Important Livestock Diseases Transmitted By Ticks and Other Vectors

By Stu Taylor

Theileriosis or January Disease – This disease is a major killer of cattle. Recently the country has experienced a new strain of this disease, but prior to this, dipping practices in August/September (5 – 4 – 5 day dipping intervals for a few weeks) would suffice to break the Brown-ear tick vector’s breeding cycle. The tick only spends 5 days on its host. It is a disease prevalent in buffalo so precautions should be taken where buffalo exist close or in cattle-raising areas. Affected animals should be treated with a long-acting tetracycline.

Sweating sickness in calves – It is transmitted by the Bont-legged tick and causes young animals to run a very high temperature and literally sweat profusely, a situation that can lead to death by dehydration if left unchecked. Treatment is to ensure animals are rested in a shady place, rehydrated and treated with a sulphur drug.

Redwater and gall sickness – It is transmitted by the Blue Tick. Gall sickness is also transmitted by stamoxys or biting/stable fly and horseflies. Gallsickness is characterised by very hard dung and on post-mortem, the rumen is almost solidified with the dry matter. In the case of redwater, symptoms are blood-red urine. The drug of choice is a long-acting tetracycline and in the case of gall sickness, bowel movement must be induced with liquid paraffin or cod-liver oil and brown sugar or molasses.

Heartwater – This is a disease whose vector is the Bont tick. Before the age of bad dipping practices and illegal cattle movement, this disease was confined to the lower-lying areas of the country but has gradually spread into the middle veld and in some cases even onto the Highveld. Affected animals show a high-stepping gait, general confusion and dizziness, are stark-eyed and become totally disorientated. Rapid death occurs and on post-mortem, the flattened grass around the victim is a sure sign of a heartwater death and a lot of liquid around the heart on opening the animal up.

Prevention of all these aforementioned diseases centres around good livestock management practices, i.e. effective dipping and controlled movement of livestock.

Buy Wise or Buy Twice – There are many players in the agro-chemical field as more and more people focus on agriculture to make a living. Thus we have become a target for a number of unscrupulous “backdoor” traders and vendors of substandard products, ranging from herbicides to cattle dips. An oft-heard adage in Zimbabwe not only in the agricultural world but generally, as we allow standards to drop. Be sure of the product you are buying, and try and conduct research amongst fellow farmers if you are not buying from a reputable veterinary service company. There are a number of substandard “generics” out there that don’t quite match the genuine product. Always try and purchase a known brand and have a look at the active ingredient, preferably from a reputable source where you know you can get good technical advice. Always read the label and apply your chemical at the recommended rate through properly calibrated equipment.

Chemicals are expensive and if not applied correctly, one may as well not apply them.

Stu Taylor
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