Govt declares war against January disease Department of Veterinary Services, outgoing chief director, Dr Josphat Nyika, yesterday said the Government and its partners were working closely to ensure the areas have enough stockfeeds for the affected livestock. He said the El Nino-induced dry conditions had also resulted in low water levels in the dams, resulting in some cattle being stuck in the mud as they try to water themselves. 

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter

The Government has declared a national war against January disease following an upsurge in cases and deaths of livestock across the country.

Several awareness activities have been lined up in collaboration with traditional leaders and other community leaders as part of broader effort to fight the tick-borne disease.

Over 403 cattle from four districts in Midlands province have succumbed to January disease, also known as Theileriosis, in the first week of the month.

In a circular directed to Provincial veterinary directors, Chief Director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Josephat Nyika, said the rainy season had always associated with increased tick activity and an upsurge in tick-borne diseases.

“January disease has been a problem resulting in thousands of cattle succumbing to the disease in recent years particularly as from 2017 to date. With the huge support from Treasury, we have been able to bring down JD cases and deaths, year on year, by 47 percent and 31 percent in 2021 and 2022 respectively,” said Dr Nyika.

“However, we have seen an upsurge in January diseases cases and deaths from the beginning of 2023. It is against this background that the Ministry is declaring a National War Against January disease in 2023.

“This war against January disease is starting with immediate effect and will last for a month.”

Dr Nyika directed all provinces, districts and animal health management centres to carry out several activities that to combat the scourge.

“Each Veterinary Extension Officer (VEO) shall hold January disease awareness meetings at each dip tank under their inspectorate in the next two weeks.

At the January disease meetings all farmers will be engaged for a minimum of one hour discussing the disease.

In particular, farmers will receive information on the following subjects: January Disease and its epidemiology, Importance of intensive dipping, Importance of constructing dipping infrastructure/equipment including handling facilities, plunge dips, spray races, and knapsacks sprayers, correct spot application of tick-grease, correct use of pour-on dip chemicals, animal movement controls and quarantines, and prosecutions for failure to dip cattle or keeping them tick-free,” said Dr Nyika.

“A record of all the farmers that would have received the January disease awareness under the war against the disease campaign must be submitted weekly and without fail to the Head Office through the normal structures. All PVDs shall ensure that they have correct mapping of January disease hot spots including a correct cattle census of the affected dip tanks.”

He directed that all affected hot spots shall be receiving pour on dips between January and end of May, that they receive 2kg to 4kg of tick grease per household for the same period.

He directed that all Provincial Veterinary Directors must map out dip tanks in hotspots that require dip tank rehabilitation and ensure that all of them are functional with immediate effect.

All veterinary officers were directed to get into all Al and A2 farms to impress and report particularly on the following, tick infestation on cattle, cattle handling facilities on the farm and dipping methods in use and related facilities, availability and types of dipping chemicals on the farm, suitability of dipping methods in relation to cattle census, facilities and labour, dip tank calibration, dip tank desilting, water replenishment and recharging.

They were also directed to encourage A2 farmers to dip their cattle at the nearest communal dip tanks, instruct A2 farmers to construct cattle handling facilities for effective dipping, prosecutions for tick infestation shall be intensified and records of prosecutions shall be submitted to the Head Office through the weekly reports and sampling for acaricide resistance monitoring and dip wash concentration testing.

“All the above-mentioned tasks should be implemented after full consultations with traditional and community Leaders which include Chiefs, Headmen, Councillors and Village Heads. Please note that this is our first port of call for this important task. A national launch of this war against January disease will be done soon.

“In line the devolution agenda, Provincial and District launches will be carried out in all provinces. This is an important national programme, so cooperation from all livestock industry stakeholders, farmers and law enforcement agencies will be highly appreciated,” he said.

“Victory against JD is certain as we move forward with our Going4Growth mantra in our Livestock Growth Programme.”

January disease is common between December and March and is spread through the bite of the brown ear tick.

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