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Socio-economic and livestock disease survey of agro-pastoral communities in Serere County, Soroti District, Uganda

M Ocaido, C P Otim*, N M Okuna*, J Erume, C Ssekitto*, R Z O Wafula, D Kakaire*, J Walubengo* and J Monrad**

Department of Wildlife and Animal Resource Management, Faculty of veterinary Medicine, Makerere University,
P.O. Box 7062, Kampala, Uganda
* Livestock research Institute Tororo, P.O. Box 96 Tororo, Uganda
**Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Danish Centre for Experimental Parasitology, Department of Pathobiology,
Drylaegevej 100, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark


A survey was done to identify major constraints to livestock production, livestock diseases, parasites and vectors in Soroti district. A questionnaire was administered to 138 households. Blood and faecal samples were randomly taken from 400 heads of cattle for examination. Tsetse traps were set up for assessing tsetse fly infestation. The major livestock species kept were cattle, goats and chicken with mean number per household of 10.3±0.7, 6.5±0.3 and 10.8±0.9 respectively. Cattle contributed a major input in crop production in form of traction. The farmers lacked modern livestock production techniques and infrastructure. Only a few had spray pumps (24.6%), crushes (8.7%), drench guns (2.2%) and spray race (0.72%). No graded or exotic cattle were kept.

The major disease problems were East Coast Fever (ECF), anaplasmosis, tick-burdens, trypanososmosis, tsetse flies, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), CBPP and brucellosis. The major diseases of calves were ECF and helminthosis. Anaplasmosis was the main killer of adult cattle. On ELISA test, the prevalence of ECF antibodies was 63.4%. There were high tick counts (136±39 per cow) of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. High mean prevalence of trypanosome infection (14.8±2%) was found. All the three common trypanosomes: Trypanosoma vivax (6.8%), Trypanosoma brucei (4.3%) and Trypanosoma congolense (1.2%) were diagnosed. Cattle had a mean PCV of 26.8±0.54. Only one species of tsetse fly: Glossina fuscipes fuscipes was caught, with a mean catch per trap of 6.7±3.5. Other genera of biting flies caught were Haemotopota (3.8±1.1), Tabanus (2.4±0.8) Chrysops (0.9±0.5) and Stomoxys (10±1.9). Brucellosis was found prevalent (16%).

Keywords: agro-pastoral system, constraints to livestock production, Soroti district, tick-borne diseases, trypanosomosis, tsetse flies, Uganda


In pastoral and agro-pastoral farming systems, farmers keep cattle, goats and sheep under either tethering, open grazing or communal grazing. The pastoral and agro-pastoral (PAP) systems are important livestock producing areas and form the main source of milk and meat consumed in Uganda.

Diseases are one of the most important constraints to livestock productivity in PAP areas. Ticks and tick-borne diseases (TTBDs) and tsetse flies and trypanosomosis are the major disease problems of livestock in PAP areas in Uganda (Anonymous 1996). TTBDs of which East Coast Fever (ECF), anaplasmosis, babesiosis and cowdriosis are the most important, are widespread throughout Uganda and lack seasonality (Otim 2000). Tsetse flies infest about 41% of the entire landmass of Uganda and 70 % of livestock graze under risk of trypanosomosis (Ndyabahinduka 1993). Tick-borne diseases TBDs and trypanosomosis continue to impede livestock productivity in most parts of Uganda due to existence of suitable climate for ticks and inadequate control of both ticks and tsetse flies (Otim 2000).

It was postulated after a Participatory Rural Appraisal survey carried out in 2000 (Anonymous 2000) that there was high prevalence of TTBDs, trypanosomosis and tsetse flies in Eastern Uganda in Serere County, Soroti District and that there were no cheap sustainable technologies for controlling both TTBDs and tsetse flies. It was against the above background that this survey was carried out so that interventions can be made available for controlling these diseases. However, it was also found necessary to carry out a socio-economic survey to characterise the current livestock production systems because, ten years ago, this area had suffered heavy cattle depletion due to cattle raids and insurgency. Therefore farmers were undergoing cattle restocking exercises, hence the knowledge of the current status of the livestock production system was limited.

Materials and Methods

Study design

The study consisted of both socio-economic and disease baseline surveys.

Study area

The study was done in Serere county, Soroti district in the sub-counties of Kateeta and Olio. In each sub-county, two parishes were selected. In Kateeta sub-county studies were done in Kateeta and Kamusala parishes. Meanwhile in Olio sub-county, the studies were done in Osuguro and Okulonyo parishes.

Socio-economic survey

This was done with the aid of a detailed structured questionnaire. Two sub-counties, which according to extension workers were tsetse fly and TTBDs high-risk areas, were selected for the survey. From each sub-county, two parishes were selected and from which two villages were randomly selected. From each village, about 10-25 households were randomly selected for the survey. A total of 138 households were interviewed.

Disease survey

Four hundred heads of cattle were randomly sampled. In each parish 50 animals were ear tagged and sampled. The cattle were examined for ticks. Ticks were collected from one side of the body on each animal. Particular attention was paid to the pre-dilection sites for each of the common species. Blood and faecal samples were then collected from the jugular or coccygeal vein of all ear tagged cattle into non-heparinised vacutainers. Faecal samples were taken from one animal after the other.

The ticks were identified and counted. Samples of blood were immediately taken into heparinised capillary tubes and examined for trypanosomes by the buffy coat technique (BCT) as described by Murray et al (1979). The packed cell volume (PCV) for each animal was measured. Thin blood smears were made and examined for haemoparasites in the laboratory at magnification of 40 x 100 following Giemsa staining. Serum samples were separated from clotted blood and stored at -200 C until analysed by ELISA for antibodies against trypanosomes and Theileria parva. Sera were also analysed for antibodies against brucellosis by the Rose Bengal rapid agglutination test.

Flotation and sedimentation methods were performed on the faecal samples to detect nematode, cestode and trematode eggs and coccidia oocysts. A McMaster chamber was used to quantify helminth eggs and coccidia oocysts.

Tsetse traps were set up to assess tsetse infestation risk. Three different tsetse traps: biconical, pyramidal and monoscreen were used in the area. At each village 5 traps were deployed for 72 hours.

Data analysis

Data were analysed using the Excel 5.0 statistical package. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the data. Means with standard errors and percentages were calculated.


Household information

Average household size was 10.6±0.6 individuals. Most of the households surveyed (96.4%) were male-headed. The level of literacy was intermediate with about 62.9% of the household heads having attained education up to primary level and beyond. The majority (70.3%) of the households were peasants. The average household land size was 13.7±3 acres, with 44.6% being under crops. Land tenure was mainly private (66.7%) and only 26.8% under communal ownership. The major crops grown were cassava (89.1%), millet (56.8%), sorghum (39.9%) , potatoes (31.9%), maize (29.7%) and simsim (29%).

The households were relatively poor as indicated by household assets. The households owned basic assets like a bicycle, owned by 84.4% households, a radio by 84.4% and plough by 79%. Implements used for livestock keeping were lacking. Only 24.6% and 2.2% had spray pumps and drench guns, respectively. None owned a vehicle or a motorcycle. Modern farm structures were lacking, with only 8.7% of households having a crush and 0.72% having a spray race.

Most households (84.1%) spent their income on weeding, 78.3% on payment of medical bills, 77.3% on clothing and 66.6% on purchase of acaricides. About 62.3% of the households used their income for purchase of drugs and seeds, 60.9% on bush clearing and 49% on payment of school fees. Little income was used for purchase of commercial fertilisers (5.8%).

The decision maker on the expenditure of household income is as shown in Table 1.

Table. 1. Decision makers in different households on how to use household income

Decision maker

% of households





Husband and wife


Entire family




Livestock production

The major livestock species kept were cattle, goats and chicken with mean number per household of 10.3±0.7, 6.5±0.3 and10.8±0.9 respectively. Other livestock species kept were turkeys, ducks and sheep with the mean number of 2.1±0.3, 1.2 and 0.9 per household respectively.

Cattle management

The herd structure of cattle was as shown in Table 2. The cattle were mostly local Zebu breeds. A few Ankole-Sanga cattle were also kept.

Table 2. Herd structure of cattle in Serere County, Soroti District

Age category




Heifers 1-2 years


Heifers > 2 years




Adult cattle




The average experience in cattle management was 9 years, being higher in Kateeta parish, 9.5 years and lowest with Okulonyo parish, 7.8 years.

Most of the households (57.3%) acquired their cattle by purchasing from the local cattle auction markets. Eighteen percent of households acquired their cattle from dowry while 13% of the households acquired their cattle by selling their crops. Other households (4.4%) acquired their cattle through barter with goats, which were originally also obtained by battering with chicken. The proportion of households which acquired cattle through inheritance was negligible (0.7%).

The adult cattle were grazed both in individual and communal pieces of land. Cattle had free access to the neighbours' land to graze. Cattle were communally grazed (68.9%) or tethered (29.1%). Cut and carry method of feeding cattle was only practiced by 2.2% of the households. Animals were fed on crop residues mainly potatoes vines, stalks of sorghum, maize and millet after harvest during the dry season. No fodder was grown. Calves were tethered or grazed near the homestead. Cattle were watered and grazed within the same area throughout the year by 81.4% of the households. The animals were bred through natural service.

Cattle production

The cattle had an average calving interval of 12.5 months and an average lactation period of 9 months. The average daily milk output per cow was 1.4 litres. Cattle were milked once a day. Average milk price per litre was Ug. Shs. 350. The average market prices for different age categories of cattle were as shown in Table 3.

Table 3. The average market prices for different categories of cattle

Cattle class / age category

Average price (Ug. Shs)

Adult female cow

192, 500







Exchange rate I USD = 1420 Ug. Shs

Most households (95%) used bulls and steers for ploughing; and transportation of building materials, harvest from the fields and firewood. The average price for hire out of animals for traction was Ug. Shs. 4,000 per day. The income generated was used for purchase of household domestic supplies.

Although all households used dung for plastering the floors of their houses, only a few (29.7%) were using manure on their fields.

Major disease constraints to livestock production as perceived by the farmers

ECF was perceived by most farmers (65.2%) as the major disease of calves. The second most important disease of calves was helminthosis (19%) (see Figure1).

Figure 1. Percentage of farmers who perceive a certain disease as a problem of calves

In adult cattle, the major disease problems perceived by farmers were tick-burdens: trypanosomosis, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), helminthosis and biting flies. Details are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Percentage of farmers who perceive a certain disease as a problem of adult cattle

ECF and anaplasmosis were named as a cause of death of calves, cited by 88.7% and 10.1% of the households respectively. Meanwhile anaplasmosis, trypanososmosis, ECF and heartwater were the causes of death of adult cattle, see Table 4.

Table 4. Causes of death of adult cattle as perceived by the farmers


Percentage of farmers









Redwater (babesiosis)




Nearly all the households (92.8%) experienced the nuisance of biting flies, with 71.7% of them incriminating tsetse flies and 53.6% of them experiencing the problem throughout the year.

Major livestock diseases as revealed by disease diagnostic survey

The overall mean prevalence of trypanosome infection among cattle was 15.6% in Kateta Sub-county and 6.7% in Olio Sub-county. Cattle in Acomia village in Kateta parish had a highest prevalence of trypanosome infection of 22%. The distribution of prevalence of trypanosome infection according to parishes is as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The mean prevalence of trypanosome challenge in cattle in each parish

All the three common trypanosome species of cattle: Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma vivax were diagnosed. Trypanosoma vivax was the most prevalent (6.8%) while Trypanosoma congolense was the least prevalent (1.2%). The prevalence of Trypanosoma brucei, which causes sleeping sickness in man, was quite high (4.3%). The mean PCV of cattle was generally low but cattle in Olio had slightly higher PCV (27.6%) compared to those in Kateta (26.8%).

Tick-borne diseases

Using a ELISA test the overall prevalence of Theileria parva antibodies was found to be 63.4%. On blood smear examination, 8.8 % and 11.8 were positive for Theileria parva and Anaplasma marginale respectively.


The eggs detected were of the stongyle type with the mean epg count of 322±127. Toxocara vitulorum, Strongyloides and Moneizia species eggs were also seen in calves. Lungworm larvae were detected on carrying out the Baermann test. Overall prevalence of shedding worm eggs was 87.5% (n=42). Eggs of Fasciola and Paramphistomum were detected on sedimentation examination.


Sera analysis of 150 cattle showed that 16% (n=24) were positive for Brucella abortus.

Major disease vectors
Tsetse fly

The only species of tsetse flies caught was Glossina fuscipes fuscipes. Other biting flies: Haematopota species, Tabanus species, Chrysops species and Stomoxys were also caught (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Overall mean number of biting flies trapped per trap per day in Serere county

The overall mean tsetse fly trapping per trap was found to be 6.7±3.5. The mean tsetse fly trappings per trap per day per parish is shown in Figure 5. The mean tsetse density in Kateta Sub-county was found to be 10 and in Olio Sub-county was 3.4 flies. Kateta had the highest density of tsetse flies with a catch of 17.2 flies per trap per day

Figure 5. Fly trapping per day per trap

Tick infestation

Four tick species were identified. But by far the most abundant tick species was Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. Tick species found, in order of decreasing numbers, were Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, Amblyomma variegatum, Rhipicephalus evertsi and Boophilus decoloratus (Figure 6).

Figure 6.  Mean number of adult tick species recovered per animal in Serere county, Soroti

 The mean number of adult ticks of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus recovered per head of cattle in each parish is shown in Figure 7. Kateta sub-county had mean tick counts of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus 136±39 per cow and Olio sub-county had 134±15.

Figure 7. Mean number of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus recovered per animal per parish in Serere county

Methods of disease control

The majority (76.8%) of farmers had their cattle vaccinated by District Veterinary extension workers. They vaccinated against FMD (35.9%) and CBPP (20.8%) respectively. Nearly, all farmers (93.5%) controlled ticks with 84.1% of them controlling ticks by spraying cattle with acaricides. The majority of them (87.7%) were doing tick control in all age groups of cattle. Some farmers (30.2%) also controlled ticks on goats. The acaricides used for spraying cattle are shown in Table. 5. TakticÒ was the acaricide used by most households (25.4%). Unfortunately, a majority of the farmers (54.4%) did not know the type of the acaricide they were using.

Table. 5 Acaricides used for spraying in Serere County



TakticÒ (triazapentadiene compound)


Tsetse tickÒ (deltamethrin compound)


DecatixÒ (deltamethrin compound)


MilbitrazÒ (triazapentadiene compound)


RenegradeÒ  (alphacypermethrin compound)




Among those who were applying acaricides, 8.7% were applying weekly , 27.5% fortnightly and 15.2% monthly. The majority (48.5%) were applying acaricide erratically when the tick load was high or when the acaricide was available. Thirty point four percent and 25.4% of the households were using the current acaricides because of availability and performance, respectively. Only 8.7% of the households were using the current acaricides because they were cheaper. The major source of acaricides were drug shops (27.5%), market drug vendors (25.4%) and veterinary staff (21.7%). Most of the farmers got (70.3%) and followed (67.4%) the advice on dilution of acaricides.

The methods used for control of tsetse flies were trapping and spraying of cattle, with 13.8% and 15.2% of households applying them respectively. Sixty eight point eight percent of the farmers were doing nothing to control tsetse flies. The chemoprophylaxis against trypanosomosis was done using Samorin® (isometamidium chloride) and Berenil® (1,3 bis (4'-amidinophenyl)triazene) by 1.4% and 3.6% of the households respectively.

Seventy-six of the households did helminthic control. Antihelmintics used were Wormita® (albendazole), Wormcid® (levamisole), Albendazole® and Levafas® (levamisole hydochloride). The Wormita® was the main antihelmintic used by 16.7% of the households. The majority of the households (54.4%) dewormed all cattle, but only when animals were sick (58.7%). Deworming was done by veterinary staff (20.3%) or by farmers themselves (23.2%).


The survey shows that livestock owners in Serere County were practicing a crop-livestock production system. Livestock formed a major input for the  crop sector in provision of traction power. The mean number of cattle was 10 animals per household implying one animal per caput. The cattle kept were only indigenous local Zebu cattle. No graded or exotic cattle were encountered in the study area. The cattle were acquired through purchase from the market. Very few households (0.7%) acquired cattle through inheritance. This shows that farmers were still restocking, as this area suffered heavy cattle raids and insurgencies from 1986 through 1990. Facilities for cattle keeping were under developed, as exhibited by very few hand sprays, crushes, drench guns and dips possessed by farmers.

Water and pasture were not problems for livestock production. Animals were grazed and watered within the same area, in the radius of less than 5 km.

The herd structure of cattle was geared towards improving traction power. No tractor or co-operative tractor service was found in the area. Steers and bulls were used for traction. Thirty six point four percent of the cattle herds were animals (steers and bulls) used for traction. This was contrary to pastoral cattle herds in other districts in Uganda like Mbarara where bulls and steers constitute 9% of the herd (Ocaido 2003). The Bahima pastoral herds have a high composition of female cattle (adult cows and heifers), constituting 74.6% (Ocaido 2003) as compared to 45.4% in the study area. This shows that, whereas pastoral herds were geared towards herd build up and milk production, the livestock keepers in Serere were out to improve traction power for crop farming. The pricing of animals also reflects a demand for traction, for example a steer in pastoral area costs Ug. shs. 60,000 as compared to an average of Ug. Shs. 170,000 in the study area. Elsewhere, the value of traction animals is also seen in Zimbabwe (Sandford 1992) and Mali (McDermot 1999). However, the herd structure may change in the near future when the demand for traction power is saturated. It becomes apparent that livestock production should be boosted so as to increase household incomes and improve food security. In mixed crop livestock systems in Ethiopia (Sansoucy et al 1995 ) and Mali (Debrah and Sissoko 1990), high household incomes are associated with households with high number of cattle.

The use of manure was limited, with only 29.7% of households using it on their fields. Even those households lacked technologies for seasoning and storing manure. Therefore there was an urgent need to incorporate the use of manure in the cropping system so as to increase crop yield per acre hence attaining and safeguarding food security in this area.

The major disease problems of cattle perceived by farmers in Serere county were ECF, anaplasmosis, trypanososmosis, FMD and helminthosis. The major disease problems of calves was found to be ECF and helminthosis. The major tick-borne diseases were ECF and anaplasmosis; the major killers of calves and adult cattle respectively. Anaplasmosis has been known to be a problem in areas, like here, where tick control is relaxed especially when cattle have achieved endemic stability with ECF (Dolan 1985). This diagnostic disease survey confirmed the results of earlier PRA survey done (Anonymous 2000) which found that ECF, trypanososmosis, anaplasmosis, helminthosis, tick-burdens and tsetse flies were major disease problems in the area.

There was high prevalence of antibodies to ECF. Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, the vector of ECF was the most abundant tick species, present at high infestation levels in cattle. The study showed that, the distribution of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus infestation between the two subcounties (Olio and Kateta) was uniform. The mean tick counts were very high as compared to results of earlier studies done in pastoral areas of Ssebambule that had mean adult tick counts of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus of 3.7±0.28 , Rhipicephalus evertsi of 0.5±0.3 and Ambylloma variegatum of 0.024±0.012 (Otim et al 2004). This is attributed to poor tick control methods practised. There is a need, therefore, to develop and disseminate a sustainable tick control strategy.

The prevalence of trypanosomosis was much higher in Kateta (15.6%) compared to Olio (6.7%). Trypanososmosis is the major disease causing death in cattle and humans in the area. The prevalence of this disease is high, because of the abundance of the vector: tsetse flies. The tsetse density in Kateta where human sleeping sickness was also prevalent, was three times higher than in Olio sub-county. Relatively no tsetse fly control was being done in the area. The mean PCV of cattle was generally low as compared to the normal PCV. Cattle in Olio had slightly a higher PCV (27.6) compared to those in Kateta (26.8) indicating a difference of trypanosome challenge. Kateta Sub-county was therefore under high tsetse fly and trypanosome challenge than Olio Sub-county. There is therefore an urgent need for medical public health workers to go to this area and neighbouring districts to evaluate the prevalence of human trypanosomosis (sleeping sickness) among humans.

This study confirmed the postulation that TTBDs, tsetse flies and typanonosomosis were the major disease problems in the area. This implied that a dual-purpose technology like use of deltamethrin products for spraying cattle could be adopted in the area for controlling both TTBDs, tsetse flies and trypanosomosis.

The level of helminthosis detected was quite moderate. There was high prevalence of helmithosis in cattle hence a need to do strategic anti-helmintic control. The risk of fasciolosis due to Fasciola gigantica (Okwalinga 2000) does exist in the area. There are numerous swamps which habour the flukes' intermediate host- a snail called Lymnaea natalensis (Okao 1975). These swamps become avaliable for cattle grazing during the dry season (Ocaido et al 2004).

FMD is endemic in this area. There was an FMD outbreak reported the previous year before this study. This is an economic disease, because it affects the traction power of animals and reduces milk production. Indirectly crop production is severely affected by FMD outbreaks. A vaccination campaign was done but it did not cover the whole county. Efforts should be made to vaccinate the entire herds and spatial mapping of the vaccination campaign made. However, the control of the disease is hampered by inflow of animals for restocking from other areas and inability to characterise the strains of FMD existing in the area.

The prevalence of brucellosis was quite high in this area. This prevalence is likely to be even higher considering that most of the animals sampled were young ones. Besides, breeding is through natural service by a common bull. There was a real need to carry out a thorough study of this disease and come up with appropriate sanitary control measures.

This study has also shown that knowledge of farmers in disease control was very low as revealed by:



We are grateful to the Soroti District Veterinary Office, in particular to Dr. S. Okure and Mr. W. Ebiaru for the co-operation and assistance they rendered during the study. Special thanks go to DANIDA-Livestock Systems Research Project (LSRP) for financially supporting this survey.


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Received 25 March 2005; Accepted 8 July 2005; Published 4 August 2005

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