Dip-tanks rehab drives resurgence of national herd

Source: Dip-tanks rehab drives resurgence of national herd | The Sunday Mail

Dip-tanks rehab drives resurgence of national herd
A dip-tank under construction in Nyaunde, Sanyati

Tracy Chidhakwa

OVER 4 000 dip-tanks have been constructed and rehabilitated countrywide since 2021 as part of an ongoing drive to eliminate endemic livestock diseases.

The initiative, spearheaded by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), seeks to provide the necessary infrastructure to control tick-borne diseases and other threats to livestock health. Ticks are responsible for nearly 60 percent of all livestock deaths annually.

Dip-tanks are large pools filled with a solution that kills ticks. By regularly dipping their cattle, farmers can dramatically reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases, such as the January disease (theileriosis), heartwater (cowdriosis) and babesiosis.

In August 2020, the Government approved the Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan (2021-2025), which seeks to address livestock production and productivity issues.

The plan was rolled out to lay a solid foundation for the livestock sector to play a central role in transforming farmers’ livelihoods and providing raw materials for agriculture-led industrial development.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, DVS director Dr Jairus Machakwa said construction and rehabilitation of dip-tanks were being carried out through public-private partnerships.

“One of the major constraints to livestock production are tick-borne diseases, which account for almost 60 percent of livestock mortalities in the country each year,” he said.

“To combat this, the plan seeks to rehabilitate the national dipping infrastructure and construct new dip-tanks for effective control of tick-borne diseases. Initially, the goal was to rehabilitate 2 637 of the then 3 972 communal dip-tanks in the country and construct 207 new ones.

“Since the implementation of the Livestock Recovery and Growth Plan, the number of communal dip-tanks has increased to 4 183, with 211 new dip-tanks having been constructed.”

The Government, development partners and private companies, he said, were providing financial and material support, while the community was chipping in with labour and locally available materials, such as river sand and stones.

“Although the initial target of the growth plan has been surpassed, for the remaining two years of the programme, the Department of Veterinary Services aims to rehabilitate a further 1 000 dip-tanks under the same model.”

He said the rollout of the initiative has witnessed a substantial drop in the number of cattle succumbing to tick-borne diseases.

“The strategy involves strategic dipping of cattle, vaccination of cattle against tick-borne diseases and periodic monitoring for tick resistance to ensure that the dip chemical in use is effective in killing the ticks,” he said.

“All these measures have resulted in a decline in cattle mortalities.”

Farmers, Dr Machakwa added, were being encouraged to continue dipping their cattle regularly to sustain the current progress.

He said this year’s drought was, however, posing a major challenge to the programme.

Dip-tanks usually require a minimum of 15 000 litres of water for effective dipping of livestock to take place.

“However, this can be a challenge during periods of drought, particularly in the southern provinces, where water scarcity is already an issue,” said Dr Machakwa.

“To address this problem, the Government is collaborating with development partners to drill multi-purpose boreholes near dip-tanks.

“These boreholes will not only ensure the availability of water for dipping but also for drinking, both for humans and livestock, as well as supporting nutritional gardens.”

In addition, DVS was also shifting from the water-intensive plunge-dipping method to the pour-on technique that does not require water.

“This method can be carried out at the homestead so that cattle are not driven long distances to the dip-tank,” he continued.

“Although this method is more expensive, it is the most convenient during periods of drought.”

Cattle branding

Dr Machakwa encouraged farmers to present their livestock for branding during the current winter season.

“The branding process is carried out during the winter period when the wounds heal quickly because of the reduced activity of flies,” he said.

“The purpose of branding is to identify the dip-tank or farm of origin for cattle above six months old. Farmers can apply for personal farm-specific brands . . .

“Branding serves as a critical component in animal identification and traceability, controlling cattle movement and diseases, curbing stock theft, facilitating market access and resolving ownership disputes.”

He said in terms of the Animal Health (Livestock Identification) (Cattle) Regulations of 2003, all cattle, except for
pedigree and dairy cattle, must be branded.

“It is compulsory, as per the law, that farmers bring all their cattle to the local dip-tank for branding upon request.

“An efficient animal identification and traceability system is crucial in detecting illegal cattle movements that could jeopardise the livestock industry’s viability by spreading pests and diseases, such as the foot-and-mouth disease and brown ear ticks, which transmit the January disease.”