The TBI Fall 2014 Field School students visited a livestock boma (enclosure) this past week to learn more about goats, grazing and the ecology of livestock in this arid environment. Goats are the main form of livestock kept in this part of the world and an important part of the local economy and culture.
We soon made our way to one of the goat bomas and were warmly greeted as we made our introductions:
A couple of students have been working on questions related to livestock and vector-borne diseases, including ticks, so part of this visit was to enable them to put some of their research into a better context.
In order to examine the goats and look at the ticks on them, first we had to round them up:
This took a few minutes, but soon the goats were corralled in their boma:
Ned then set to work examining and measuring the goats with the help of Linus.
The ticks do get groomed off the goats, so Ned had to look closely around the eyes and ears of the goats:
Meanwhile one of the young goats wandered up close to the group – giving us a chance to take a closer look.
Cuteness aside, we did find a few ticks on the goat – all appeared to be in the genus Rhipicephalus:
These ticks are important vectors in some areas, although goats appear to be fairly resistant to the diseases they transmit (primarily East Coast Fever to cattle). The students learned a lot about the challenges facing livestock husbandry in this region as well as some basic biology about ticks and their hosts. One of the challenges facing livestock in a changing environment is that of new and emerging vector-borne diseases – and the data collected by students provides valuable baseline information for longer-term future studies.
More adventures from the Field School soon!