Agricultural byproducts comprise main feed source for livestock production in south Asia. Due to unprecedented rainfall, paddy harvesting was severely affected during mid November last year. The paddy plants were thoroughly wet and straw from such plant were used by farmers. As a result Degnala disease, as reported by British animal health technician Sarlow in 1930 was seen in buffaloes in various parts of country. Now the question is will other species of animal remain safe from feeding of such moldy straw? The cause of degnala disease in buffalo is found to be fungus and 78% of animal feed is found to be contaminated with fungus worldwide. So, how can we say animal consuming such feed will remain healthy? Still we have preconceived idea about cause of animal disease as only bacteria, virus, parasites etc and we are using our limited resources against them without much success. This is what happened against degnala this year.
Effect of moldy straw in lactating cattle
This year Degnala outbreak in buffaloes was reported from Jhapa, siraha, saptari, Chitwan, lamjung, nuwakot, gorkha, dhading and banke dirstrics of Nepal and the underlying cause is suspected to be fungus. Feeding of damp rice straw, which was thoroughly soaked due to unprecedented rain corroborates above suspicion. Similarly, the cattle species sharing common shed and feeding similar ration as buffaloes are also in danger. The lesions and symptom in cattle will not be as profound as in buffaloes but progressive emaciation is one obvious symptom.
Sign and symptoms in cattle species
Staggering gait, trembling during walking
Profuse salivation and nasal secretion
Showing signs similar to vomiting though ruminants do not vomit
Red rashes throughout body surface
Loss of appetite and sometimes diarrhea and bloat may been seen
Abrupt decrease in milk production, difficulty in respiration
Infertility and sudden increase in abortion rate in herd
Trend of treatment and drug use
After interaction with livestock farmers this columnist found that farmers are unnecessarily spending on animal treatment without much return and animal health technicians working on fields are facing strong challenges. The above mentioned signs and symptoms were misinterpreted as FMD, Black Quarter, HS, skin diseases, parasitic problem and drugs were prescribed. This unnecessary use of drugs is just an exploitation of limited resources. Moreover prescription of drugs without actual diagnosis is violation of veterinary medicine ethics. Therefore it is better not to prescribe medicines in the name of above mentioned diseases for those farmers who have no other choice except to feed moldy straw.
What should have been done..
Suggest not to feed damp and moldy straw, but there is no alternative
If there is no choice ,feed the straw after proper drying and treating straw with 1% sodium hydroxide
Feed half quantity of straw than usual quantity. It is always better to give green grasses and tree fodder as supplement
Give high quality mineral mixture
Use appropriate concentration of lactoline powder or if available use penta-sulphate. Use Anti degnala liquid in herd for 7-10 days.
Let´s hope winter rain won´t come next year.
Properly dry the straw before storage.
We can´t wait until symptoms to appear, in winter lean period give above mentioned drugs along with straw. If symptoms appear, report as soon as possible.
After assessing the present situation, we have to say that adequate research and investigation and training of farmers and technicians is a must.