Viral signs Sacrificial

July 03, 2022

animal markets witness pressure on supplies as cattle become prone to the Lumpy Skin Disease

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Sprays must be conducted at the cattle farms. — Photo by Rahat Dar


hanks to the onslaught of a highly infectious disease, called the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), the cattle farming business has increasingly become a challenge for young Aashiq Hussain, who partly owns a family-run farm in Kehror Lal Eisan in Layyah district, along the mighty River Indus.

The spread of LSD has put pressure on the supply chain as well as productivity of animals, barely a week ahead of the Eidul Azha when animals are sacrificed as part of an Islamic religious ritual. This has serious financial repercussions for a dairy farmer like Hussain who is left looking for a vaccine to save his animals from catching the viral disease. In the meantime, he is seeking advice on how to follow biosecurity protocols at his farm to avoid contact with the disease.

There is a general complaint that LSD vaccines aren’t readily available. Hussain echoes the sconcern. He is clearly unaware that a free vaccination campaign is being run by the provincial Livestock and Dairy Development Department. “I have no knowledge about such an activity going on in Layyah,” he says.

Dairying and cattle rearing provide opportunities for income generation to farmers that are far more attractive than the earnings they get from major crops or orchards. As Hussain puts it, “An important part of our livelihood has been impacted [by the viral outbreak].” He stresses the need to adopt a proactive approach to control the disease.

Left with no option but to buy vaccines from private pharmacies, he says, he is still fortunate that he could get a dozen of his animals vaccinated. It cost him around Rs 5,000, which is an additional burden. He laments that the prices of sacrificial cows and bulls have come down this year “because of the fear factor and the mischievous tactics adopted by traders involved in the sale and purchase of cattle in cities like Karachi and Lahore.”

Getting a certificate for the vaccinated animals is another difficult task. This alone makes it difficult for dairy farmers to sell their animals, because the buyers want proof of vaccination. “If you don’t have the certificate, your animal will go for a measly amount,” he says.

Iftkhar Ali, a local veterinary field worker, sheds light on the adverse impact of LSD on the productivity of animals. He says that the production of milk as well as meat has been widely affected in the wake of the viral disease.

As for the animals, they suffer from high fever the disease brings. “Those severely ill can barely stand on their legs, or chew food properly,” Ali says. “In fact, they don’t feel like eating.”

Ali says that there is no anti-viral treatment available for LSD. He says he has to rely on treating the symptoms.

Mercifully, the LSD virus cannot enter the humans consuming the milk or meat of the infected animal.
— Photo by Rahat Dar

Getting a certificate for the vaccinated animals is another difficult task. This alone makes it difficult for dairy farmers to sell their animals, because the buyers want proof of vaccination. “If you don’t have the certificate, your animal will go for a measly amount,” he says.

Prevention is also important. In order to protect the cattle from being attacked by blood-sucking infected vectors like ticks and flies, sprays must be conducted at the farms. Mubashar Naeem, a progressive dairy farmer, says the owners want to protect their animals but they have few options. “The focus of the related government departments is towards regulating the transportation of animals as Eid is round the corner,” he adds. “Drastic measures with respect to mass vaccination of animals are the need of the hour, in order to save the livestock that contribute significantly to agriculture sector.”

Muhammad Aamir, a trader involved in dairy business, says the LSD is “a serious challenge” for the farmers. “We are at a juncture where the disease could spread rapidly as huge numbers of animals are being transported from one place to another all over the country ahead of the Eid,” he says. “In such a situation, strong measures must be taken to restrict the movement of the infected animals.”


alking to TNS, Dr Abdul Rehman, Director General Research, Livestock & Dairy Department, Punjab, admits the prevalence of disease in all districts of province. “Its occurrence has been reported more in the south Punjab. The number of animals infected in central and northern parts of the province has been relatively low.

“Since the first animal tested positive, in March this year, we have had 10,400 clinically proven cases,” he says, quickly adding that this is “just 0.07 percent of the cattle population in the province.

“As per verified data available electronically, 54 deaths from the disease have been reported. This indicates a 0.5 percent mortality rate. This is an encouraging sign, as our animals, especially the local breeds, have shown great immunity against the disease.”

Dr Rehman claims that the department is focusing on controlling and preventing the LSD, by relying on movement control, vaccination, targetting vectors and disease management strategies. As of now, 1,900 hotspots have been identified in the province where vaccination of animals is aggressively being done.

According to him, the amount of effort being made by the department to increase the capacity of vaccine production is commendable. “We hope to be able to achieve mass vaccination of animals soon.” For now, he emphasises curbing the spread of the disease by means of extensive sprays at farms and vehicles used to transport animals.

Dr Rehman, who is also the spokesperson of the department, maintains that the animals infected with the LSD virus generally recover in a couple of weeks. It may, hence, result in financial losses due to decreased production of milk and meat and poor quality of hides.

“We are producing the LSD vaccine locally. We have labs working in line with the recommendations given by the Animal Husbandry Commissioner. We are poised to effectively guard against the spread [of the disease]. We have so far administered over 1.53 million vaccine doses to the animals. One of the main pillars of our campaign against the LSD is to report each and every infected animal in the province. With our digital initiative, we have been able to identify the hotspots of infected animals and take preventive steps accordingly.”

Dr Rehman says the LSD virus cannot affect humans consuming the milk or meat of the infected animals.

The writer is a senior reporter at The News

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