Mrs Diriba and her family live in a small village in the Horro woreda, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Like many other highland sheep farmers, they worry a lot about the poor growth, particularly about losing animals to infectious diseases. Poor reproductive performance and high lamb mortality are huge problems for sheep farmers.
Reducing the prevalence of diseases would greatly improve their lives. Enough to encourage Mrs Diriba and her daughter to walk their sheep to a meeting point where they would be met by researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Herd Health team, the Bako Agricultural Research Center, and a University of Addis Ababa MSc student funded by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
After waiting for the researchers to take blood samples from two rams and two ewes, Mrs Diriba patiently answered questions on a range of issues, including animal husbandry, feeding, clinical signs in animals, and health problems of family members.
To understand which pathogens affect productivity, particularly reproduction, and to determine how common these are in sheep, the researchers have collected serum samples from sheep from 120 households in three districts in Ethiopia, Horro, Bonga and Menz. Approximately half of these households have been participating in community-based breeding programs managed by ICARDA/ILRI in the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program.
Clinical assessments undertaken during sample collections showed high prevalence of respiratory diseases and diarrhea in young animals, including acute cases typical of Pasteurellosis, and severe cases of liver fluke. The collected samples are now being tested for a range of pathogens. As farmers regularly handle breeding animals, the laboratory analysis also includes testing for a range of zoonotic diseases such as brucellosis, toxoplasmosis and chlamydia.
The findings of this study will help develop a health program for breeding animals and target future interventions in sites of Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program in Ethiopia. This will help ensure the sheep and goats of famers like Mrs Diriba are in better health in the future and contribute to better lives through livestock.
Post by Barbara Wieland with Mourad Rekik, Barbara Rischkowsky, Aynalem Haile, Azeb Gebretensay
The activity was funded through the Livestock and Fish CRP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded SmaRT Ethiopia Project – Improving the Performance of Pro-Poor Sheep and Goat Value Chains for Enhanced Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Ethiopia.