months. Later, the cough becomes more severe; the animal can even be made to cough by tapping its chest; breathing becomes faster and faster; the animal stops eating and dies. Its lungs are ravaged by the disease.

Pleuropneumonia is not highly contagious; it passes from one animal to another only by means of prolonged contact.

Vaccination against this disease is recommended, and often even obligatory.


This disease often takes a very rapid course. It begins with a high fever, followed by diarrhoea with blood. The animal dies within two days. The blood of the dead animal is thick and black.

Animals that die of this disease must be burned. If a man eats the meat of animals dead of anthrax, he can catch the disease. If the dead animals are buried, the disease stays in the soil, and other animals which graze grass at that spot catch the disease.

There is a vaccine against this disease.

Black- quarter

Animals which have this disease limp; they have swellings on their muscles; they die quickly. Their meat is full of black swellings which have a very bad smell.

Animals dying of this disease must be burned. This will! avoid infecting the pastures.

There is a serum for treating this disease, and a vaccine for protecting healthy animals.

Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)

Trypanosomiasis is a disease that greatly weakens animals, because it attacks their blood. Some animals may die of the disease. The disease is transmitted by a fly which lives in hot and humid regions, especially where there are woods. This fly is called the glossina or tsetse fly.

Some animals are fairly resistant to this disease, others such as zebu cattle, asses and horses are not. Oxen are resistant, zebus are not; animals obtained from crossing the two are more resistant than pure zebus. Some goats are resistant, others are not.

All animals are more resistant when they are well fed and well looked after.

In certain regions, the tsetse fly occurs only in the neighbourhood of stagnant water and during certain months of the year. Local herdsmen should know where to take their herds, to places without flies.

There are remedies for treating this disease.

Other diseases

Many other diseases may attack cattle, such as piroplasmosis (Texas fever), which is transmitted by ticks, tuberculosis, which can be passed on to people, enteritis, contagious abortion, and others.

Only the most important diseases have been mentioned here.

Cattle must be vaccinated

Children are vaccinated before they are ill in order to prevent them from becoming ill.

Animals should be vaccinated before they are ill in order to prevent them from becoming ill.

All animals must be taken for vaccination.

Usually vaccination is compulsory and free of charge.

If all farmers do not take their animals for vaccination, the animals which have not been vaccinated may catch the disease, and it stays in the region.

Even if there has been no contagious disease in a region for a long time, vaccination is stilt necessary. The germs of diseases still exist.

But with the vaccine the germs are not dangerous. If you do not vaccinate, the disease comes back.

Vaccination tires animals a little, but it is not dangerous if the animals are well housed and well fed.

How to take care of wounds

The wounds of animals need to be attended to carefully.

If you see an ox or a cow that has difficulty in walking (that limps), that bleeds after a fight with another animal, or that has hurt itself, lose no time in looking after it.

If you wait, the wound may get worse. It may get infected.

An infected wound does not heal quickly. It may prevent the animal from walking, from going to the pasture, from working and from giving milk. A cow in pain gives less milk.

Find out how the animal got hurt.

Has it a thorn in its foot?

Has a piece of wood or iron torn the skin?

Has the rope, the collar or the yoke rubbed too much, or has it been too tight?

Is there a vicious animal in the herd?

Once you have discovered how the animal got hurt, remove whatever has caused the wound. Do not work the animal; it is better to lose a few days' work than to lose the animal.

Take care of the wound.

Clean the wound with hot water.

Add to the water some disinfectant that will prevent the wound from becoming more infected.

A wound that is always kept clean heals quickly.

So wash the wound often.

What to do about parasites

Parasites are little animals that live on the skin or in the bodies of other animals.

· Parasites that live on the skin

Chief among the parasites that live on the skin of cattle are the ticks.

Ticks stick to the skin of the animals and suck blood.

If an animal has many ticks, it can lose up to half a litre of blood a day. After a time it may become very weak.

Ticks wound animals.

Often you can see an animal's ears damaged by ticks.

Often you can see animals walking with difficulty or with wounds on the udder. In that case the cows are difficult to milk, and they will not let their calves suck.

Ticks may also bring serious diseases.

They spread fevers, typhus, brucellosis and piroplasmosis.

Ticks can be killed with a pesticide such as toxophene.

Ticks can also be killed with paraffin oil. - Soak a piece of cloth in paraffin oil and rub the places on the body where there are ticks.

The veterinary services can tell you what pesticides to use, and can help you to apply the treatment.

This must be done over and over again.

· Parasites that live in the body

Generally parasites live in the digestive tract. Many are worms: tapeworms, roundworms, pinworms. Sometimes they live in the muscles or the lungs, as for instance strongyles.

They injure the digestive tract and the animals cannot digest properly. Animals that have worms lose weight and sometimes die.

To kill these parasites, the animals are given medicine such as phenothiazine. There are traditional medicines that can also be used.

A good way to control parasites is to let pastures rest.


The eggs of the parasites fall on the pasture with the animals' excrement. They grow in the grass, and then they can attach themselves to the skin of the animals, or the animals may eat them together with grass (ticks, worms).

If you let the pasture rest long enough, the parasites cannot feed on the skin or in the bodies of the animals. So they die.

To control parasites, rest your pasture. Do not put the animals always on the same pasture.