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Vet on call: Dos, don'ts when transporting cows.

figure By DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA Whenever I go scouting for dairy animals to buy with farmers, I rarely accompany them to their destination once I confirm they are healthy and fit to travel.In cases where the number of animals being transported is large or precious, I assign a veterinary para-professional, also called a paravet, and ask him to inform me in case of difficulties.

Now, before you transport animals by road, there are a number of things you must review. I am motivated to write on this subject following an incident I had three weeks ago.

My client almost lost a valuable dairy cow on transit.I had accompanied Njuguna and his farm manager Njeru to examine dairy cows the two had identified in Githunguri.

The farmer wished to raise the stock on his farm in Ruai. I found the animals were good Friesians, in good health and production.

I recommended them for purchase.Since the cows had a total weight of about 900kg, I advised they be transported in a one-tonne pick-up truck.

The farm owner said she knew a number of experienced transporters in the area who could move the animals. Two of them, she offered, had transported four cows she had sold to Mombasa.

I organised for the movement permit for the cattle with the sub-county veterinary office and agreed Njeru would pick the cows the following day after the seller confirmed receipt of payment.I explained to Njeru the things he would consider when choosing the transport vehicle.

First, Njeru was to confirm the identity of the driver and that he had a valid driving licence. I once had to send a driver to rescue cattle that were being transported by a driver without a licence.

Njeru was to also interview the driver to confirm his cattle transport experience.Second, the vehicle had to be well-maintained to avoid breaking down on the way.

It would have to be at least designed to carry a minimum of 1,000kg to match the cows 900kg. The tyres needed to have good treads to avoid delays on the road caused by police inspection.

Vehicles with worn out tyres may also skid during breaking and cause injuries to the cows or accidents with other vehicles.The third thing is that Njeru needed to inspect the truck carrier bed to ensure that the floor was solid and could withstand the hoof pressure and weight of the cows.

ALERT DRIVER IN CASE OF ANY INCIDENTThe best way of affirming this is to prod the truck bed with a metal rod fitted with a wooden tip to avoid denting the floor. The inspector should also visually check the truck bed underside for rusting.

The truck bed floor should, after inspection, be covered with saw dust, wood shavings, sand or straw to provide good grip for the hooves and prevent animals from skidding. The material also cushions the animals when they lie down and keeps the floor dry by soaking urine.

Four, the truck should have high side bars to prevent the cows from jumping over. There should be a fixture at the front of the truck bed to secure the animals.

The animals should be secured with the head slightly above their shoulders for comfort and balance during movement.The tether should be long enough to allow the animals to lie down but short enough to prevent them from turning around.

Finally, the trucks tailgate should have a self-retaining locking mechanism that cannot release if pushed by the animals.The tailgate should be high enough such that if the animals get untethered accidentally, they cannot jump off.

One cardinal rule of transporting cattle is that they must be tightly fitted in the truck to be comfortable but not to have a lot of space to freely move around. This ensures the animals only concentrate on staying stable and avoid actions such as jumping and fighting.

If the number of animals is large, then there should be an animal attendant in a compartment in the truck carrier to keep watch over the cows and alert the driver to stop in case of any serious incident.The following day, Njeru called to report that they had had an accident with one of the cows at Kwa Maiko on the way to Ruiru.

The floor had a weak point which had not been detected during inspection and the cow had pushed its right hind leg right through. FRACTURES CAN MEAN AMPUTATIONSI advised Njeru to quickly look for a veterinary doctor in the town so that he could assist in rescuing the cow and stopping the bleeding.

Dr Wambugu, who practices from the town, called about half an hour later to say they had released the leg from the metal by expanding the hole on the truck bed using craw bars. The cow had a big cut on the rear leg starting about 10cm above the coronary junction.

The coronary junction is the line that marks the separation of the hoof and the skin of the leg. Though it was profusely bleeding, the cut did not involve any of the joints of major blood vessels.

He also did not detect any fracture. That was music to my ears because joint involvement and fractures can mean amputation of the leg, a very long time to healing or disposal of the cow.

I agreed with Dr Wambugu that he would stop the bleeding, give antibiotics and painkillers as well as tetanus vaccine. He would also apply wound spray on the cut.

I visited the farm the following day and found the wound could not be stitched. I trimmed the flap of tissue peeled down to the heel of the foot because it was already drying and decided to treat the injury as an open wound.

The foot area is tricky for surgery because it has very little muscle and tight skin. There are also a lot of tendons that have poor healing capacity.

I advised Njeru how to clean the wound using iodine solution and hydrogen peroxide. The cows movement would be restricted in a sick pen to avoid further injury and contamination of the wound.

Injuries in the foot area take long to heal because of opening and folding of joints coupled with contamination from the soil.The wound on Njugunas cow is still healing.

It may take take three weeks before completely healing. Related Stories
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Publication:Daily Nation, Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Jul 27, 2018
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