27th of April was World Veterinary day, a day only known by very few Zambians. You may ask what the day is all about? Well, it is a day when the world celebrates the contributions of veterinarians to the health of animals and society. The World Veterinary Day falls on the last Saturday of April. This year’s theme is, “The Value of vaccination”. In this article, I will explain who the veterinarian is by highlighting the “value of vaccination” in protecting the livestock industry in Zambia. Let us start by explaining what vaccines are, the negative impacts of disease on the livestock industry, and how the vaccines avert these negative impacts of the disease.

A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies (soldiers) and provide immunity (defence or protection) against one or several diseases. A vaccine is prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease. Vaccinated animals are protected against diseases that they vaccinated against.

Generally, animal diseases cause direct and indirect negative impacts on the livestock industry. Direct adverse effects include among others:

1. Productive inefficiency resulting in more resources used up to produce the same amount of output or produce less for the same amount of input.

2. Abortion, delays in reaching maturity for reproduction or sale.

3. Reduced quality of livestock products. Due to the reduced quality of meat and meat products, you cannot access high-value markets. For instance, the presence of disease such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) can hinder us from exporting goats and sheep to Saudi Arabia.

4. Death of animals thereby reducing numbers and income for farmers.

5. Infertility. Some venereal diseases such as brucellosis can make animals infertile.

6. Decreased draught power. Research has shown that when animal draught power reduces due to disease among oxen, crop (maize) production reduces by 40% in the Southern Province (Muma et al., 2008).

7. Decreased production of milk, eggs, as a source of proteins, manure as a source of energy and natural fertiliser.

Indirect negative impacts of disease on the livestock industry include the suffering of the owner a result of seeing his animals sick or dead animals, loss of bridal ransom, loss of prestigious position in the society, and effect on the ecosystem since animals are essential in ecosystem health.

The value of vaccine or vaccination lies in averting these direct and indirect negative impacts, which results in the growth of the livestock industry, leading to a more significant contribution to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is where the importance of this year’s World Veterinary Day’s theme, ‘Value for vaccination’ comes in.

From what I have presented thus far, you can see that disease is a significant factor in the livestock industry and causes severe adverse effects on this subsector, which the nation considers one of the priority areas in the export diversification agenda. So, who is a veterinarian and what role do they play in national development? A veterinarian provides animal health care (veterinary and extension services) for the sole purpose of:

¥ Increasing animal production and productivity.

¥ Reducing human health risks and improving hygiene. More than 61% of human diseases are transmissible between man and animals (https://www.who.int/neglected_diseases/diseases/zoonoses/en/). A veterinarian is therefore critical in making sure that the food of animal origin (milk, eggs, meat and meat products) that we eat is safe.

¥ Increasing animal welfare and relieving animal suffering.
Therefore, the veterinary profession plays a vital role in sustainable national development through the improvement of livelihoods, food and nutrition security, food safety, and public health.

I, therefore, call upon the Minister of Fisheries and Livestock to reflect and celebrate this year’s World Veterinary Day by appointing the Veterinary Council of Zambia (VCZ) for the smooth operation of this vital profession, which is critical in national development. The veterinary profession has run without the Veterinary Council for over three years. It is scandalous for the current and previous Ministers of Fisheries and Livestock to continuously ignore calls from the profession to appoint the Veterinary Council of Zambia for whatever reasons. There were sentiments during the last Agricultural Expo in Chisamba that the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock is on ‘autopilot’. Could the non-appointment of the Veterinary Council point to this to statement?. There were also calls from the Zambia National Farmers Union to declare Foot and Mouth Disease a national disaster (https://www.lusakatimes.com/2019/04/01/farmers-union-challenge-the-ministry-to-declare-the-outbreak-of-the-foot-and-mouth-disease-a-national-disaster/) because the disease had spread to several parts of Southern, Central and Eastern provinces which produce more than 70% of cattle in Zambia, with seemingly little success of containing it. Without a regulated veterinary profession, disease control will be unattainable which indeed might lead to a national disaster.

I also call upon the farmers, especially small-scale farmers to celebrate the World Veterinary Day by vaccinating all their livestock against respective diseases. Some of the essential vaccines for cattle include: Foot and Mouth Disease, East Coast Fever, Hemorrhagic Septicaemia, Anthrax, Lumpy Skin Disease, Brucellosis, Blackleg and other Clostridial diseases, Bovine Ephemeral Fever, Pasteurellosis etc. Some of the vaccines for chickens include: New Castle Disease, Infectious Bursal Disease, Marek’s Disease, Infectious Coryza, Fowl Pox, Egg Drop Syndrome, etc. Think about how many chickens the nation loses yearly due to New Castle Disease (Chipumphu), which can be prevented by vaccination. This is time for vaccination against Newcastle, which mostly occurs, in cold and hot seasons. Vaccinate around April-May and September-October. The signs of New Castle Disease include:

• Sudden death without any signs.
• The chicken wings drop as if they are wearing a heavy coat (tunkhuku twavala ma jacket).
• The chickens falling asleep all the time and are not feeding.
• Difficulty breathing or breathing through their mouths.
• Swollen head and neck
• Greenish diarrhoea
• Egg production decreases or stops completely.
• Shivering, head is turned to one side, experiencing painful muscle spasms, paralysis of wings and legs.
• Large amount of deaths in a short period of time.
A veterinarian is your partner in the development of your livestock enterprise. Vaccinations must be carried out at the right age, right time, and the correct frequency in order to be effective. Consult your veterinarian.

To all stakeholders in the livestock value chains, let us celebrate the contributions of veterinarians to the health of animals and society by engaging the profession (through the Veterinary Association of Zambia) as key stakeholders in livestock policy design and implementation. Happy World Veterinary Day to you all. Heartfelt condolences to the Veterinary fraternity in Zambia for the loss of a veterinarian, Professor Aaron S. Mweene. Prof. Mweene was a full professor of Virology at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. He was one of the best virologists in the nation and region, who played a critical role in the diagnosis, prevention and control of Ebola. Losing a veterinarian on World Veterinary Day is very painful. May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Dr Chisoni Mumba (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer of Livestock / Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine.
Email: [email protected] , Mobile: +260977717258