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Assessing Animal Disease Prevalence and Mortality in Smallholder Dairy Farms under Contrasting Management Practices and Stressful Environments in Tanzania

DOI: 10.4236/ojvm.2022.1211011, PP. 117-134

Keywords: Dairy Cattle, Disease Infections, Case-Fatality Rate, Animal Mortality Density, Positive Deviants, Tropics

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Abstract:

In dairy farming, deploying effective animal husbandry practices minimise disease infections and animal mortality. This improves animal health and welfare status, which is important in tropical smallholder dairy farming, where animals are persistently exposed to multiple environmental stresses. The hypothesis of this study was that animals managed in positive deviants and typical farms suffer different levels of disease infections and mortality, whether under low- or high-stress environments. The study adopted a two-factor nested design with farms contrasting in the level of animal husbandry (positive deviants and typical farms) nested within environments contrasting in the level of environmental stresses (low- and high-stress). A total of 1,999 animals were observed over 42 month period in the coastal lowlands and highlands of Tanzania. The disease prevalence was lower (p < 0.05) in positive deviant farms than in typical farms under low-stress (10.13 vs. 33.61 per 100 animal-years at risk) and high-stress (9.56 vs. 57.30 per 100 animal-years at risk). Cumulative disease incidence rate was also lower (p < 0.05) in positive deviant farms than in typical farms under low-stress (2.74% vs. 8.44%) and high-stress (2.58% vs. 14.34%). The probability of death for a disease infected dairy cattle was relatively lower in positive deviant farms compared to typical farms under low-stress (0.57% vs. 8.33%) and high-stress (0.60% vs. 6.99%). Per 100 animal-years at risk, the mortality density of cattle was lower (p < 0.05) in positive deviant farms compared to typical farms, 15.10 lower in low-stress and 2.60 lower in high-stress. These results show that compared to typical farms, positive deviant farms consistently attained (p < 0.05) lower animal disease infections and subsequent deaths, regardless of the level of environmental stress that the animals were exposed to. This implies that positive deviant farms deployed animal husbandry practices that more effectively minimised animal disease infections and deaths and therefore could maintain their animals in better health and welfare status.

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