Cat­tle heal­ers

Trib­als of Cen­tral In­dia heal lethal live­stock dis­eases with herbs from their back­yard


Adoc­tors will LL VET­ERI­NARY unan­i­mously agree that treat­ing ru­mi­nal tym­pany dis­ease (bloated ru­men or paunch of the cat­tle) is dif­fi­cult. After all, it is re­spon­si­ble for 20 per cent of cat­tle mor­tal­ity in the coun­try.

But a study on the use ethno-vet­eri­nary medicines—tra­di­tional prac­tices of vet­eri­nary medicine us­ing lo­cal plants and herbs—claims lo­cal cat­tle herders cure the lethal cat­tle dis­ease with good old tamarind. The pa­per, Use of Ethno-Vet­eri­nary Medicines (evm) from Vi­darbha Re­gion, In­dia, pub­lished in Bio­science Dis­cov­ery, in July 2014 found that the use of plants to heal cat­tle dis­eases is a common prac­tice in the tribal parts of Nag­pur, Chan­dra­pur and Gad­chi­roli dis­tricts of Ma­ha­rash­tra.

It has iden­ti­fied 46 plants used to cure dif­fer­ent dis­eases in live­stock used by 60 herbal­ists and cat­tle herders ex­pe­ri­enced in ad­min­is­ter­ing such plant-based medicines. The pa­per found evm to be highly ef­fec­tive in cur­ing 20 con­di­tions, rang­ing from se­ri­ous ail­ments such as foot and mouth dis­ease, frac­tures and abor­tions to common con­di­tions such as re­duced lac­ta­tion, eye or teeth prob­lems and snake or scor­pion bites.

evm, how­ever, have their lim­i­ta­tions with con­ta­gious dis­eases and emer­gent con­di­tions such as vi­ral dis­eases goat plague ( peste des petits ru­mi­nants ) and blue tongue, the re­port says.

Free and ef­fec­tive

evm, says the study, are in­dis­pens­able for en­sur­ing live­stock health.The first rea­son for this is the cost. While ethno-vet­eri­nary ser­vices are pro­vided in the com­mu­nity for free, vet­eri­nary treat­ment is ex­pen­sive, points out Ajay Gawde, an ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion worker with Pune-based non-profit baif De­vel­op­ment Re­search Foun­da­tion from Siron­cha tehsil in Gad­chi­roli dis­trict. Ran­jeet Maraskol he, a farmer from Tuyi­aa­par vil­lage in Nag­pur dis­trict, says, “Hoof in­fec­tions are common in our vil­lage dur­ing rains. If we get vet­eri­nary treat­ment, it costs 100-200,

` but our lo­cal cures cost noth­ing.” He adds that trans­port­ing a sick an­i­mal to the treat­ment cen­tre—avail­able only in large gram pan­chay­ats or taluka head­quar­ters—is more ex­pen­sive than the treat­ment it­self. “In case of emer­gen­cies, the an­i­mal is likely to die dur­ing trans­porta­tion,” he says.

The pa­per points out that vil­lage res­i­dents be­lieve evm are more ef­fec­tive than mod­ern medicines. “In our sys­tem, three doses of herbs over a pe­riod of one-and-ahalf days are enough to cure any dis­ease,” says Maraskolhe, “Con­ven­tional medicine takes longer.” Gawde agrees. “Th­ese treat­ments are ef­fec­tive.To cure tym­pany through evm, one needs to just mix tamarind pulp or crushed leaves,a bit of oil and ash from cook­ing fires with wa­ter and give it to the an­i­mal to drink. Within 20 min­utes, the most se­vere case of tym­pany is eased,” he says.

Dy­namic com­mu­nity prac­tice

“Ethno-vet­eri­nary prac­tices have been part of live­stock rear­ing for ages and are deeply rooted in the ru­ral way of life,” says Sa­jal Kulka­rni, lead au­thor of the study and a live­stock re­searcher with baif. “Most cat­tle- herders have some knowl­edge of herbs. In case of com­pli­cated prob­lems, they take help from oth­ers in the com­mu­nity. This has lead to a sys­tem based on mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and trust,” says Kulka­rni.

Gawde says the evm net­work is dy­namic. “Usu­ally, there are a few ex­pe­ri­enced ethno-vet­eri­nary prac­ti­tion­ers in ev­ery vil­lage. If any dis­ease is beyond the ex­per­tise of those avail­able, peo­ple usu­ally know whom to con­tact in nearby vil­lages. A clus­ter of vil­lages is usu­ally self-suf­fi­cient in its vet­eri­nary re­quire­ments,” he ex­plains.

The prac­tices doc­u­mented in the pa­per are both cu­ra­tive and pre­ven­tive. Herders, for in­stance, reg­u­larly fu­mi­gate cat­tle sheds with neem or common worm­wood ( Artemisia vul­garis) leaves to re­move in­sects and germs. Sim­ple treat­ments for heal­ing wounds, im­prov­ing lac­ta­tion and de-worm­ing are usu­ally car­ried out by the herders them­selves.

The help of tra­di­tional herbal­ists is taken only in cur­ing com­plex dis­eases which re­quire the use of dif­fer­ent herbs that need to be boiled, dried and burnt.

The pa­per notes that a plant is used for dif­fer­ent prob­lems in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. It says dif­fer­ent parts of a plant are used for dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. An ex­am­ple is mahua ( Mad­huca longi­fo­lia), whose fruit is used in the Vi­darbha re­gion for treat­ing malar­ial fever in cat­tle. Liquor from the flower is used in western Ma­ha­rash­tra for a pro­lapsed uterus.

The re­port found that while some herbs were com­monly used, oth­ers were known only to a few herbal­ists. It was ob­served that while 48 of 60 herbal­ists used Datura metel for heal­ing wounds, only five used Fi­cus ben­gal­ge­n­e­sis roots for den­tal prob­lems.

A mix of both needed

The re­port calls for strength­en­ing ethno-vet­eri­nary prac­tices and pub­lic an­i­mal health­care sys­tems be­cause “they meet dif­fer­ent needs in the area of cat­tle health”. Amod Kale, a vet­eri­nary tox­i­co­pathol­o­gist from Akola dis­trict in Ma­ha­rash­tra, says the vet­eri­nary sec­tor is pri­mar­ily con­cerned with breed­ing and pro­duc­tiv- ity is­sues in cat­tle and re­lies ex­ten­sively on vac­cines for the same. “Vac­ci­na­tion for foot and mouth dis­ease, black quar­ter and other ma­jor con­ta­gious ail­ments is our main con­cern. Farm­ers bring their cat­tle to us mainly for milk yield-re­lated prob­lems like mas­ti­tis,” says Satish Raju, an­i­mal hus­bandry de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Wardha dis­trict.

On the other hand, ethno-vet­eri­nary prac­tices deal with day-to-day prob­lems and emer­gen­cies faced by cat­tle-herders. “This area is not cov­ered un­der sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­grammes, so there is no cor­re­lat­ing data or in­for­ma­tion avail­able re­gard­ing the na­ture of th­ese prob­lems or mea­sures cat­tle stake­hold­ers take to deal with them,” says Kale. “Even phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search in vet­eri­nary medicines is con­cen­trated on pro­duc­tiv­ity and se­ri­ous con­ta­gious dis­eases.” This, says Kulka­rni, is where ethno-vet­eri­nary plays a cru­cial role.

The pa­per con­cludes that while there is no sub­sti­tute for a com­pre­hen­sive an­i­mal health­care sys­tem, ethno-vet­eri­nary prac­tices also need to be sup­ported and ex­tended.

The most im­por­tant step to be taken in this re­gard is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Bio­di­ver­sity Act, which al­lows com­mu­ni­ties to own and pro­tect their lo­cal re­sources.

The sec­ond im­por­tant step is to pre­serve and ex­tend tra­di­tional evm knowl­edge within com­mu­ni­ties. Maraskol he says evm prac­ti­tion­ers tend to be se­cre­tive of their art be­cause of su­per­sti­tion. “Heal­ers of­ten do not share their reme­dies even with their own sons,” he says. Kulka­rni says there is a need for a twoway process. “On the one hand, com­mu­nity mem­bers need train­ing from qual­i­fied vet­eri­nary doc­tors so that their art be­comes more ex­act and com­pre­hen­sive, and on the other hand, the vet­eri­nary sys­tem needs to learn from the heal­ers. Only then will this art be sus­tained.”

COMMON WORM­WOOD (Artemisi­avul­garis) is used to fu­mi­gate cat­tle sheds

NEEM (Azadirach­taindica) is used to fu­mi­gate cat­tle sheds

DHOTRA ( Dat­u­ram­e­tel) leaves and fruits are used to heal wounds

SAN­DAL­WOOD (San­talumal­bumL.) leaves are used to heal eye in­jury

TAMARIND (Ta­marindus indica) leaves are crushed to treat ru­mi­nal tym­pany dis­ease in cat­tle

AR­JUN (Ter­mi­na­li­a­cuneata)

bark is used to heal wounds

SITAPHAL ( An­nona squamosaL.) leaves are used to heal wounds

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