India is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of dairy, milking 140 billion litres from cattle and buffalo each year. But every year tick-borne diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis and theleriasis, and anaemia as a result of an infestation, lead to seriously sick animals and huge economic losses.
Our team in India knew that awareness of effective tick control techniques among farmers could help improve the well-being of these animals. It could also help farmers stem these losses if they could find an effective way to engage with them at a micro-level.
The animal well-being challenge
Tick infestation rates in India are high, which is to be expected in a tropical country. Farmers need support and guidance on effective preventative measures to protect their animals from tick infestations – not only due to the pain from biting ticks, but also for health concerns associated with the serious diseases these parasites can transmit.
We wanted to help educate farmers about effective tick control but we needed to find a way to engage them on a local level.
The dairy industry in India is reliant on a network of smallholder farmers, often located in remote rural areas where the average herd size comprises just one or two cows. It is a fragmented sector so engaging with farmers can take time.
Through local veterinarians and dairy co-operatives, we were able to reach some farmers with this important educational message. But our team was determined to make a greater contribution to improving the well-being of dairy animals by helping even more farmers to prevent tick infestations. The team set out to find a practical and effective way to educate even the most remote farmer on good tick control and its importance.
Our team identified that there were opportunities to collaborate with neighbourhood retailers and pharmacies, which have regular contact with farmers and were an important source of information for the farmers.
We created educational pamphlets, which we distributed through retailers across the country. The materials raised awareness of the diseases that ticks can carry, which can infect both animals and people. It also reminded farmers that a serious tick infestation can result in anaemia, which often leads to lower milk production and skin diseases.
“Importantly, the pamphlet helped educate farmers about the right approach to effective tick control, which can help them to achieve better results,” says Dr. Masood Ahmed, animal well-being champion and Sales & Key Account Manager for the poultry and aquaculture portfolio with Bayer Animal Health in India.
“We printed the pamphlet in six languages spoken in India to ensure that the information was accessible to all regions of the country. We then handed them out to over 1,400 retailers and pharmacies across India.”
Armed with the pamphlets, retailers were encouraged to start conversations on tick control with local farmers. The retailers who were actively engaging on the subject and educating at least 100 farmers on the importance of effective tick control were awarded a certificate to show their status as a centre committed to improving dairy animal well-being and health.
The program was well received. Within four months, more than 2,800 pamphlets were distributed and more than 1,000 outlets were awarded animal well-being centre status. More importantly, farmers were starting to take tick control seriously.
“We’re delighted with the outcome the initiative. It was a simple but highly effective campaign across a rapidly growing industry where there is often a lack of understanding around animal well-being and how practising good care can naturally improve production,” Masood adds.
The team are now looking at how this engagement model can be used to raise awareness on other well-being issues.