11 May 2018 - There are a number of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) already present or threatening cattle in the Balkans, notably lumpy skin disease (LSD), but also bluetongue (BT) and Rift Valley fever (RVF). These notifiable diseases have dramatic effects on rural livelihoods and trade (and public health in the case of RVF). The situation worsens with the arrival of summer’s higher temperatures, favouring insect multiplication and, hence, disease dissemination. Therefore, preventing feeding of insects on cattle would also reduce the spread of VBDs. Unfortunately, vector control strategies used so far are either costly, time-consuming or environmentally non-acceptable.
However, there is a highly effective technology, the use of insecticide-incorporated knitted textile screens (known as livestock protective fences – LPF), which has been very successfully used in sub-Saharan African countries for the control of several vector-transmitted diseases. Such fences are placed near to the cattle, mostly where they rest, and prevent insects from alighting on the animals. The technology, never used in the Balkans, could be very useful to prevent VBDs. Another benefit is a reduction in the stress associated with insect bites of dairy cattle, which translates in an increase of animal welfare and milk and meat production. Moreover, improvements in the mastitis situation have been also proven, as these are commonly transmitted from animal to animal by vectors. In medium and long terms, it is expected that revenues of households will increase due to improvements in animal welfare, improved animal health and increases in animal productivity and milk quality, coupled with less and less expenses for animal treatment.
FAO will conduct a pilot study to prove the effectiveness of LPFs in the Balkans, more precisely in southern Serbia. The project is an example of technology transfer through a South-South cooperation, involving the Serbian Dairy Association (SDA), in charge of the overall field coordination, and the Centre International de Recherche – Développement sur l’Elevage en zone Subhumide (CIRDES), Burkina Faso, in charge of the technical supervision in coordination with the Scientific Veterinary Institute in Belgrade. The Serbian veterinary services will be regularly updated and consulted.
A total of 20 farms have been selected for a case-control study over two consecutive vector seasons (May-October 2018 and 2019). Half of the farms will be protected by LPF (case group) and the other half is a control group so that the trends of insect numbers and species can be assessed. Vectors will be collected every 15 days through the use of two type of traps (monoconical traps and BG sentinel traps). Moreover, the recording of farm data related to milk production, cell counts, etc. will allow to also assess the effects of LPF on production and common dairy associated diseases such as mastitis. In addition, an inventory will be created of blood-sucking insect species that might have a capacity for the transmission of VBDs of importance in the region. The continuous recording of meteorological data during the pilot study should allow a better understanding between vector densities, infection risk and the prevailing weather conditions.
The project will also develop a set of leaflets on vector-control to be distributed to all cattle farmers in Serbia. The message will focus on manure management, but also the responsible usage of insecticides.
If proven successful, the pilot could be expanded within Serbia and to other affected and at risk countries in the region.