YK Poudel

Within four months, 482 farmers in Dagana lost 59 cattle to lumpy skin disease (LSD). With no immediate solution to address the outbreak, farmers are worried about losing more cattle. 

Nima Dorji Blon, a resident of Tashiding, who lost a milking cow and a calf said that the loss of livestock has impacted his milk production. He is one of the daily contributors of milk to the processing unit in the gewog. Two of his three milking cows had been affected. “With no concrete medication against the disease, I feel helpless.”

He said, “Based on the instruction from the gewog and livestock officials, the cattle affected have been isolated. However, the condition has not improved.”

Another cattle holder from Gozhi said that five of his cattle are affected by the disease, with a low rate of recovery. “While an ox is quite resistant to the disease, the calves are vulnerable,” he said, adding that the loss was huge this year as the disease outbreak was at its peak during the paddy season.

Some farmers had to hire oxen or power tillers at a certain fee during paddy cultivation. 

The farmers have been trying local medication techniques when assistance from the gewog was delayed or the medication showed no sign of improvement.

Livestock Extension Supervisor of Kana gewog, Harka Bahadur Chhetri, said that he visits over 10 households a day providing injections and medicines to the animals, which has for now brought the outbreak under control for now. 

Officiating Dzongkhag Livestock Officer, Pema Wangchuk, said that LSD is an infectious viral disease, transmitted through insects like ticks, mosquitos, and stomoxys. Physical contact with the infected animal can spread the disease to other animals. 

“The virus is shed in the cattle secretion and excretion from the infected animals that includes, exudates, tear, saliva, urine, milk, and faeces,” he said. 

According to Pema Wangchuk, there are no treatments for the disease as it is a viral disease that can be only cured through supportive therapy which reduces the intensity of the infection. 

Currently, the animals are being treated with antibiotics, analgesics, antihistamines, and multivitamins. There is also no vaccine against the virus in Bhutan. 

Officiating DLO said that with the rapid outbreak of LSD across the dzongkhag, the sector has run out of medicines.  “To meet the daily demand and control the further spread of disease, we provided the available medicines from the dzongkhag store. We are procuring more medicines from the central store in Phuentsholing.”

He said that with only one livestock extension officer in the gewog, it is difficult to meet the farmers’ demand for the treatment of the LSD cases.

Repeated advocacy to the farmers, he said, has not created much difference as the animals were mostly left free-ranging among the infected animals.

The dzongkhag first reported the case on March 11 in Nichula gewog. Dagana dzongkhag has 3,856 livestock holders with 18,309 cattle.