The Importance of a Cow

Tanzania Safari Who has attended the oral session "Cattle diseases in dairy herds in Tanzania” by Silvia Alonso, from the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, got maybe the testimony that taking a closer look at the livestock sector in Tanzania – but not only in Tanzania – can bring some evidence about its potential benefits and wide social impacts. And yet, over the years, cattle and ruminants suffered a loss of appeal in some parts of the world. Livestock is often seen as the cause of rising human infections, and through the release of methane of global warming and environment pollution. Eating too many animal products has a reputation of being unhealthy, as it may increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. When it comes to feeding the cows, pastures take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, tying it up in plant material above and below the ground – and again, this is not good, you might have been told. It follows that the general opinion agrees that livestock is a problem for the environment. It is interesting however, to see how it is considered to be a problem only in developed countries. In the developing world, livestock plays undoubtedly, a key role in the agricultural and rural economies. Not only do animals produce food directly, they also provide key inputs to crop agriculture and are the only readily available source of income: smallholder farmers use them to buy clothes and other food, to pay schools, weddings, hospitals. When fallow periods come up, then the cow succeeds. Fun fact: animals’ manure and urine the West considers as pollutant, are great fertilizers across the developing world. Especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, pastoralism supports about 20 million people, producing 80% of the annual milk supply and 90% of the meat consumption. Demand for animal protein is increasing due to population growth and a rising middle class. That’s why a cow is important over there: it means food, it means money, it means health for children. And it's when a cow gets sick, that the research done by Silvia Alonso and her colleagues from ILRI gets the spotlight. Addressing these concerns, their research in Morogoro and Tanga, Tanzania, tried to find out what exactly the causes of the diseases are. In fact, they often remain unknown and no diagnosis is conducted. «Preliminary results suggest discrepancies between laboratory results and farmer's perceptions on specific diseases. While for the East Coast Fever farmer's perception for the importance of the disease confirmed laboratory results, we found a discrepancy for brucellosis, a neglected zoonosis with the potential of causing chronic, long lasting diseases in humans», said Silvia. Data still reveal that less than one-third of all family-owned livestock is vaccinated and approximately 60% of all the animals are sick. What is good is that these diseases are mostly preventable. On the other hand, what is still needed is the ability to respond to the development urgencies of this sector and to latent good investment opportunities the country has. And the question is always the same: where can we find it?


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