Take a Dip!

This morning we visited Mr. Mkinga, the Livestock Extension Officer, at the bi-monthly acaricide dip. Sunday and I took the piki, and as usual I had no idea where we were going (language barrier… again). As we traveled, we began to pass herds of cattle going in the same direction. We crested a hill and in the valley before us were hundreds of the local Zebu cattle:

When we tracked down Mkinga, he filled us in on the proceedings. Waving a Burdizzo (a type of bloodless cattle castrator that crushes the cords), he explained that the cattle are treated for ticks by swimming through the acaricide dip, and he is available for castration. Ticks carry three of the major diseases in the area; East Coast Fever, Anaplasmosis, and Heartwater. Mkinga estimated that about 10% of calves are lost to East Coast Fever. There was hardly any hesitation among the cattle to jump/slide/fall into the dip; they’re clearly used to the procedure.


It’s the first time I’ve seen a Burdizzo used. They cast the bull, tied his hind legs, pulled them back, and then with four squeezes; squeeze squeeze – check – squeeze squeeze – check – repeat, Mkinga castrated the bull. They got him up and I could see his testicles shrinking up… ouch.

The dip was built in the 70’s by the government and is one of 5 in the division. The acaricide is completely replaced about once a year, and should be good for 10,000 immersions. After each session, they measure the dip level and fill it back up accordingly with water. This dilutes the existing dip and is intended to discourage “people who are good at evasion”, since herders will run their animals through outside of the official sessions, to save money. Immediately before the next dip, Mkinga and the dip committee top up the acaricide so it is at full strength for the paying clients. It costs 100 Tsh per animal, per dip (less than 10 cents). They do 800-900 cattle every time, and any sheep that come along. They even threw a tiny lamb in! Each animal is supposed to leave with one litre of acaricide, so after they go through the dip, they stand in the slanted drip pen, which allows the additional acaricide to run back into the dip. Little boys with sticks keep the cattle in the drip pen until the herdsman is ready for them.