India: Improving Livestock Health

Efforts are underway to better assess and monitor the health of livestock in Ladakh – with benefits for local herders and wildlife.

At the beginning of April, our Ladakh team visited 13 semi-nomadic herders to better understand grazing practices and assess livestock health and constraints towards improved livestock health in Tsaba Valley, near Rumste village.

The argali is a key snow leopard prey species. Photo by Karma Sonam

The Tsaba valley is an important wintering ground for the Tibetan Argali in Ladakh, and our team have been monitoring populations of this key snow leopard prey species for over four years. However, the valley is also used extensively by livestock herders from the Gya-Miru region. Studies from similar landscapes have shown that livestock often outcompetes wild ungulates for resources, putting pressure on wild populations. Additionally, both can be a source of disease for one another, which poses a threat to both the area’s wildlife and human communities.

In order to improve livestock health and to lay the foundation for a continuous, proactive disease surveillance in the area, our team is working with local herders to better understand the current situation and share knowledge about disease management.

During the recent pilot visits, herders were shown the 5-point check technique, which is an easy hands-on approach to assess livestock health by checking for abnormalities in five body parts (nose, throat, back, eyes and anus). The herders we spoke to found this to be a cost-effective and efficient rapid health assessment technique for their livestock.

“In the near future, we want to assess if continual 5-point checks can help herders narrow down which individuals to treat for possible disease”, says Abhishek Ghoshal, a research scholar with NCF India, who coordinates our work in Ladakh.

“During our discussions, herders provided us with a treasure trove of information such as the many traditional treatments employed to ensure livestock health. They also shared anecdotal evidence of disease outbreaks in the region’s wildlife”, Abhishek adds. “We plan to build on this pilot visit by working with these individuals towards improved livestock health and wild ungulate conservation over the next years.”

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