In March 2017, we traveled with HIT to Dalit villages near Kachhwa, Uttar Pradesh, set up a veterinary clinic, and collected information on the health and production of their livestock. Our physical examinations showed that approximately 80% of all calves and kids (baby cows, buffalo, and goats) were severely underweight, malnourished, with long, rough hair coats characteristic of a significant intestinal worm burden. Additionally, about 25% of adult livestock also exhibited the same signs characteristic of high loads of debilitating intestinal worm burdens.
Our research from several years prior in east India support these observational conclusions. Mere Saathi tested the feces of adult cows in villages outside of Kolkata, India and found that there were high burdens of intestinal parasites, most prevalent being Haemonchus, Ostertagia, and Trichostrongylus, similar to what is seen in the U.S. when there is improper or absent parasite control.
In the Dalit villages of India, intestinal parasites are the most significant threat that adolescent livestock face. Adolescents are more susceptible to infection and often harbor such large worm burdens that the animal is unable to gain weight or properly grow and makes them more susceptible to diseases. If severe, the intestinal worms can be in and of themselves fatal to these adolescents. If they do survive to adulthood, it permanently stunts their growth and future production potential which has lasting economic consequences.
Intestinal parasites also affect adult livestock. Even in low numbers, parasites rob the animal of a portion of the nutrition that they are being fed. In the Dalit villages where nutritious feed is scarce and expensive, this reduction in feed availability to the animal can have devastating consequences. Poor nutrition is by far the most significant challenge facing dairy livestock farmers in Dalit villages of India. Poor nutrition leads to reduced milk production, poor fertility, and increased susceptibility to diseases.
Even in adult livestock, in large numbers, the parasites can also cause acute disease such as anemia, diarrhea, and death.
Poor nutrition, disease, infertility, and death caused by intestinal parasites can be easily prevented with proper deworming medication.
In 2018, Mere Saathi will travel again with HIT to Uttar Pradesh to provide parasite control, and train the Community Outreach Team from KCH to administer the parasite control and teach the village women proper parasite control techniques.
After researching the various formulations available, we decided on one that is efficacious against the most prevalent internal parasites as well as external parasites (see blog on external parasites). It is safe for calves and pregnant cows and has no milk withhold time (meaning it can be given to lactating cows and the milk can be consumed with no problem), making it the ideal medication for our work.
The medication is an easily applied topical that must be applied to dry hide. After it is allowed to set for 12 hours, it is water-proof and rainfast. For adequate control of most parasites, we recommend treatment twice a year; just before and just after the rainy season.
It will be best if the majority of the cows and buffalo in a village are treated at one time, in order to reduce recurrent transmission and re-infection between cows. This is Mere Saathi's plan for our 2018 trip.
On this initial trip our goal is to provide comprehensive parasite control to 300 animals.