|dc.description||Ecopathology is the study of the biological, physical, human and economic elements which may be causal factors of disease in livestock. There are some illnesses which, although not fatal, reduce productivity. In developing countries pastoralists deal with these factors on a daily basis, and ecopathology has a particularly useful application in these situations.
The concept of ecopathology was first developed in France in the 1970s. Those who had charge of intensive stock units noticed that even though vaccines were eradicating the major diseases, lesser illnesses (colds, coughs, lameness, etc.) were reducing the production of both meat and milk. Veterinarians were unable to pinpoint any specific microbial causes, but said that any identifiable pathogen could be only one of several causative factors. Not all herds, they said, were affected in the same way by the same agent.
The veterinary ecopathologists therefore widened the scope of their research into the causes of illness in order to determine exactly what it was in the pastoral environment that constituted a risk factor for herds. J P Gani\E8re a French scientist explains 'There seems to be an imbalance between the sum of the risk factors and the animals' ability to adapt. Each factor, if taken in isolation, plays a minor part, but it is more often the synergenic combination of all these factors which brings on disease.' As a result, research has been undertaken on habitat, hygiene, herd movements, climate and husbandry.
Although the science of ecopathology evolved as a response to problems in the intensive stock farms of the North, it would seem to have relevance also in the South. Pierre-Charles Lef\E8vre, who is in charge of ClRAD/EMVT's ecopathology programme, says 'The major problems affecting stock in tropical countries have now been identified. The great epizootics such as rinderpest and trypanosomiasis have generated numerous studies, and much has been written about them suggesting ways forward for those engaged in livestock rearing. However, all over the world the people who look after stock are dealing every day with ailments on which very little has been written, such as mastitis, spontaneous abortion and chest infections.'
One of the advantages of ecopathology is that research can result in preventive measures and the dissemination of simple sanitary programmes which are easily adapted to a particular situation. This eliminates costly, laboratory-produced, pre-packed solutions which will not work in an African environment. Bernard Faye of the French Institut national de recherches agronomique (INRA) emphasizes that 'ecopathologists are stock 'managers' or 'administrators'. We seek to understand and predict local conditions ,and adapt them in order to get better results. Each herd is unique, and as a result of our investigations we can recommend ways in which husbandry practices can be changed.'
The first international conference on Ecopathology was held in Clermont Ferrand, France, in October 1993. However, this new science is faced with several obstacles. These can be physical (climate and inadequate infrastructures, which can force those researching in this field to use criteria which are not solely scientific when selecting zones to study); professional (lack of focal points for research; few abattoirs, inadequate or non-existent registration procedure) and human (mainly because herds and herdsmen are constantly on the move, also because there is little
training for those who tend the animals). Finally, the means for disseminating any research
findings to those engaged in animal husbandry are inadequate and need to be reinforced. Ecopatholigie animale:
Methodologie et exemples d'application en milieu tropical (Animal Ecopathology: a methodology with examples taken from tropical fieldwork) by B Faye, P C Lef\E8vre R Lancelot and R Quirin Collection du labo au terrain INRA Publications, route de St Cyr 78000 Versailles, FRANCE||