Ask any dairy farmer in Kenya what livestock disease they dread most and the repeated answer is East Coast Fever. The disease raises fear amongst cattle keepers because it has such a high fatality rate – it remains the single biggest killer of cattle in 11 countries in eastern and central Africa, putting more than 25 million cattle at risk. Vaccination offers the best protection for cattle as treatment options are expensive and there is no guarantee that the animal will not be affected again.
For many smallholder farmers, vaccination still remains a challenge due to lack of awareness, logistics and costs associated with the vaccination. The ECF Muguga Cocktail vaccine costs from US $6 to $10 per animal depending on the animal’s size. This is considered a small investment a farmer can make to protect a larger investment –cattle. In pastoralists’ areas, ECF vaccinations have taken off a lot faster than dairy sectors.
“Its easier to coordinate vaccinations in pastoralists’ areas because more often than not, many cattle are herded making it a lot easier for the vaccinators to perform the vaccinations at one go rather than rounding animals in small numbers from homestead to homestead as is often the case with dairy cows,” says Dr Rawlynce Bett of AgriHaus in Kenya.
A single straw of the vaccine contains 40 doses, which need to be administered within a few hours of reconstituting the vaccine. For these reasons, 40 animals are required in any single vaccination undertaking.
Dr Bett also says that pastoralists with a large number of animals have the option of selling one or two animals to cover the cost of the vaccination compared to dairy farmers who own few and more expensive animals. One dairy cow can cost up to KSh 250,000 (US $ 2,500). This makes the vaccination of dairy cows ever so crucial because of the level of investment the farmers put into the animal.
But many smallholder farmers are still struggling with ECF vaccination. It is for this reason that one of GALVmed’s partners in ECF vaccination, AgriHaus, has teamed up with the New Kenya Cooperative Creameries (New KCC) through its wide network of milk collection centres to bring the benefits of ECF vaccine to dairy farmers. New KCC is one of the largest dairy processor in the East and Central Africa and has a network of 22 milk cooling plants and over 30 satellite milk coolers spread across the country. The milk manufacturer has put together an extension services platform comprising field service offices, committees, coordinators, agents and plant managers spread out in various milk collection centres. The platform has brought on board essential service providers who offer continuous services to the farmers including ECF vaccination. AgriHaus is mainly undertaking vaccinations in the dairy areas.
On July 27th 2016, the New KCC Molo Dairy Plant launched its ECF vaccination campaign. The plant which is located in Elburgon town in Nakuru County, north-west of the Kenyan capital Nairobi offers its 11,000 members an all-inclusive package for animal health and financial services. Members are then required to pay a small fee through their milk earnings, which goes towards these services.
“As a dairy plant, our main interest is to improve the productivity of our members. We analysed why our members are not getting high milk yields and came up with a number of limiting factors – disease being one of them. We want to try and work with our members to reduce these limiting factors so that we can improve our milk yields,” explains Mr. Bett Hillary, the New KCC Molo Dairy Plant Manager. He explains that this package is paid for directly by the dairy plant to service providers and therefore the issue of lack of money by the farmers to vaccinate the animals doesn’t arise anymore. “We want to be actively involved in the management of our members’ animals, to ensure they receive the best care for optimal production,” he says.
The launch kicked off an intensive vaccination exercise, which will see about 20,000 animals being vaccinated in parts of Nakuru, Baringo and Kericho counties (northwest of Nairobi) over the next two months by AgriHaus. Already, 7,500 animals have already been vaccinated. Once the animals are vaccinated, they are tagged and given unique identity numbers. They will then be registered to enable farmers access a host of services including finance and insurance.
According to Dr Bett, AgriHaus is targeting to partner with 22 milk cooling plants and over 30 satellite milk coolers across 19 counties owned by New KCC. This will bring the total number of dairy cows targeted for vaccination to 180,000.
Written by: Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed Communications Manager