Livestock Research for Rural Development 24 (5) 2012 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

A survey of rural farming practice in two provinces in Kenya. 2. Livestock disease recognition, prevention and treatment

A R Peters, G Domingue, I D Olorunshola, S J Thevasagayam*, B Musumba** and J M Wekundah**

Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines, Pentlands Science Park, Edinburgh, EH26 0PZ, UK
* Current address: Pfizer Animal Health, 75668 Paris Cedex 14, France
** Biotechnology Trust Africa, Nairobi, Kenya


A total of 558 farmers were interviewed in the counties of Kakamega and Machakos in Kenya during 2007–08 regarding their attitudes and practices relating to livestock diseases and their recognition and management.  Most respondents regarded East Coast fever (ECF), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) and Newcastle Disease (ND) as the most important diseases of cattle, small ruminants and chickens, respectively.  There was a high degree of awareness and past use of vaccines and treatments for a number of cattle diseases and these activities were most likely to be carried out by a veterinarian.  There was less use of vaccines in small ruminants and chickens but disease treatments were commonly used.  Poultry vaccines were purchased from veterinarians and from agrovet shops.  Less than half the respondents believed vaccines to be effective but few reported suspected ineffective vaccinations to a veterinary officer.  Most respondents (Kakamega only) were willing to pay up to 5Ksh, 10Ksh and 20Ksh for chicken, small ruminant and cattle vaccines, respectively.  Respondents preferred the administration of poultry vaccines to be via drinking water and most preferred vaccination on an individual farm basis rather than group vaccination activities.  Almost all the respondents expressed the need for training in poultry vaccination.  Respondents expressed a preference for vaccine pack sizes of less than 50 doses and for the availability of thermo-tolerant vaccines. 

Keywords: Agricultural production, animal disease, Kenya, rural farmers, survey, vaccine


Livestock production is critical in supporting the livelihoods of poor farmers throughout the developing world (McDermott et al 1999, FAO 2002; Perry and Sones 2007).  For example in Kenya, livestock production is estimated to contribute approximately 12% to GDP (FAO, 2005).  Animal disease and veterinary public-health problems constitute a major constraint to livestock production and safe utilization of animal products worldwide (FAO 2002; Domenech et al 2006).  Large sums of money have been invested by governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other donors into research and methods of control of livestock disease, however, there are still major gaps in our ability to control a large number of these diseases (Perry and Grace 2009).  It is generally recognised that there is a lack of availability of and access to veterinary medicines and vaccines in many developing countries, largely because the US and European based animal health industries do not believe there is adequate potential for return on investment (Anon 2006) and that this is often due to lack of supply chains at the local level (Delgado and Narrod 2002). 

The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed; was established in 2004 as a not-for-profit organisation to develop veterinary medicines for livestock where the market is too small or fragmented for the western animal health industry to invest. GALVmed initially prioritised livestock diseases in developing countries depending on perceived unmet need, irrespective of species. 

In order to make strategic decisions it was important for GALVmed to understand better the identity, attitudes and needs of the potential end users of veterinary medicines i.e., the village farmer.  It is well documented that small-scale farming tends to be mixed in terms of both crops and livestock.  Thus, the target diseases for GALVmed include those of poultry, small ruminants and cattle.  Whilst information is available on the identity and causes of livestock disease in these communities (e.g. Domenech et al 2006), less is known about the farmers’ attitudes to them and their willingness to use veterinary medicines if they are available. 

For example, Newcastle Disease (ND) is the most prevalent and fatal disease of poultry in Kenya (Kingori et al 2010) and thus a major key unmet need initially identified by GALVmed was for a sustainable supply of thermo-tolerant ND vaccine.  Although such vaccines have been in use in a number of countries (Bensink and Spradbrow 1999) there is a continuing need for standardization and sustained production together with sustained delivery to Sector 4 (Village or Backyard) production, as defined by FAO (2007) and ILRI (2007).  Similarly, information is also lacking on production practice, constraints and diseases, of other species in this sector. 

Therefore, the overall objective of this study was to characterize the status of smallholder livestock production systems in Kenya, in order to generate information to assist in the design and targeting of veterinary medicines for rural livestock keepers.  Whilst the first paper (Peters et al 2012) focused on the demographics and the contribution of different crops and livestock towards household income this paper concentrates on disease recognition and management. 

Materials and methods 

Two counties in different regions of Kenya were selected for the project. Firstly, Kakamega is in western Kenya lying about 30 km north of the Equator. It is the provincial headquarters of Western Province.  It had a population of 73,607 (1999 census) and is 52 km north of Kisumu which is the third largest city in Kenya.  Secondly, the town of Machakos is 64 km southeast of Nairobi. It is the capital of the county of Machakos in Eastern Province of Kenya.  Machakos is a major rural centre, and also a satellite town, due to its proximity, to Nairobi.  Its population is rapidly growing and was 192,117 in 2009. Machakos has a number of financial institutions, administrative offices, good road infrastructure and town planning.  These two counties were selected to represent different socio-economic areas of Kenya, Kakamega county representing medium to high potential areas, while Machakos represents arid and semi-arid areas.  Kakamega is more densely populated than Machakos, while Machakos has larger farms.  The crops produced are similar but Machakos has drought tolerant varieties compared to Kakamega. The two counties together represent the major ecological zones of Kenya.

This study was conducted on behalf of GALVmed by Biotechnology Africa (BTA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries and the Ministry of Agriculture between December 2007 and April 2008.  Background preparation included ethical approval for the project, meeting with the stakeholders, discussing the study logistics and general planning.  This included training researchers on questionnaire administration at research sites and also involving community heads and local guides.  The field work began with communication and advocacy meetings conducted with the assistance of the provincial administration.  It was followed by face to face interviews with a cross section of respondents in the farming community. 


The respondents’ perceptions of the most important livestock diseases are shown in Table 1.  For cattle, approximately 60% reported East Coast fever (ECF) to be the most important disease with anaplasmosis, FMD, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), black quarter and gastro-intestinal parasites also being regarded as important.  For small ruminants, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) was reported as the most important by 64–73% of respondents, with anaplasmosis also being reported as important.  For poultry, Newcastle Disease (ND) was reported by around 95% of respondents as being most important with coccidiosis, fowl pox and fowl typhoid also being regarded as important.


Table 1. Farmers’ perception of the most important livestock diseases




Total number of respondents

313 (56%)

245 (44%)


Percentage of respondents

Farmers’ perception of the most important single disease in cattle



East Coast fever (ECF)



Farmers’ perception of the most important single disease in small ruminants



Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP)



Farmers’ perception of the most important single disease in chicken



Newcastle Disease (ND)



Aspects of the management of cattle disease by respondent farmers are shown in Table 2.  According to Table 2, most farmers used vaccines and treatments for cattle disease.  Vaccines were used against several cattle diseases but only by a minority of farmers for each specific disease.  A number of diseases were treated as they occurred, including ECF, anaplasmosis and parasites.  Cattle vaccination was largely carried out by veterinarians as they tended to be organised by the government and compulsory when disease outbreaks occurred.  Cattle treatments for disease were mostly administered by veterinarians or by para-veterinarians.


Table 2. Vaccination and treatment of cattle


Percentage of respondents




Farmers use of:



Vaccines to prevent diseases in cattle



Treatments for diseases in cattle



Farmers who have vaccinated against:









Foot and mouth disease



Lumpy skin disease



Rift Valley fever






Farmers who have treated for these diseases:












Persons vaccinating cattle against disease






Persons treating cattle for disease









Aspects of the management of small ruminant disease by respondent farmers are shown in Table 3, which shows that less than half of the farmers used vaccines for small ruminants. CCPP was the most common vaccine used reflecting its perceived status as the most important small ruminant disease.  Most farmers used treatments for small ruminant disease and parasite infestation was the most common reason for treatment.  Vaccination was commonly carried out by veterinarians; this was especially marked in Machakos.  Disease treatments for small ruminants were administered by veterinarians and by para-veterinarians but also about 1/4 were given by the farmers.


Table 3. Vaccination and treatment of small ruminants


Percentage of respondents




Farmers’ use of:



Vaccines to prevent disease in small ruminants



Treatments for disease in small ruminants



Farmers who have vaccinated against:






Farmers who have treated for these diseases:









Respiratory disease



Persons vaccinating small ruminants against disease






Persons treating small ruminants for disease












Activities related to the management of poultry disease are shown in Table 4.  Both regions actively treated their poultry for diseases (64–84%) but few carried out vaccinations (18–39%).  Where farmers did vaccinate they obtained the vaccines mainly from veterinarians or from Agrovet shops. The majority of drugs for treatment of livestock were obtained from Agrovet shops (45–54%). Where vaccines were used, about 25% farmers vaccinated their own poultry, with others having the services of veterinarians and paravets.  A small proportion (reportedly in Machakos only) vaccinated on a farmer-group basis.  A much larger proportion (64–72%) of farmers carried out their own disease treatments in poultry. 

Table 4. Vaccination and treatment of poultry


Percentage of respondents




Farmers’ use of:



Vaccines to prevent disease in chickens



Treatment for disease in chickens



Source of vaccine for those using vaccinations






Agrovet shops



Source of treatments for disease



Agrovet shops



Persons vaccinating poultry












Person treating poultry












Responses to questions concerning vaccination and treatment of disease indicated a general awareness of the services offered by veterinarians and paravets.  However, there was specific interest in the awareness of local Agrovet shops and the products and services available.  The survey showed that there was a high level of awareness of Agrovet shops (Kakamega 78% and Machakos 71%) and that they sold products such as veterinary drugs, vaccines, fertilizers and feeds (Kakamega 87% and Machakos 83%). 

Respondents were asked about their perception of general effectiveness of vaccination (Table 5).  Only 40% in Kakamega and 25% in Machakos perceived vaccination to be effective. About 7–8% claimed to report perceived vaccination failure to local veterinary officers.  Respondents were also asked about their willingness to pay for vaccines for the various species and the results are shown in Table 5.  Generally, the vast majority of respondents were willing to pay up to 5Ksh, 10Ksh and 20Ksh for poultry, small ruminant and cattle vaccines, respectively. 

Table 5. Vaccination effectiveness and cost


Percentage of respondents




Respondents perceiving vaccination to be effective



Ineffective vaccines reported to vet officer



Amount respondents willing to pay for vaccine (Ksh)



Poultry ≤5



Small ruminants ≤10



Cattle ≤20



ND = No data



Questions were asked concerning the administration of poultry vaccines and the results are shown in Table 6.  Most respondents regarded vaccination as being simple or only moderately difficult.  Very few regarded it as complicated.  By far the most common method of administration was via the drinking water (67–71%) and 18–25% by eye or nasal drop.  About 33% of the respondents vaccinated their poultry on a group basis with neighbours whilst about 60% typically carried out vaccination on an individual basis.  There was an overwhelming need for training in vaccination and many respondents felt there was a need for training in various aspects of poultry husbandry including management and feeding.  Few respondents felt the need for training in recognition of disease symptoms.


Table 6. Administration of vaccines to poultry


Percentage of respondents




Ease of vaccination






Moderately difficult






Administration of poultry vaccine



Drop in eye or nostrils



In drinking water



In food



Group vaccination









Preference for  Group or Individual vaccination



Prefer Group vaccination



Prefer Individual vaccination



A  need for training in chicken vaccination









A need for training in poultry husbandry



Feeding and nutrition






Disease symptoms and diagnosis



For improved independence of farmer



Some responses regarding vaccine formulation and packaging are summarised in Table 7.  Packaging preference was for the vaccine to be in plastic container bottles with 50 doses being the maximum preferred package for optimum economy and affordability.  By far the greatest preference for the characteristics of a vaccine is that it is supplied in liquid, thermo-tolerant form, compared to other available formulations.


Table 7. Vaccine formulation and packaging

Vaccine characteristic

Percentage of respondents




Preference for plastic packaging



Preferred pack size ≤50 doses



Preferred formulation:



Liquid thermo-tolerant




As GALVmed is a relatively new organisation just entering the animal health sector, it was considered appropriate to collect information from potential end users as to the kind of prevalent livestock production systems, their production and marketing activities, and their attitudes and practices relating to disease diagnosis, treatment and control. 

The respondents identified ECF as the most important disease constraining cattle production.  East Coast Fever is a tick borne disease of the lymphatic system caused by the protozoan parasite Theileria parva.  It is endemic in 11 countries in eastern, central and southern Africa, where over 40 million cattle are considered at risk (Norval et al 1992; Dolan 1999; Minjauw and McLeod 2003).  Mortality rate can be as high as 90% depending on susceptibility.  East Coast Fever has been controlled largely by vector control, using acaricide dips and sprays since the early 1900’s and the chemotherapeutic treatment parvaquone and buparvaquone became available in the 1980s (Muraguri et al 1998).  A vaccine was developed in the 1970’s (Radley et al 1975a, b, c) whereby a cocktail of field strains (the Muguga cocktail) of the parasite was administered to cattle simultaneously with antibiotic treatment. This became known as the Infection and Treatment Method (ITM) and has not yet been superseded by a conventional or molecular based vaccine.  Due to its narrow margin of safety the use of this vaccine has been controversial and until recently had not been widely disseminated or indeed registered in any country.  However, because of the lack of a suitable alternative, GALVmed and its partners have sponsored further production of Muguga cocktail, transfer to commercial manufacture, registration and distribution in target countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi (Peters 2009).  Other monovalent variants of ITM e.g. Marekebuni, have also been available in Kenya over the years. 

A small proportion of farmers (13–28%) responded that had vaccinated against ECF, a percentage probably consistent with limited and variable availability of ITM vaccines.  Farmers also used vaccines against blackquarter, a lethal clostridial disease, foot and mouth disease (FMD), LSD, a pox virus related to the capripox virus of small ruminants, Rift Valley fever and anthrax.  Rift Valley fever and LSD have been targeted by GALVmed as priority diseases for improved vaccine development. 

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia was identified by farmers as the most important disease in small ruminants. Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia is a severe respiratory and systemic disease of sheep and goats caused by Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. Capripneumoniae (Thiaucourt and Bölske 1996). Vaccines are available on a limited scale and treatment is possible with antibiotics, although expensive. It is generally accepted that the wider availability of effective vaccines would be advantageous.  Parasitic disease both internal and external are known to be one of the major constraints to livestock production worldwide and a wide range of anti-parasitic agents have been available for many decades.  To date the focus of international development in animal health and the GALVmed strategy have tended to focus on ‘neglected’ and transboundary diseases, but it is important to remember that many of the endemic diseases affecting livestock production in the developed world are also important in the developing world. 

Overall from the survey it appears that the person most likely to vaccinate cattle and small ruminants is a veterinarian.  It was not specified whether this service was private or government based, but in all probability this was most likely to be the latter.  However, Cheneau et al (2004) recently reviewed the provision of veterinary services in the developing world. They suggest that state veterinary services have declined since the 1970s due to a growth in privatisation (Chilonda and Huylenbroeck 2001) which has to some extent improved the delivery of veterinary services but this has been limited and Cheneau et al (2004) inferred that the potential for public provision of veterinary services has been underrated.  Utilisation of the services of para-veterinarians, technicians trained in specific aspects of livestock disease diagnosis and treatment has assumed considerable importance in developing countries (Catley et al 2004).  There has been considerable resource put into the development of community animal health worker (CAHW) systems and there is evidence that these have had a significant impact on animal health in many areas (Catley et al 2004).  It is clear that these so-called para-professional classes of veterinary support such as para-veterinarians and community animal health workers have expanded in recent years to fill the gap in veterinary services in the more remote pastoral areas (Cheneau et al 2004). 

Farmers’ perception of the single most important disease of poultry was Newcastle Disease (ND).  ND is a severe and highly contagious disease of poultry (Alexander 2001) and is regarded as second in impact only to avian influenza.  In countries where the disease is endemic, vaccines are used to a greater or lesser extent.  Whilst vaccination is considered effective, there are practical issues of vaccine delivery to remote rural areas and the major need is for a thermo-tolerant vaccine formulation (Bensink and Spradbrow 1999) i.e. one that is stable in ambient temperatures and thus does not require refrigeration and this opinion was supported in the present study.  Whilst thermo-tolerant vaccines are available their production and use are sporadic and a major GALVmed priority is to improve the quality and reliability of supply of such vaccines.  Nevertheless the I-2 vaccine (Bensink and Spradbrow 1999) has been used extensively in a number of countries including Mozambique and has had a significant positive impact on numbers of chickens produced (Bagnol 2001). Respondents expressed a preference for administration of vaccine to chickens via the drinking water similar to the results of a study carried out in South Africa (Thekisoe et al 2004) using the Nobilis® ND Inkukhu vaccine. The three routes of administration viz. eye drop, drinking water or feed, and the eye drop and drinking water routes were shown to be equally effective. 

Given the lower monetary value it is to be expected that there was less veterinary involvement in treatment and vaccination of chickens compared to ruminants.  Almost 100% of respondents expressed interest in training in chicken vaccination.  Furthermore, approximately half of respondents expressed interest in training in feeding and nutrition of poultry. 

The respondents expressed  a preference for pack sizes of no more than 50 doses for ND vaccines.  Pack size has a direct impact on price with smaller pack sizes being more costly per dose.  Given the preference for smaller pack sizes it was surprising that around 60% of respondents preferred vaccinating individually rather than on a farmer-group basis. The reason for vaccinating individually was not evident in the present study. 

In both locations, there was a high degree of awareness and usage (approximately 50%) of Agrovet shops for the purchase of animal medicines.  Turkson (2009) recently carried out a similar type of survey in Ghana looking at the relative availability of veterinary medicines and care in different locations and found that regional differences were insufficient to recommend location specific delivery systems. 

In summary, the present study has revealed insights into local attitudes and practices relating to animal husbandry and diseases which will be of benefit to organisations such as GALVmed in designing veterinary medicines which are focused on the preferences and needs of small rural livestock keepers in Kenya and similar countries. 


We are grateful to Dr Rubina Sharrif for assistance with this project.  The generous funding of the UK Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. 



Alexander D J 2001 ‘Newcastle Disease’, British Poultry Science 42, 5–22.

Anon 2006 European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health. Strategic Research Agenda. International Federation of Animal Health, Brussels.

Bagnol B 2001 The Social Impact of Newcastle Disease Control online. In: SADC Planning Workshop on Newcastle Disease Control in Village Chickens. Workshop on Newcastle disease in village chickens, Maputo, Mozambique, March 6–9, 2000. ACIAR Books Online. Available from: Pr103chapter16.pdf. ISBN 0 642 45687 9.

Bensink Z. and Spradbrow P 1999 Newcastle disease virus strain I2 - a prospective thermostable vaccine for use in developing countries.  Veterinary Microbiology 68, 131–139.

Catley A, Leyland T, Mariner J C, Akabwai D M, Admassu B, Asfaw W, Belele G, Hassan and HSh 2004 Para-veterinary professionals and the development of quality, self-sustaining community-based services. Revue Scientifique et Technique 23, 225–252.

Cheneau Y, El Idrissi AH, Ward D, 2004 An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current veterinary systems in the developing world. Revue Scientifique et Technique 23, 351–9.

Chilonda P and Van Huylenbroeck G 2001 A conceptual framework for the economic analysis of factors influencing decision-making of small-scale farmers in animal health management. Revue Scientifique et Technique, International Office of Epizootics 20, 687–700.

Delgado C L, Narrod CA 2002 Impact of changing market forces and policies on structural change in the livestock industries of selected fast-growing developing countries. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Dolan T T 1999 Dogmas and misunderstandings in East Coast fever. Tropical Medicine and International Health 4, 3–11.

Domenech J, Lubroth J, Eddi C, Martin V and Roger F 2006 Regional and International Approaches on Prevention and Control of Animal Transboundary and Emerging Diseases.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 1081, Impact of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases on Animal Health: 8th Biennial Conference of the Society for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, 90–107.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2002 Improved animal health for poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods, Animal Production and Health Paper 153. Rome.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2005 Kenya, Livestock information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch, AGAL.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2007 The structure and importance of the commercial and village based poultry systems in Kenya: An analysis of the poultry sector in Kenya. FAO, Rome.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) 2007 Response to the threat of avian flu in developing countries: preliminary assessment of lessons learned on control and protecting livelihoods. International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi.

Kingori A M, Wachira A M and Tuitoek J K 2010 Indigenous chicken production in Kenya: A review.  International Journal of Poultry Science 9, 309–316.

McDermott J J, Randoph T F and Staal S J 1999 The economics of optimal health and productivity in smallholder livestock systems in developing countries. Revue Scientifique et Technique, International Office of Epizootics 18, 399–424.

Minjauw B and McLeod A 2003 Tick-borne diseases and poverty. The impact of ticks and tick-borne diseases on the livelihoods of small-scale and marginal livestock owners in India and eastern and southern Africa. Research report, DFID Animal Health Programme, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Muraguri G R, Mbogo S K, McHardy N and Kariuki D P 1998 Cost analysis of immunisation against East Coast fever on smallholder dairy farms in Kenya. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 34, 307–316.

Norval R A, Perry B D and Young A S 1992 The epidemiology of Theileriosis in Africa, Academic Press.

Perry B and Sones K 2007 Poverty reduction through animal health. Science January 19, 333–334.

Perry B and Grace D 2009 The impacts of livestock diseases and their control on growth and development processes that are pro-poor.  Philosophical transactions of The Royal Society B 364, 2643–2655.

Peters A R 2009 Registration and Commercialisation of the East Coast Fever Muguga Cocktail Vaccine.  Proceedings of the FAO/IAEA Symposium on Sustainable Improvement of Animal Production and Health, Vienna, June 2009.

Peters A R, Domingue G, Thevasagayam S J, Musumba B and Wekundah J M 2012 A survey of rural farming practice in two provinces of Kenya. 1.  Demographics, agricultural production and marketing. Livestock Research for Rural Development Volume 24, Article 88. .

Radley D E, Brown C G D, Burridge M J, Cunningham M P, Kirimi I M, Purnell R E and Young A S 1975a East Coast Fever: 1. Chemoprophylactic immunization of cattle against Theileria parva (Muguga) and five Theilerial strains, Veterinary Parasitology 1, 35–41.

Radley D E, Brown C G D, Cunningham M P, Kimber C D, Musisi F L, Payne R C, Purnell R E, Stagg S M and Young A S 1975b East Coast Fever: 3. Chemoprophylactic immunization of cattle using oxytetracycline and a combination of theilerial strains. Veterinary Parasitology 1, 51–60.

Radley D E, Brown C G D, Cunningham M P, Kimber C D, Musisi F L, Purnell R E and Stagg S M, 1975c East Coast Fever - Challenge of Immunized Cattle by prolonged Exposure to Infected Ticks. Veterinary Record 96, 525–527.

Thekisoe M M O, Mbati P A and Bisschop S P R 2004 Different approaches to the vaccination of free ranging village chickens against Newcastle disease in Qwa-Qwa, South Africa.  Veterinary Microbiology 10, 23–30.

Thiaucourt F and Bölske G 1996 Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia and other pulmonary mycoplasmoses of sheep and goats. Revue Scientifique et Technique 15, 1397–414.

Turkson P K 2009 Clients’ perceptions of delivery of veterinary services in peri-urban Ghana. Tropical Animal Health and Production 41, 121–128.


Received 21 December 2011; Accepted 13 April 2012; Published 7 May 2012

Go to top