Researchers, scholars and dairy industry stakeholders are meeting in Kigali to assess the threat of mastitis disease that affects cattle and quality of milk.
Speaking at the opening of three day meeting, on Tuesday, Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, the deputy director general in charge of animal resources at Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab), said the disease is still on small scale on dairy farms but there is need to design serious measures to curb its spread.
“Mastitis on dairy farms stands at 0.5 per cent nationwide. Although there is no data on losses caused by the disease, we need to set serious measures to prevent it from our herds,” said Dr Kanyandekwe.
He said since Rab started advocacy and training cattle farmers on how to prevent mastitis, the threat has singificantly reduced, especially in Gishwati, Nyanza and the Eastern Province.
“But we have to wipe it out. Since we are not able to vaccinate it, we are working with different researchers to make a well-restructured roadmap for the control and prevention of mastitis, which will be adopted by both public and private stakeholders for implementation,” Dr Kanyandekwe said.
Prof. James McWha, the vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, said researchers should help livestock farmers to benefit from what they do.
“We know that science is very important in life. I think these scientists gathered here should come up with a well structured roadmap to test mastitis in order to help in preventing it so that cattle breeders can profit from their work.”
Dr Dennis Karambizi, the deputy chief of party for Rwanda competitiveness programme, said the disease should be curbed to avoid affecting the quality value chain of milk.
“It is necessary for us to set serious measures to improve milk policy, including production, transportation and consumption. Once a roadmap of testing mastitis is designed, we will be assured of the standards of the milk, we will be sure that consumers are not offered infected milk,” he said.
Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue, and is a major endemic disease of dairy cattle.
It usually occurs as an immune response to bacterial invasion of the teat canal by variety of bacterial sources present on the farm, and also as a result of chemical, mechanical injury to the udder.
Milk-secreting tissues and various ducts throughout the udder can be damaged by bacterial toxins, and sometimes permanent damage to the udder occurs.
Severe acute cases can be fatal, but even in cows that recover there may be consequences for the rest of the lactation and subsequent lactations, according to vets.
The illness is in most respects a very complex disease, according to vets, affected by a variety of factors: it can be present in a herd subclinical, where few, if any, symptoms are present in most cows.
Milking hygiene, the culling of chronically-infected cows, good housing management and effective dairy cattle nutrition to promote good cow health are essential in helping to control mastitis levels.
Mastitis is most often transmitted by contact with the milking machine, and through contaminated hands or other materials.