Over 70 cows die from Foot and Mouth Disease in Nwoya

A veterinarian examines a cow's hoof if it is infected with Foot and Mouth Disease in Nwoya District.

Close to 75 cows have so far died from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) that broke out on 18 last month at Funu Pa Min Owot Society Grazing Land in Agung and Patira West Villages, Anaka and Purongo Sub-counties respectively in Nwoya District.

A total of 1,636 cows are grazed on that land housing 10 kraals.

The source of the disease remains unclear with some herders saying it is from a wild animal from Murchison Falls National Park while others say it was from a diseased cow that was ferried to the district.

Dr Isaac Mayende, the Purongo Town Council Veterinary Officer, says some cattle farmers in the area say they saw a wild animal limp in a certain kraal before it died; suspecting that it could have died from FMD.

“As a sub-county, we made all the quick responses to confirm the condition since it is a disease that can also infect wildlife from the national park. We interfaced with our colleagues from the national park but said they normally do animal surveillance regularly and have never encountered such a case. So, we suspect the diseased animal could have been ferried from the district where the disease is. For now, we are still doing a lot more research to trace the real source of the problem before we can conclude,” Dr Mayende says.

The veterinarian says once it is not contained in the area where it is detected, FMD is so contagious a disease that it can spread to the whole district within a month.

“What is important is that to get rid of the disease, animal movement from the affected areas has to be restricted since the disease can spread through animal products and that’s why we have imposed a quarantine in the affected area. The disease can spread when animals come in contact with the diseased ones while feeding like contact with saliva, dung and meat,” Dr Mayende continued.

A ban on the movement of animals has been imposed in areas of Patira and Todora parishes in Purongo and Anaka sub-counties respectively.

However, the veterinarian says the concerned authorities are sensitising farmers about how to use local remedies like salt among others in the treatment of the wounds in the animals’ feet.

Michael Owiny, the chairman Funu Pa Min Owot Society Grazing Land says he lost 27 cows to FMD last month – a number reflecting over Shs20m. He laments that it is a big financial blow from which he cannot recover soon.

“The cattle I lost to Foot and Mouth Disease is worth over Shs20m given that a cow goes for between Shs700,000 to Shs900,000. The amount of milk I used to get has also reduced by half from 40 litres to just 20 litres a day and we are now using it for home consumption only,” says Mr Owiny. 

The farmers have been selling their animal products to other places like Olwiyo, Anaka town council and Gulu city. But because of the quarantine due to the disease outbreak, this is now impossible.

The chairman fears that the outbreak might force the locals back to the life threatening poaching vice in Murchison Falls National Park as an alternative source of meat since many cows have died.

“For a while, the locals in the area had forgotten about game meat since they had invested heavily in raising domestic animals mostly cattle,” he says.

Mr Owiny urges the government to intervene immediately by providing farmers with drugs to treat their animals as they equally continue to be taught about the early signs and symptoms that a cow infected with FMD presents.

“Being our first experience in facing the Foot and Mouth Disease, none of us knew the signs and symptoms for early detection. If we knew how to detect the signs of the disease, it wouldn’t have escalated up this far before we called an expert”.

However, the Patira West village chairman, Jackson Kinyera, blames a section of cattle farmers for not adhering to the quarantine imposed on the sales of animal products attributing it to the increasing cases of FMD in the area.

“Often times I find people taking animal products for sale to other areas and I have arrested quite a number of them. But how about when I am not there?” he asked. “This is the time that I request all stakeholders and farmers themselves to cooperate if at all we are to fight this deadly disease.” Mr Kinyera continued.

The disease has also been reported in Got Okwara village, Lungulu sub-county in Nwoya district where some Banyankole cattle farmers took their animals for fattening, according to Boniface Otim, the Alero Sub-county veterinary officer.

“We got reports of the presence of FMD in the area. But when I went to follow up, the owners of the animals dodged me for reasons best known to them and I could not get any clear evidence,” says Mr Otim.

“In fact, initially they refused to even speak in English pretending that they only knew Runyankole, though they later turned to English after one of them knew me,” Mr Otim explained.

He says the disease was confirmed in the area on Sunday.

The Nwoya County Member of Parliament, Tony Awany, on Sunday donated 60 bottles of Avitryl drug to Funu Pa Min Owot Society Grazing Land group.

Lobbied through Enoch Nyongore, the Nakaseke Member of Parliament, the drug was handed over to the famers to help for the start as they push for the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries intervention.

“For the meantime, 60 bottles of Avitryl drug can be used to treat up to 150 head of cattle. But I am already in contact with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries for urgent intervention – which is also promising,” says Mr Awany.

Audio: Awany on FMD (Luo)


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