Thousands of cattle in almost 50 districts of the country have been suffering from lumpy skin disease for the last three months, making cattle farmers anxious about their animals.
The outbreak led to a direct and indirect loss to the economy amounting to thousands of crores of taka by killing cows as well as decreasing milk production, which is shocking for the agro sector, say leaders of the Dairy Farmers Association.
Amid cattle farmers are baffled by the lumpy skin outbreak, the inactive role of the Department of Livestock raised many questions. According to the farmers' organisations at the district and divisional levels, about 15% of cattle are currently infected by lumpy skin disease.
President of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association (BDFA) Imran Hossain told The Business Standard (TBS), "Currently, there are more than 2 crore cows in the country. Of these, 5 to 15% of cows suffer from lumpy skin depending on the area.
"Around 10,000 cows and calves died of this disease in the last three months. The loss of the farmers exceeded Tk5-10 lakh. Marginal farmers also lost their capital," he added.
However, the Department of Livestock does not have accurate data about this. And the Animal Husbandry Department has no effective measures to prevent this fast-spreading disease.
While talking to The Business Standard at his farm at Chattogram's Karnaphuli Upazila on Monday, Tanvir Kalam, owner of "OG Agro", said, "Seven calves and three cows have died of lumpy skin disease in the last two weeks at my farm. Five more calves are currently infected. My dream business of cattle farming was broken by lumpy skin disease."
Rishad Morshed, a farmer of Sirajganj's Belkuchi upazila, told TBS, "A Brahma calf worth about Tk1.50 lakh died in Lumpy and five more are infected. This disease also spreads to every house in the upazila."
Apart from Chattogram, Sirajganj, Meherpur, Kurigram, Panchagarh, and Khulna, in almost all the border districts including Kushtia, this disease has taken a terrible shape.
The Business Standard contacted the officials of the department concerned for three consecutive days. But the officials could not provide any data on how many cows were affected or died of lumpy skin in the country.
However, Rangpur's Animal Resources Divisional Officer Dr Md Abdul Hye said 10,000 cows have reportedly been infected in the division so far. This data is only for hospitalised cattle.
BDFA President Imran Hossain said in January this year, the government banned the import of vaccines. During this time, the disease spread throughout the country.
Dr Md Shahinur Alam, director (Extension) of the Department of Livestock, told TBS that there is an outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease in some areas including Rangpur and Chattogram. However, it is not possible to say how many cows are infected with this disease.
"The government gave nod to the import of 50 lakh vials of vaccine. This crisis has arisen as importers who got permission did not import it on time."
Situation deteriorates rapidly in Chattogram
Zoologists said, around 2016, LSD was detected in cows for the first time in the country. It is a prediction that this time, the disease has spread among cows in the country from cows illegally brought from India-Myanmar for Eid-ul-Adha.
Around 260,000 cows were infected with this disease in Chattogram in 2019. This year it has spread more widely.
Chattogram Divisional Dairy Farmers Association General Secretary Mohammad Omar told TBS, "More than 5,000 farms, households here have 20 lakh cows. About 25% of these cows are currently affected by lumpy skin.
"At least 800 cows have died due to this disease in the last three months."
However, Chittagong District Livestock Officer Dr Alamgir said 20,000 cows were infected by Lumpy Skin and 100 died in the district.
The agro sector entrepreneurs said the farmers are facing three types of losses due to lumpy skin, including additional costs for sick animals, infected animals' growth being stunted, and decreasing milk production.
Chattogram Divisional Dairy Farmers Association Mohammad Omar said, "Cows affected by lumpy skin need to be reared for an additional six months to one year. A cow that gives 20 kg of milk per day drops to only 5 kg when infected with lumpy skin. Besides, its growth was reduced to 200 grams from 800 grams, having 5 kg feed.
Well Agro, one of the largest farms in Chattogram's agro sector, used to produce 1 tonne of milk daily from 250 cows.
Syed Nazrul Islam, vice-president of BGMEA, owner of the farm, told TBS, "We are panicked as lumpy skin has already hit various farms in the vicinity."
Marginal farmers alleged that the livestock department's doctors did not respond to the call. Even if they come, they have to charge a huge fee. Being helpless, they call village doctors to treat sick cows, causing problems in many cases.
Cattle farmers said if the government does not take quick action, there will be a big disaster in the agro sector.
The way LSD spreads, dos to prevent it
According to zoologists, Lumpy skin disease (LSD) is a highly infectious viral disease that affects all breeds of cattle and water buffalo. LSD is primarily spread by biting insects such as mosquitoes and biting flies. It can also be spread through direct contact between animals.
Dr Md Shahinur Alam, director (extension) of the Department of Livestock, said the primary symptom of this disease is fever. After that, lumps appear on the skin. Without proper treatment, cows become weak, and in some cases, sick cows may die. When the symptoms develop, applying antibiotics is prohibited.