The latest report from Veterinarians without Borders in Laos is how busy the team has been with Animal Health Monitoring activities. For an entire week, 2nd and 3rd year veterinary students went to 4 different villages to visit large animal farmers in the evening (when the animals have returned back home after spending the day grazing). At each farm, the students would ask farmers questions regarding the management of his farm such as- new animals born or purchased, animals sold or culled, changes in feeding or housing practices, and any preventive measures applied. All information was record in a carbon paper book so that the farmer can keep one copy of the record. The were also able to select 2 animals to practice a thorough clinical examination and sample collection (blood and faeces). This is not always an easy task, because as you can see in the pictures, the animals are not used to be handled, they are just brought to the field to graze every morning and brought back to the house in the evening by their owner or the farmer’s children. So sometimes, particularly for buffaloes, only the owner can handle the animal, thus he was asked to check the colour of the mucosal membrane in the mouth or to check the temperature because the buffalo would not let the student do.
After collecting the blood and feces samples, we went back to the laboratory to do analyses with the help of Phonemany and Syphong, two 5th year students doing their final term training on blood and fecal parasites. Some analyses required the parasites to be alive, so we didn’t finish until 10pm. However, even hungry and tired students were happy to learn this new technique: micro haematocrit centrifuge technic for Trypanosoma evansi, a blood parasite, that you can see moving under the microscope! Unluckily for the cattle here, we found quite a lot of this parasite as well as fecal parasites.
Syphong and Phonemany will then discuss the risk factors and the best prevention strategies in their final report so that we can feedback to the farmers. A new task for this round of Animal Health Monitoring, was delivering certificates by the faculty laboratory to farmers with the results of the analyses and advice on which drug to use to treat their animal. Thanks to that, Syphong identified some farmers who were interested in treating their animals and will be able to do comparison in fecal parasite egg counts before and after treatment to assess the efficacy of the treatment. At the end of August, we had feedback meetings to the farmers in the 4 villages to update them on the evolution of the activity, on the results of the different data the students have collected and gave them advice on the problems that they might have encountered. For example, bloat in cattle at the beginning of the rainy season, cases of haemorrhagic septicaemia during the rainy season, improvement of pens (because during the rainy season the animals spend more time in them, since farmers cannot let them free range in the middle of rice fields), and emergency sales of animals for cash need versus regular sales for a more regular income. We have been very impressed with the success of the farms and how engaged the farmers have been, especially during rainy season when it makes simple tasks just a little more difficult!