9. Disease and Health in Livestock
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9 DISEASE AND HEALTH IN LIVESTOCK ABOUT THE YEAR 1910, after five years' first-hand experience of crop production under Indian conditions, I became convinced that the birthright of every crop is health and that the correct method of dealing with disease at an experiment station is not to destroy the parasite, but to make use of it for tuning up agricultural practice. FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE If this holds for plants, why should it not apply to animals? But at this period I had no animals, my work cattle had to be obtained from the somewhat inefficient pool of oxen maintained on the Pusa Estate alongside , with the feeding and management of which I had nothing to do. I therefore put forward a request to have my own work cattle, so that my small farm of seventy-five acres could be a self-contained unit. I was anxious to select my own animals, to design their accommodation, and to arrange for their feeding, hygiene, and management. Then it would be possible to see: (1) what the effect of properly grown food would be on the well fed working animal; and (2) how such livestock would react to infectious diseases. This request was refused several times on the ground that a research institute like Pusa should set an example of cooperative work rather than of individualistic effort. I retorted that agricultural advances had always been made by individuals rather than by groups and that the history of science proved conclusively that no progress had ever taken place without freedom. I did not get my oxen. But when I placed the matter before the Member of the Viceroy's Council in charge of agriculture (the late Sir Robert Carlyle, K.C.S.I.), I immediately secured his powerful support and was allowed to have charge of six pairs of oxen. I had little to learn in this matter, as I belong to an old agricultural 158 family and was brought up on a farm which had made for itself a local reputation for the management of cattle. My animals were most carefully selected for the work they had to do and for the local climate. Everything was done to provide them with suitable housing and with fresh green fodder, silage, and grain, all produced from fertile soil. They soon got into good fettle and began to be in demand at the neighbouring agricultural shows, not as competitors for prizes, but as examples of what an Indian ox should look like. The stage was then set for the project I had in view, namely, to watch the reaction of these well chosen and well fed oxen to diseases like rinderpest, septicaemia, and foot·andmouth disease, which frequently devastated the countryside and sometimes attacked the large herds of cattle maintained on the Pusa Estate. I always felt that the real cause of such epidemics was either starvation, due to the intense pressure of the bovine population on the limited food supply, or, when food was adequate, to mistakes in feeding and management . The working ox must always have not only good fodder and forage , but ample time for chewing the cud, for rest, and for digestion. The grain ration is also important, as well as a little fresh green food-all produced by intensive methods of farming. Access to clean fresh water must also be provided. The coat of the working animal must also be kept clean and free from dung. The next step was to discourage the official veterinary surgeons who often visited Pusa from inoculating these animals with various vaccines and sera to ward off the common diseases. I achieved this by firmly refusing to have anything to do with such measures, at the same time asking these specialists to inspect my animals and to suggest measures to improve their feeding, management, and housing, so that my experiment could have the best possible chance of success. This carried the day. The veterinarians retired from the unequal contest and took no steps to compel me to adopt their remedies. My animals then had to be brought in contact with diseased stock. This was done by allowing them: (1) to use the common pastures at Pusa, on which diseased cattle sometimes grazed, and (2) to come in direct contact with foot-and-mouth disease. This latter was easy, as my small farmyard was only separated from one of the large cattle sheds of the Pusa Estate by a low hedge over which the...