2019 Kenyan Smallholder Dairy Health Management Project successful
By: Dr. John VanLeeuwen, Professor of Epidemiology and Ruminant Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College
On January 25, 2019, in partnership with Farmers Helping Farmers of PEI, the “Canadian vet team” left for Kenya with suitcases and boxes full of veterinary medicine. The team consisted of me and three senior AVC students Jolene Vermeulen, Samantha Pomroy, and Katie Gottleib. Prior to leaving, a number of veterinary pharmaceutical companies donated products for the project. These products allowed us to provide suitable treatments for the animals that we encountered. Thank you, Bimeda, Boehringer, Elanco, Merck, and Vetoquinol.
During the three-week trip, almost 150 animals were examined for various health or productivity issues, and over 600 cattle from over 250 farms were dewormed. And over 1,000 farmers attended nine seminars on prevention and treatment of various conditions, and ways to provide better nutritional management and cow comfort for better milk production. The “walk-in clinic” in the Mbaaria Market area near Kiirua was another highlight, with all members of the team processing hundreds of cattle for deworming.
In terms of long-term sustainability of the efforts, six Kenyan veterinary students joined our team and gained an enormous amount of practical experience in the field on technical skills, clinical reasoning, problem work-ups, and decision-making that will benefit them greatly as they enter their veterinary careers. We also worked with animal health personnel who received continuing education in the areas served by the Buuri Dairy Farmers Co-op, Naari Dairy Farmers Co-op Society, Ngusishi Dairy Farmers Co-op, Ex-Lewa Dairy Co-op, Kiamaruga Dairy Group, Lunuru Dairy Co-op, and Wakulima Dairy Ltd. While in Kenya, the progress and activities for the two Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship programs funded in 2014 and 2017 were also assessed, and knowledge translation activities for the research results were continued with the dairy farmers.
The farmers showed a very strong desire for veterinary services and extension in these areas. The major health problems observed included infectious diseases such as East Coast Fever, anaplasmosis, and lumpy skin disease; parasite infestations; udder infections; and insufficient nutrition, leading to low milk production, poor reproduction, and inadequate growth.
The Canadian and Kenyan (“Kenyadians”) veterinary students learned a lot from each other and from the Kenyan animal health technicians and veterinarians about life in Kenya, and the great challenges of international development work, self-sustainability, veterinary medicine, and producing and marketing milk in poor, remote areas of the country. It was very encouraging to see significant improvements in farm management and production among farms visited during previous trips. The Kenyan farmers and animal health professionals were all very appreciative of our efforts.
I look forward to returning in 2020 to continue to partner with the dairy groups as they work toward self-sufficiency. Thank you again to all our supporters for their assistance in making this possible. Special thanks to the following who donated cash to support the students (in no particular order): Drs. Amanda Alexandre, Mark Verschoor, Susan Purdy, Andrea Dube, Sharon Helymck, and Lise Chiasson, and Fundy Veterinarians, Ross Veterinary Services, Douglas Animal Hospital, Shediac Veterinary Hospital, and Cornwall Veterinary Clinic. Asante sana!