Home ECONOMY Top 8 cattle diseases in Kenya: Causes, symptoms and prevention

Top 8 cattle diseases in Kenya: Causes, symptoms and prevention

by biasharadigest

Cattle diseases in Kenya are a big block in the success of any dairy farm. While dairy farming is one of the best lucrative agribusiness venture in Kenya today, many disease and pest hazards have still kept several dairy farmers from achieving their goals

1. Cattle diseases in Kenya: Anthrax

Anthrax, a highly infectious and fatal disease of cattle, is caused by a relatively large spore-forming rectangular shaped bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax occurs on all the continents, causes acute mortality in ruminants. The bacteria produce extremely potent toxins which are responsible for the ill effects, causing a high mortality rate.

The 4,000 acre farm in Nakuru where Uhuru keeps 1,000 animals

The bacteria produce spores on contact with oxygen. Signs of the illness usually appear 3 to 7 days after the spores are swallowed or inhaled. Once signs begin in animals, they usually die within two days. Hoofed animals, such as deer, cattle, goats, and sheep, are the main animals affected by this disease. They usually get the disease by swallowing anthrax spores while grazing on pasture contaminated (made impure) with anthrax spores. Inhaling (breathing in) the spores, which are odorless, colorless, and tasteless, may also cause infection in animals and people. In the case of terrorism, large numbers of anthrax spores may be released into the air.

Causal Organism: It is a bacterial disease caused  by Bacillus anthracis


  • Sudden death (often within 2 or 3 hours of being apparently normal) is by far the most common sign;
  • Very occasionally some animals may show trembling, a high temperature
  • Difficulty breathing, collapse and convulsions before death. This usually occurs over a period of 24 hours;
  • After death blood may not clot, resulting in a small amount of bloody discharge from the nose, mouth and other openings

Treatment and control

  • Due to the acute nature of the disease resulting in sudden death, treatment is usually not possible in animals even though anthrax bacilli are clines. Treatment is of use in cases showing sub-acute form of the disease.
  • In most cases, early treatment can cure anthrax. The cutaneous (skin) form of anthrax can be treated with common antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin, and ciprofloxacin (Cipro).

2. Cattle diseases in Kenya: Black Quarter (Black – leg)

It is an acute infectious and highly fatal, bacterial disease of cattle. Buffaloes, sheep and goats are also affected. Young cattle between 6-24 months of age, in good body condition are mostly affected. It is soil-borne infection which generally occurs during rainy season. In India, the disease is sporadic (1-2 animal) in nature.

Causal Organism: It is a bacterial disease caused by Clostridium chauvoei


1.      Fever (106-10S°F), Loss of appetite, Depression and dullness
2.      Suspended rumination
3.      Rapid pulse and heart rates
5.      Difficult breathing (dyspnoea)
6.      Lameness in affected leg
7.      Crepitation swelling over hip, back & shoulder.
8.      Swelling is hot & painful in early stages whereas cold and painless inter.
9.      Recumbency (prostration) followed by death within 12-48 hrs.


1.      Penicillin @ 10,000 units /Kg body weight 1M & locally daily for 5-6 days.
2.       Oxytetracycline in high doses i.e. 5-10 mg/Kg body weight 1M or IV
3.       Indcse the swelling and drain off
4.       B.Q. antiserum in large does, if available.
5       Injection. Avil / Cadistin @ 5-10 ml IM

3. Cattle diseases in Kenya: Foot-and-mouth disease

The foot-and-mouth disease is a highly communicable disease affecting cloven-footed animals. It is characterized by fever, formation of vesicles and blisters in the mouth, udder, teats and on the skin between the toes and above the hoofs. Animals recovered from the disease present a characteristically rough coat and deformation of the hoof. In India, the disease is widespread and assumes a position of importance in livestock industry. The disease spreads by direct contact or indirectly through infected water, manure, hay and pastures. It is also conveyed by cattle attendants. It is known to spread through recovered animals, field rats, porcupines and birds.
Foot-mouth disease in cattles


  • Fever with 104-1050 F
  • Profuse salivation ropes of stringy saliva hangs from mouth
  • Vesicles appear in mouth and in the inter digital space
  • Lameness observed
  • Cross bred cattle are highly susceptible to it


  • The external application of antiseptics contributes to the healing of the ulcers and wards off attacks by flies.
  • A common and inexpensive dressing for the lesions in the feet is a mixture of coal-tar and copper sulphate in the proportion of 5:1.


  • Heavy milch animals and exotic breeds of cattle bred for milk should be protected regularly.
  • It is advisable to carry out two vaccinations at an interval of six months followed by an annual vaccination programme.
  • Isolation and segregation of sick animals. It should be informed immediately to the veterinary doctor
  • Disinfection of animal sheds with bleaching powder or phenol
  • Attendants and equipments for sick animals should be ideally separate
  • The equipments should be thoroughly sanitized
  • Proper disposal of left over feed by the animal
  • Proper disposal of carcasses
  • Control of flies

4. Rinder pest:

Rinderpest is the most destructive of the virus diseases of cloven-footed animals, such as cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs and wild ruminants. Its control was a major issue till recently all over the world. Organised efforts over half a century have brought about a total eradication of the disease in the Western Hemisphere. The disease still persists in the Asian countries. The virus is found notable in the saliva, discharge from eyes and nostrils, and in the urine and faeces. It is present in the circulating blood during the febrile stage and is later concentrated in different organs, especially in the spleen, lymph nodes and liver. Outside the animal body, the virus is rapidly destroyed by direct sunlight and disinfectants. Cold preserves the virus. The virus is usually spread by contaminated feed and water. Rise in temperature up to 104 – 107 0 F. Lacrimation and redness of eye. Foul odour from mouth. Discrete necrotic foci develop in the buccal mucosa, inside lip, and on the tongue. Bloody mucoid diarrhoea is noticed


  • Symptomatic treatment with penicillin, streptomycin, sulphadimidine and intestinal antiseptics has no action on the virus, but may help in the recovery of less severe cases of rinderpest, as these control secondary complications caused by bacteria.

5.  Mastitis:

Mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary gland, is the most common and the most expensive disease of dairy cattle throughout most of the world. Although stress and physical injuries may cause inflammation of the gland, infection by invading bacteria or other microorganisms (fungi, yeasts and possibly viruses) is the primary cause of mastitis. Infections begin when microorganisms penetrate the teat canal and multiply in the mammary gland. Mastitis Diseases in Cattle



  • Success depends on the nature of the aetiological agent involved, the severity of the disease and the extent of fibrosis.
  • Complete recovery with freedom from bacterial infection can be obtained in cases of recent infection and in those where fibrosis has taken place only to a small extent.
  • Such drugs as acriflavine, gramicidin and tyrothricin have now ceased to be in use, and have given place to the more effective drugs, such as sulphonamides, penicillin and streptomycin.

6.  Footrot:

Footrot is a common cause of lameness in cattle and occurs most frequently when cattle on pasture are forced to walk through mud to obtain water and feed. However, it may occur among cattle in paddocks as well, under apparently excellent conditions. Footrot is caused when a cut or scratch in the skin allows infection to penetrate between the claws or around the top of the hoof. Individual cases should be kept in a dry place and treated promptly with medication as directed by a veterinarian. If the disease becomes a herd problem a foot bath containing a 5% solution of copper sulphate placed where cattle are forced to walk though it once or twice a day will help to reduce the number of new infections. In addition, drain mud holes and cement areas around the water troughs where cattle are likely to pick up the infection. Keep pens and areas where cattle gather as clean as possible. Proper nutrition regarding protein, minerals and vitamins will maximize hoof health.

7. Ringworm:

This is the most common infectious skin disease affecting beef cattle. It is caused by a fungus, and is transmissible to man. Typically the disease appears as crusty grey patches usually in the region of the head and neck and particularly around the eyes.

As a first step in controlling the disease, it is recommended that, whenever possible, affected animals should be segregated and their pens or stalls cleaned and disinfected. Clean cattle which have been in contact with the disease should be watched closely for the appearance of lesions and treated promptly. Proper nutrition, particularly high levels of Vitamin A, copper and zinc while not a cure, will help to raise the resistance of the animal and in so doing offer some measure of control. Contact your vet and or feed store for products to treat this disease. Using a wormer like Ivomec will kill lice and help prevent cattle from scratching causing skin damage and a place for the fungus to enter.

8.  Cattle diseases in Kenya: Milk fever

  • Milk fever, also known as parturient hypocalcaemia and parturient paresis, is a disease which has assumed considerable importance with the development of heavy milking cows.
  • Decrease in the levels of ionized calcium in tissue fluids is basically the cause of the disease.
  • In all adult cows there is a fall in serum-calcium level with the onset of lactation at calving.
  • The disease usually occurs in 5 to 10 year old cows, and is chiefly caused by a sudden decrease in blood-calcium level, generally within 48 hours after calving.


  • In classical cases, hypocalcaemia is the cause of clinical symptoms. Hypophosphataemia and variations in the concentration of serum-magnesium may play some subsidiary role.
  • The clinical symptoms develop usually in one to three days after calving. They are characterized by loss of appetite, constipation and restlessness, but there is no rise in temperature.

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