Cedara calves underfed and weak, says dairy man

2010-02-25 00:00

CEDARA College has admitted that some of its calves are underweight after the SPCA inspected its herds on Tuesday following a complaint to The Witness, but have insis­ted this is to be expected after weaning.

But the source who complained said the calves are so severely malnou­rished that he fears they might die at any time.

“They are so weak that when you approach them, they can’t even stand up. It’s a disgrace,” said the source, who asked that his identity be withheld,

The complainant, who has vast experience in the dairy industry, said the calves are very thin with bloated bellies. “They are definitely undernourished.”

Howick SPCA inspector Dudu Abraham told The Witness on Tuesday they had sent an inspector to Cedara College.

“[The person] who is in charge of the dairy herd admitted that the cows were slightly underweight. She said she had been away but that the cows would be dewormed and given concentrated feed.”

Abraham said the problem seemed to have arisen when there was no supervision.

“We have taken photos of the cattle and will go back in a couple of days to see if there has been an improvement. There should be a huge improvement but, if there is not, we will send a vet out at their expense.”

Abraham said they had also been told a calf had died of red­water disease.

Speaking to The Witness, a research technician in charge of the calves at Cedara, who asked not to be named, said they had just been weaned and that their weight “takes a dip before they pick up weight and get back to their target weight”.

She said ticks are rife at present and that is the reason the calf had contracted redwater disease. She said the cattle have all been dipped and dosed.

Responding to the allegations, Ncumisa Mafunda, spokesperson for the Agriculture and Environment and Rural Development Department, said that as animal scientists they are committed to the welfare and good management of their livestock.

“The animal science section at Cedara accepts that four out of 20 dairy calves appear to be thin with scruffy coats.

“We are confident that it is not a malnutrition problem as there is adequate pasture available and they receive two kilograms of concentrate a day, which forms about 40% of the diet.

“Normal animal husbandry practices, such as dipping and dosing for worms, were administered within the last two weeks. There is a group of heifers that had gall sickness [a tick-borne disease] in August 2009, which still appear to be stunted and are still recuperating.”

Mafunda said there is a possibi­lity of underlying disease to explain their poor condition.

“We will appoint an independent veterinarian to conduct a comprehensive health status of these dairy calves.”

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