Livestock farmers have appealed to the government to ensure that cows get timely vaccination in order to effectively control deadly epidemics in cattle.
The appeal comes after an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever – a deadly and infectious viral disease – killed 154 cows countrywide since May this year, according to figures from Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB).
Gahiga Gashumba, the Chairman of Rwanda National Dairy Farmers’ Federation, told The New Times that in their performance contracts, districts set themselves targets to inoculate cows, which leaves a gap in achieving effective vaccination.
Efforts to contain the recent outbreak of Rift Valley Fever included vaccinating 257,902 cows countrywide of which 119,520 were from Ngoma, Kirehe, and Kayonza – the hardest hit by the disease.
“All cows should be vaccinated at least in areas prone to given diseases,” Gashumba said adding, “We need a clear vaccination calendar detailing the cows that should be immunised in a given period of time.”
“When there are heavy rains, we should be prepared of [immunising cows against] East Coast fever,” he said. Also known as theileriosis, East Coast fever is a deadly tick-borne disease in cattle.
“Vaccination should not be done when there is an epidemic outbreak because such vaccination does not help much,” Gahiga said.
However, districts have expressed concern over budget constraints as well as limited access to vaccines as one of the challenges they face in developing effective vaccination programme.
Ngoma District vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development, Jean Marie Vianney Rwiririza, said that this year, they want many cows to get vaccines against different diseases, including Rift Valley Fever and foot-and-mouth disease.
“With using funds from the district’s budget alone, we cannot manage to give vaccines to all cows. We request farmers’ cooperatives and the farmers themselves to partake in the activity so that all the cows can be inoculated,” he told The New Times.
In Kirehe District, there are over 52,000 cows and over 30,000 of them were vaccinated against different diseases, including Rift Valley Fever in the 2017/2018 financial year, according to Jean Damascène Nsengiyumva, Kirehe District vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development.
“We have increased funding for the vaccination activity so that we inject all cows which we should vaccinate because we do not want the recurrence of such a problem,” he said referring to Rift Valley Fever.
Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said that they do not vaccinate all the cows because it can be wastage of resources or poor management when vaccination is done in areas where a disease has not been reported while it can be contained by vaccinating livestock in the risk zone.
Instead of spending money on vaccinating all cows, currently estimated at over a million countrywide, appropriate strategies are devised to control the spread of outbreaks, said RAB Director General Dr. Patrick Karangwa.
“We give more attention to diseases that spread fast than others. We do impact assessment based on spread pattern of a disease. If a disease can be transmitted through air, measures taken to prevent its spreading should be different from the disease that cows or people catch through contact,” Karangwa said.
He cited foot-and-mouth disease which often affects cattle on areas bordering Tanzania, such as Gatsibo, Kayonza and Nyagatare, observing that when the disease has been checked in those areas, it dose spread elsewhere, pointing out that if all cows in the country are vaccinated, all the funds used [for the development of the livestock] sector might be consumed by such a single activity.
Some vaccines are given free of charge, while others have to be paid for by farmers with government subsidy.