Animal Health & Disease Management

Skin problems (new)

Domestic animals are often afflicted with various skin problems, some easy to cure others more complicated, and some even highly contagious to the human handlers.

The effect of skin problems on animal productivity also varies from mild irritations to rapid death, with all kinds of in between stages affecting the productivity and comfort of the animals. It really pays to pay close attention to the health and comfort of domestic animals.

Bovine Farcy

Scientific name: Bovine nocardiosis


Local names: Rendille: Ilmongoi, Somali: ghendiburr, Turkana: Etune, Pokot: rokon potich, Gabbra: Chawe, Maasai: erririe, entoki-keri Description: Fungal disease



This is a bacterial disease caused by Nocardia farcinica organisms. These organisms cause chronic, non-contagious diseases in animals and humans. They are commonly found in soil, decaying vegetation, compost and other environmental sources. They enter the body through contamination of wounds or by inhalation.

The disease in cattle is characterised by infection and swelling of the superficial lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes of the legs, neck and around the base of the ears.

Only cattle and humans are affected

Mode of spread

Transmission is by direct contact with affected animals, or indirectly via contaminated bedding, harnesses etc, or via infection of skin wounds.

Ticks may be involved in transmission. The prevalence of affected animals within a herd is usually low, but, on occasion, for reasons unknown, it may slowly spread until almost the whole herd is affected. The disease is more common in the drier, hotter, semi-arid areas of the country, where minor damage from skin wounds from thorny vegetation can occur and transmission by Amblyomma ticks is possible.


Signs of Bovine Farcy

The disease affects cattle of all ages. 
It appears initially as small nodules under the skin, most often on the legs and on the neck, at the base of or near the ears. The nodules develop slowly, and some are grouped together in the form of a large mulberry. They are firm and painless. Infection slowly extends along the lymphatic vessels, which become prominent and corded, and along them more nodules may arise, together with the enlargement of the regional lymph nodes. Neither the nodules nor the lymph nodes show any tendency to rupture despite the latter sometime attaining the size of a large coconut. Swellings may persist for years with no apparent adverse effect on the health of the animal. 

On incision the swelling yields a thick, yellowish or greyish-yellow pus, sometimes granular in appearance and to the touch, but usually smooth and cheese-like. The abscesses show no tendency to resolve and ultimately spread to the internal organs leading to loss of condition and death. 

Sometimes there is gross swelling of a leg when deeper tissues are involved. This is usually a more rapid, advancing form of the disease.


This should present little difficulty. The cutaneous nodules, swollen lymphatic vessels, enlarged superficial lymph nodes, with little effect on the health of the animal, or in more severe cases, the enlarged limb together with the corded lymphatic vessels and swollen lymph nodes and loss of condition should leave little doubt as to the cause.

The lesions are essentially cheese-like abscesses, surrounded by a well-marked capsule of fibrous tissue. The lymphatic vessels are corded and thickened. Lesions of varying size may be found in internal organs, especially the lung and associated lymph nodes.

A veterinarian will confirm the diagnosis by smears of pus removed from an unopened abscess. The main concern is to distinguish the lesions of Bovine Farcy from those of Tuberculosis, which on occasion it can resemble, especially when there are internal lesions, such as those occurring within the chest cavity.



There is no effective treatment
Cutting of the abscesses and the release of pus is of no value. Antibiotics likewise have no effect on the course of the disease. 


Prevention and Control

  • Sporadic cases should be isolated and more severe cases slaughtered. 
  • Attention should be paid to tick and fly control, by regular spraying or dipping, with especial attention being paid to Amblyomma species of tick. 
  • Cattle should be moved out of thick, thorny vegetation, which can cause minor skin wounds and allow entry of infection. 
  • All minor skin wounds, from whatever cause, must be treated promptly and effectively. 
  • In some cases a slaughter/disposal policy may have to be implemented to effect control. A delay in implementing this may lead to a slow and inexorable spread throughout the herd.

Review Process

1. William Ayako, KARI Naivasha. Aug - Dec 2009
2. Hugh Cran , Practicing Veterinarian Nakuru. March - Oct 2010 
3. Review workshop team. Nov 2 - 5, 2010 
4. Addition of Wounds and Abcesses Oct 2011 by Dr Hugh Cran
5. 2013 Insertion of Mange by Dr Mario Younan (DVM, PhD), Regional Technical Advisor for VSF-Germany, working in East Africa since 1995

  • For Infonet: Anne, Dr Hugh Cran 
  • For KARI: Dr Mario Younan KARI/KASAL, William Ayako - Animal scientist, KARI Naivasha 
  • For DVS: Dr Josphat Muema - Dvo Isiolo, Dr Charity Nguyo - Kabete Extension Division, Mr Patrick Muthui - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Isiolo, Ms Emmah Njeri Njoroge - Senior Livestock Health Assistant Machakos
  • Pastoralists: Dr Ezra Saitoti Kotonto - Private practitioner, Abdi Gollo H.O.D. Segera Ranch 
  • Farmers: Benson Chege Kuria and Francis Maina Gilgil and John Mutisya Machakos
  • Language and format: Carol Gachiengo

Information Source Links

  • Barber, J., Wood, D.J. (1976) Livestock management for East Africa: Edwar Arnold (Publishers) Ltd 25 Hill Street London WIX 8LL. ISBN: 071310063X
  • Bayer Leverkusen: Handbook for Farmers Stock Diseases. Germany Veterinary Dept
  • Blood, D.C., Radostits, O.M. and Henderson, J.A. (1983) Veterinary Medicine - A textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Sheep, Goats and Horses. Sixth Edition - Bailliere Tindall London. ISBN: 0702012866
  • Blowey, R.W. (1986). A Veterinary book for dairy farmers: Farming press limited Wharfedale road, Ipswich, Suffolk IPI 4LG
  • Force, B. (1999). Where there is no Vet. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands. ISBN 978-0333-58899-4.
  • Hadrill David 2002: Horse Healthcare A Manual for Animal Health Workers and Owners ITDG Publishing ISBN 1 85339 486 6
  • Hall, H.T.B. (1985). Diseases and parasites of Livestock in the tropics. Second Edition. Longman Group UK. ISBN 0582775140
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: General principles. Volume 1 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN: 0333612027
  • Hunter, A. (1996). Animal health: Specific Diseases. Volume 2 (Tropical Agriculturalist) - Macmillan Education Press. ISBN:0-333-57360-9
  • ITDG and IIRR (1996). Ethnoveterinary medicine in Kenya: A field manual of traditional animal health care practices. Intermediate Technology Development Group and International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN 9966-9606-2-7.
  • M.M.H. Sewell and D.W. Brocklesby (Editors). Handbook on Animal Diseases in the Tropics, 4th ed. Balliere Tindall, London.
  • Mackenzie & Simpson 1967: The African Veterinary Handbook Pitman Nairobi
  • Merck Veterinary Manual 9th Edition
  • Pagot, J. (1992). Animal Production in the Tropics and Subtropics. MacMillan Education Limited London. ISBN 0-333-53818-8
  • The Organic Farmer magazine No. 50 July 2009

Table of content