AVC faculty and students work to improve dairy industry in Kenya

On January 20th, 2012, three fourth-year AVC students, and two faculty members, travelled to Kenya where they worked with Kenyan veterinarians, animal health technicians, and smallholder dairy farmers to improve the health and productivity of dairy cattle.

Led by Drs John VanLeeuwen and Fabinne Uehlinger of the Department of Health Management, students Russ Campbell (Prince Edward Island), Melanie Mallet (New Brunswick), and Marissa Steinberg (Prince Edward Island and Arizona) participated in the eighth AVC course in International Smallholder Dairy Health Management in Kenya. They were joined by four students from the University of Nairobi’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

In partnership with Farmers Helping Farmers, a PEI-based non-governmental organization, the students delivered veterinary medical care and education to smallholder dairy farmers to improve the health and productivity of their dairy cattle. Each year, over 600 farmers receive health management information and/or services through their work.

Many of the smallholder dairy farmers who benefited from the vet team’s work (primarily women) have only one cow; the milk sold from this cow is often the main source of cash income available to the family. Having a healthy productive cow and income from selling milk has a far-reaching effect on each family; they now have money to educate their children, and to buy food and medicine.
The women report that they gain improved self-respect and more respect from their families—particularly their husbands—by being able to earn some money. Formal and scientific evaluations by Colleen Walton of the Department of Health Management have demonstrated that farmers belonging to the dairy groups where the veterinary team has worked have better food security and more sustainable livelihoods.
The veterinary team stayed in Kenya for three weeks—enough time to get a good feel for the challenges of practicing vet medicine in a developing country, and experience the culture of Kenya. Dr. VanLeeuwen traveled to Kenya a week earlier to deliver lectures on cow comfort and its impact on productivity at the Nairobi Vet College. He also provided assistance for their veterinary curriculum renewal.

Veterinary medicine for this project is donated by Canadian pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Boehringer, Merck-Intervet-Schering-Plough, Merial, and Vetoquinol.

The students paid for a large part of their costs, but veterinarians in Atlantic Canada have also donated funds to assist the students with their costs. The students gratefully acknowledge the following for donations: Antigonish Vet Clinic, Berwick Animal Hospital, Cornwall Vet Clinic, Douglas Animal Hospital, Downsview Vet Hospital, Dr. John Drake and Sandra McConkey, Dr. Lise Chiasson, Dr. Martha Sweeting, Dr. Susan Purdy, Sackville Animal Clinic, Elmwood Vets, Fundy Veterinarians Ltd, Kennedy Animal Hospital, Humber Vet Clinic, Main St. Vet Hospital Inc., Marc Verschoor, MLTH Holdings Ltd., Oromocto Vet Hospital, Ross Vet Services, Shediac Vet Hospital, Southshore Vet Services, St. Margarets Bay Hospital, and Woodbury Vet Hospital. The students also received funds from AIMS, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and some Island businesses to offset some of their costs.