Small Stock Farming: The Imperatives

Nichlas Mbingeneeko

The previous article focused on caring for lambs or goat kids as they are growing. This article focuses on animal health and the most common small stock diseases. In a nutshell, animal health relates to the absence of disease or the normal functioning of an organism and normal behavior of an animal. Animal health is a subset of animal welfare. Animal health also relates, inter alia, to the interplay between animal welfare and environmental protection. Animal health is thus a key component of animal welfare.

It is imperative for the farmer to attend to animal health strategically so as to contribute to animal welfare. The benefits of animal welfare are multiple. Healthy livestock are productive and more profitable. Healthy flocks are by and large more valuable. Healthy livestock are more disease resistant. A healthy flock is a happy flock. Diseases and pain in livestock often lead to production losses and fatalities which in turn have far-reaching economic repercussions. It goes without saying that when the flock suffers, the return on investment of the farmer suffers too.

The most common small stock diseases, particularly in Namibia, are abscesses, arthritis, epididymitis (brucella ovis), diarrhea, enzootic abortion, footrot, pink eye, pneumonia, pulpy kidney disease, scabby mouth, tetanus, and prolapse. These most common diseases will be dealt with separately, yet seriatim, in this article and subsequent articles.

Abscesses, also called pus or cheesy gland, is contagious. Abscesses are most common in goats, but not in sheep, and are caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis. When an abscess becomes ready for draining, the skin over the centre of the abscess may thin and often appears yellowish. The simplest treatment of abscesses is done as follows: put on hand gloves, make a cut in the skin to discharge the pus that contains the bacteria, clean the inside of the wound properly with salt water or antiseptic liquid, use wound spray with antibiotics to prevent inflammation of the wound, and rinse the wound every day for about three days using wound spray to keep flies away. Inoculate the goats with Glanvac 3 regularly (say twice a year) to prevent abscesses.

Arthritis, in sheep, is caused by a bacterial infection of the joints which culminates in the inflammation of the joints of the legs. The main cause of arthritis in sheep is when bacteria enter the body through the umbilical cord (navel ill) or any broken skin. The lambs contract arthritis through, e.g. docking, castration, and shearing wounds. The lamb becomes reluctant to move as arthritis causes lameness. Arthritis results in a reduced growth rate in lambs. Treatment involves massive doses of antibiotics. Good sanitation and hygiene prevent arthritis.

Epididymitis is an inflammation of the coiled tube called epididymis. It is a venereal disease of sheep and goat rams caused by the bacteria Brucella ovis. Symptoms of Epididymitis may include testicle pain and tenderness as well as a swollen, discolored scrotum. Epididymitis may cause infertility by affecting the ram’s ability to produce viable sperm. It is transmitted during homosexual activities or during the mating season via the ewes. Inoculate ram lambs with Brucella Rev 1 before the age of 4 months to prevent Brucella ovis. Import requirements of certain countries compel breeders to facilitate mandatory testing of sheep and goat rams for Brucella ovis.

Diarrhea may be induced by stress, poor management, and nutrition. Before treating an animal for diarrhea, determine why the animal is scouring. Diarrhea is not an illness in itself, but rather symptomatic of other health problems. Identification of the causes of diarrhea requires a sample for microbiological analysis. Products for symptomatic treatment include: Disulfox LA, Norotrim 24 and Ecosulf LA. Treat an animal to keep it physiologically intact while the diarrhea runs its course. Goat kids and sheep lambs are susceptible to diarrhea that may be fatal if not treated timely.

Enzootic abortion is the most common cause of abortion in ewes. The bacteria which causes abortions is called Chlamydia abortus. Chlamydial abortion often occurs during the last month of pregnancy & lambs or goat kids may die shortly after birth. Abortion contributes to a plethora of production losses and fatalities. Vaccinate the entire flock of ewes with Chlamysure 60 days before mating. Repeat vaccination in 30 days, then annually just before mating. Pens must be disinfected thoroughly between ewes. Enzootic abortion is zoonotic disease that can pass from animals to humans. The next article will continue to focus on the most common small stock diseases.

Nichlas Mbingeneeko is a renowned small stock farmer and a stud breeder of repute. His stud known as Skuilhoek Stud, in Aranos district, Hardap Region, consists of the Boer Goat, Damara Sheep and the Veldmaster Sheep. If you subscribe to genetic superiority, make Skuilhoek Stud your supplier of choice. His next production auction will be on 13 June 2024 @ 18h00, in Windhoek, Namibia, onsite & online. Nichlas Mbingeneeko wrote this article in his personal capacity.

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