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Poisonous Herb Claims Hundreds of Livestock in West Pokot

Panic has gripped farmers in west Pokot since hundreds of livestock started collapsing to their deaths after consuming a poisonous herb

This comes after at least 250 heads of cattle in Konyao area of West Pokot county reportedly died over the last three weeks after consuming the toxic herb.

Also affected were Nakwapa village in Kacheliba Sub County where farmers woke up to a rude shock last Tuesday to find a total of 94 cattle dead while in Ngotut, Alakas, Kopeyon, a similar scenario was reported.

County Executive member for Agriculture and Pastoral Economy Geoffrey Lipale and the Country Veterinary Officers visited the affected villagers to establish the identity of the suspected weed.

All affected farmers identified the poisonous weed by the name Xanthium Strimariam as the cause of their agony after they sprout out in the grazing field during the onset of the rains.

“Our preliminary reports indicate that weed caused the big disaster. The plant came here five years ago. We want research institutions like Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to come on board to identify its origin,” he said.

The CEC cautioned locals against feasting on the carcasses adding that samples of blood, urine, cow dung and digesters have been taken to Kabete National Veterinary Laboratory for testing.

“We got complaints from   farmers in villages within the location that their livestock had died mysteriously within a very short time,” Lipale said.

Lipale said the disaster had resulted from a drought which has been experienced in the area for about three months now.

Xanthium Strimariam is drought resistant and that is why it is the only green plant surviving. This is why the animals tend to feed on the plant when they are left to graze alone because they have no alternative,” he said cautioning the farmers against letting their animals graze anyhow.

A sample of a suspected poisonous plant in Konyao. Photo by Richard

He advised the farmers to consider buying feeds from other areas or taking the animals to villages which are safe.

Lipale noted the plant has currently spread fast covering 6700 hectares equivalent to an eighth of West Pokot County.

Mr Autok Lomeringura who lost 34 animals has appealed to the county, the national government and donors to support farmers who fell victim to the loss.

Lomeringura narrated how he was informed by his neighbor and got three cows already dead.

“All my cows estimated to cost not less than Sh 25,000 each were pregnant. I depend on the livestock. My father aged 95 survives on milk only,” he agonized saying the plant is carried by wind and grows as grass.

The affected farmers want the government to eliminate the plant which continues to create havoc in the area calling for the use of the emergency kitty to compensate them.

County Veterinary Services Director Dr.Samuel Chelimo pointed out that the cows exhibit symptoms such as oozing blood, foam, twitching muscles, head held up and ears erect, convulsions and swelling of intestines after consuming the plant.

By Richard Muhambe

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