Monday, 09 November 2020 12:27

Calf Health Problems, Causes and Trends in the Semi-Arid Areas of Kenya and Technologies for Mitigation

Written by J.W. Kiragu*1, B. N. Mitaru2, S. M. Badamana2, L.W. Kabuage3
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J.W. Kiragu*1, B. N. Mitaru2, S. M. Badamana2, L.W. Kabuage3,E.D. Illatsia1 and T. O. K’ool1

1Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization,

Dairy Research Institute, P.O. Box 25 Naivasha, Kenya.

2University of Nairobi, P.O. Box 29053-00625 Nairobi, Kenya,

3Kenyata University Box 43844-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

*Corresponding Author:


The health and management of replacement animals are important components of total dairy herd production systems. The aim of this study was to identify the calf health constraints and possible farm management practices which could be associated with young stock losses in the Sahiwal and Friesian crossbred herds in the semi-arid areas of Kenya.  A total of 1742 dairy calves born between January, 2010 and December, 2018 from the Sahiwal and crossbred dairy herd were evaluated. The method of data collection involved regular farms visits, data collection on births, deaths and their causes from health records and post mortem reports. Other data included animal factors (calf sex, breed, and age and birth weight) and environmental factors (year and season of birth and deaths) with their disease causes. All data were analyzed using generalized linear model of statistic. The results showed that the overall mortality rate in live-born calves up to one year of age was 11.62%. Risk factors associated significantly (P<O.001) with mortality rate were calf sex, breed, age, birth weight and season of birth. The overall calf mortality rate was higher for male calves than for female calves (p<0.001). More calves died when young (< 3moths) than old (>3months) especially in the wet season. The most common diseases reported at the farm level were digestive tract diseases (27.6%), respiratory tract diseases (16.7%), and premature births (14.1% and malnutrition (11.4%) respectively. Tick-borne and helminthiasis were the least reported disease problems in this herd possibly due to the excellent parasitic disease control program practiced in this farm. Research technologies aimed at reducing mortality rate of Sahiwal and crossbred calves in this herd may include: good calf feeding and housing management, timely disease control and vaccination measures and growing drought resilient crops such as leguminous forages for supplementation during the dry season to minimize malnutrition and retarded growth.

Keywords: Semi-arid areas, calf health problems, technologies for mitigation                            

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