There are several challenges that livestock farmers face. One of them is keeping their livestock animals safe from any of the animal diseases. One would agree that the veterinary medicine of today is significantly different from some five decades ago. Also, there is a great improvement in the ability to treat animal diseases or ailments. Drugs such as antibiotics have made prevention and/or treatment of livestock diseases easy.
To understand and manage animal health or to treat animal diseases, it is important for you as a farmer to understand what livestock diseases are. You should know the etiology (cause) of a disease. A particular ailment can affect the one or some parts of an animal or even the whole body. You should also know pathology (causes and effects) and prognosis (possible outcome) of a disease. For any livestock farmer, all of these factors become important in how the disease process is treated or managed.
Causes of Animal Diseases
Animal diseases can be categorized into several causes. They are:
- Immune disorders
A common cause of disease in livestock is infections, and we have many types of infectious organisms.
- Arthropods (insects)
- Helminths (worms)
Majority of us think that viruses and bacteria are the only causes of infections while there are, in fact, many organisms that can cause infections. The definition of Infection says it all. “An infection is an attack of the body by disease-causing or pathogenic microorganism(s).”
How Animals Fight an Infection
There are several ways through which an animal fights or challenge an infection. Firstly, the animal’s skin is the first line of defense against infection. The skin is one of the physical barriers we have to infections. It prevents many organisms from accessing or gaining entry into our body systems. This is the reason why scrapes and cuts on our skin increase the risk of us having infections as microorganisms could easily get into our body system via this route.
The ability for an animal (likewise human beings) to sneeze, cough, etc., is another defense mechanism against infections or diseases. Through coughing and sneezing, we are able to expel some of these pathogenic organisms.
The ciliary action within the throat, the acidity in the stomach, and the peristaltic movements in the gut also helps human beings and animals control microbes.
While the defense mechanisms mentioned are not enough for the body to fight microorganisms, the body usually produces antibodies to fight whenever the body system is invaded or under attack. The lymphocytes of the white blood cells precisely produce these antibodies to fight microbes or other harmful invaders. Immediately the body detects or finds an invader(s) (foreign body such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.) within the body system, it will start to produce antibodies to fight such. Although this process could take some days before adequate antibodies are produced to eliminate the threat or invasion.
Active and Passive Immunity
The body immune system is so wonderful in the sense that once an invader has been eliminated, it is capable of remembering the attacking or invading organism and incidents will result in quicker antibiotic response. This is what we call active immunity. In other words, active immunity is the immunity developed after exposure to a disease. Vaccination is also a form of active immunity, but the difference is that the artificial contact of the body with the disease through vaccination triggers the body immune response.
Passive immunity is the kind of immunity passed from the parent to the offspring. That is, it is inherited by an animal from his or her mother. The colostrum which is the first milk secreted shortly after birth contains antibodies. When the newborn sucks this milk, the young animal will acquire some antibodies to fight off infections or diseases until the animal’s immune system is mature enough to produce its own antibodies. This is why it is important for newborn animals to drink the colostrum.
The Function of Antibiotics
Antibiotics are the most used drugs on any livestock farm. They are defined as a substance that can destroy or impede the growth of bacteria and some other microbes. It is important to inform you that antibiotics cannot kill or destroy viruses. So don’t make the mistake of using antibiotics to treat viral diseases.
The ability of livestock farmers to keep their livestock animals healthy and productive is important. Keeping livestock animals healthy is not that easy and serious livestock farmers have to develop an effective livestock health management plan.