Villagers count losses as cattle die

Some villagers in Jotsholo, Matabeleland North, lost six cattle, a mix of steers and heifers reportedly due to heartwater disease on Monday.

The villagers have no clue how the livestock contracted the disease.

Heartwater is an infectious, noncontagious, tick-borne disease of domestic and wild ruminants, including cattle, sheep, goats, antelope and buffalo.

The disease is caused by an intracellular rickettsial parasite, Cowdria ruminantium and is transmitted by a number of species of ticks in the genus Amblyomma.

Initially, the villagers thought the cattle had died after drinking contaminated residual water spilt from Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) premises, as the animals were found next to the estate

In an interview with CITE, one of the affected villagers who lost two beasts, Linos Luphahla, could not conclusively say what had caused their death, as they were still trying to find out.

“The cattle were found dead next to ARDA offices and we don’t really know what happened,” he said.

Luphahla pointed out that the cattle could not have gone inside the ARDA estate as it was fenced but it was puzzling for the animals to die next to the estate offices.

“What puzzles us is that the cattle which died were of the same size and included both steers and heifers. ARDA workers are the ones who told villagers about the incident. A veterinarian was called and said the cause of death was some blood disease,” he said, noting this was the first time for such an incident to happen.

Luphahla said the veterinarian advised the villagers to vaccinate the other remaining livestock.

Another villager, Bruce Khumalo who lost a pregnant heifer noted the veterinarian ruled the cause of death as heartwater disease in the cattle.

“We were confused when we saw the dead cattle and the cause of death is equally worrying as we do not know about this disease,” he said.

“At first, we thought the cattle had drunk contaminated water next to the ARDA estate as the spot where the animals were found is next to where ARDA workers wash their vehicles. We assumed our livestock had drunk some of that water but we were told its heartwater disease, which we don’t know much about.”

Khumalo said since they had less information about heartwater disease they did not know how to protect their remaining livestock.

“We don’t even know what that is or how to treat other cattle that may be infected,” he remarked.

Research shows that heart water treatment for cattle is done with an antibiotic containing oxytetracycline.

If an outbreak occurs, isolated infected animals must be treated with Terralon LA and supportive treatments must be administered to aid in the recovery process.

Reached for comment, ARDA Chief Executive Officer, Tinotenda Mhiko firmly ruled out the estate’s operation as the probable cause for the cattle death.

“I don’t know anything about this. ARDA Jotsholo is fenced and run by a partner known as Brent Le Roux. This is my first-time hearing about it. I don’t think villagers have access to that farm because it is secured and there is an electric fence,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean that when cattle die next to ARDA, ARDA must be involved. Cows can be sick and die. It doesn’t make sense to create a story that they died next to the estate, so ARDA is involved. It’s not scientific, cows as humans can die anywhere.”

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