Last update: 2 December 2013
The outcome of climate change on the disease risk for cattle herds is difficult to predict: some mechanisms can lead to a decrease in disease burden (e.g., habitat less suitable for a vector species transmitting less pathogen to the host), others to an increase (e.g., better survival of a bacteria in the environment increasing the potential for infection for the host) (Chope 1991, Lafferty 2009). The effect of an increased aridity on animal health in domestic production systems can result into higher level of transmission of pathogens when more cattle use fewer water points and when a larger diversity of (wild) ungulates rely on the same source of water. This relationship will be investigated by using the inter-annual variability in rainfall and temperatures between the years of the project but also by using the spatial heterogeneity of climate (rainfall, temperatures) between production unit (cattle herd) in the Hwange area.
The main research question of the project will be to assess if a scarcity in water sources will result into a higher infection burden in intestinal macroparasites in cattle populations of the Hwange periphery. Specific research question 1: does an increased use of water holes by cattle translate into a higher diversity/intensity of intestinal macroparasite infections?
Specific research question 2: does the intestinal macroparasite burden increase in cattle population when exposed to contacts with wildlife?
Specific research question 3: does the intestinal macroparasite incidence in cattle populations increase after early rainy season treatment when they use waterholes visited by a higher diversity of ungulates?
Specific research question 4: what are the effects of parasitic burdens on cattle productivity (weight gain, calving rate, etc) and health (including blood parameters such as hemoglobin levels, packed cell volume, total and differential leucocyte count and levels of plasma proteins)?
Intestinal macroparasite infections may impact severely on cattle production in communal land in Africa. Morbidity and mortality related to intestinal macroparasite infections are common in rural cattle of Africa. It is expected that where cattle population are exposed to contact with wildlife, this parasite burden is increased. Investigating the effect of an increased number of cattle and wildlife at water holes on intestinal macroparasite communities can help exploring the effect of climate change on disease transmission processes and predict which parasite species is expected to benefit to the new ecological contexts. This knowledge can be subsequently used to choose from available control options (e.g. prophylaxis, treatment) to decrease the impact of these infections on cattle productions for the benefit of local communities’ livelihood.
Last update: 2 December 2013