2017 Kenyan smallholder dairy health management project a success

Improving the lives of rural Kenyan people
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Natalie Dow, AVC Class of 2017, helps a Kenyan farmer listen to a cow's heart murmur with a stethoscope.

By: Dr. John VanLeeuwen, Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI

The 2017 Farmers Helping Farmers-AVC three-week senior veterinary student course in Kenya was a resounding success. Over 500 smallholder dairy farmers received education and services in cattle health management; over 650 animals were given individual treatments or health management interventions; and another 130 animals were treated for identified health concerns.

“The work done by veterinarians and veterinary students during this course enhanced the health of the animals and improved sustainable livelihoods of the rural Kenyan people, who demonstrated their appreciation time and again with gifts of mangoes, bananas, eggs, and even a couple 40 kg bags of potatoes,” says Dr. John VanLeeuwen, course coordinator and professor of ruminant health management at AVC. “They have so little, but they always want to say thank you somehow—which really makes you appreciate what you have in Canada.”

Seven veterinary students (Christine Makena, Sophie Masika, Francis Njoroge, and Edward Musemi, of Kenya, and Natalie Dow, Terra Macdonald, and Matt MacFarlane, of AVC) and many animal health personnel received clinical training in the treatment and health management of dairy cattle on smallholder farms.

The major health problems observed included infectious diseases (over 20 cases of East Coast fever and 13 coughing cattle), parasite infestations, udder infections, and insufficient nutrition, leading to low milk production, poor reproduction, and inadequate growth. We also saw numerous down cows and off-feed cow problems, many reproductive checks, and miscellaneous conditions.

The Canadian and Kenyan veterinary students exchanged information about their respective countries and the great challenges of international development work, self-sustainability, veterinary medicine, and producing and marketing milk in poor, remote areas of Kenya, as well as new techniques and theories of dairy cattle health management.

“This year was a notable year in that we broke some records. We had the largest single seminar attendance of 158 people,” says Dr. VanLeeuwen. “We also had the largest single day deworming session at our walk-in clinic, where despite modest handling facilities, we managed to deworm 590 cattle. In fact, we ran out of some types of dewormer but fortunately had other multi-purpose types that would still do the trick.”

During the last week, the team was joined by veterinarians, Drs. Jessica Gonzalez, Laura Kutryk, and Klaas and Karen Leppelman, supported by Vets without Borders-Canada (VWB). The VWB vets, working with a different Kenyan dairy group, had just arrived in Kenya, and so VanLeeuwen helped to orient them to the Kenyan dairy industry and provided additional training on how to handle veterinary problems from a Canadian perspective but in a Kenyan context.

Various veterinary pharmaceutical companies, including Bimeda, Boehringer, Merck, and Vetoquinol, provided products for the project, which enabled the veterinary team to provide suitable treatments for the animals that they encountered. The team appreciated the financial support from Merck Canada Inc. and members of the Atlantic cattle and veterinary community, including veterinary clinics in Antigonish, Cornwall, and Montague; Berwick Animal Hospital; Downsview Vet Hospital; Fundy Vets; Ross Vet Services; and Drs. Laura Field, Mike Walker, Andrea Dube, Marc Verschoor, Martha Sweeting, John Drake, Sandra MacConkey, and Genevieve Luca.

Thank you again to all our supporters for your assistance in making this possible.

Anna MacDonald
AVC External Relations Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College
(902) 566-6786
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