Animal health is a crucial aspect of rearing animals. Together with nutrition, animal health directly affects profitability of any livestock enterprise. So what is animal health? How does it affect productivity of an enterprise? How do we maintain our animals’ health? How do we prevent ill-health (disease)?
I will try to grapple with these important questions. For a start, good health refers to a state of physical and psychological well-being. An animal in good health will grow fast and bring profit to its owner. It is productive: good milk yield, strong, regularly gives birth to strong young ones. So then, one may ask, what are the signs that an animal is in good health?
A healthy animal will have normal body posture. It will walk and move according to its species. It will have bright, clear, alert eyes. It is mobile and curious. Its fur is smooth and sleek, with elastic skin. It will vocalise and void faeces typical of its species. Its urine is various shades of straw-coloured, depending on diet. Upon handling, it will have physical parameters within the range of its species. e.g for cattle, temperature would be average of 38.5 degrees Celsius, a pulse rate 60-80 beats per minute and a respiration rate of 15-30 breath/minute.
However for a farmer, it is important to be able to assess the health of your animal without handling it. Handling should be confirming the illness, otherwise an observant farmer should be able to tell straight away when their animal is sick. A serious farmer makes it a habit to observe his animals early in the morning and late afternoon. Any anomaly should be investigated right away.
So, now many will want to know: how do we tell when an animal is ill? It should be fairly clear now. Any animal not exhibiting the attributes of a health animal explained above is ill. These signs could include rough “staring” coat, stiff skin, cloudy/weepy/dry/dull eyes. A sick animal is dull, depressed and uncurious. It may have discharges from its eyes, vagina or nose. Its urine may be discoloured and the consistence of faeces may be too dry (constipation) or too loose (diarrhoea). All these signs should alert a farmer to some underlying disease problem in his animals.