Health surveillance crucial for livestock

Focus, Normal

The National, Tuesday 30th April 2013


ANIMAL health surveillance (AHS) is essential for protecting public health, and improving animal health, production and welfare.

 It is also essential when it comes to accessing markets for animals and their products.

Public health and animal health are closely linked. Animal health surveillance provides essential information to allow action to be taken to protect animal health and welfare. 

Doing so protects stakeholders in the livestock value chain. 

The South Pacific Commission (SPC) is taking initiatives to address this as it acknowledges animal health is essential for its member countries. 

As a first step, the SPC animal health and production team of the Land Resources Division in partnership with James Cook University conducted a workshop on epidemiology recently. 

The workshop’s aim was to  build capacity in practical field epidemiology to improve animal disease surveillance. 

Capacity building in animal health and livestock in general is an area that needs improvement in the region. Such workshops and others go a long way in helping to improving livestock research and development. 

Outbreak investigation procedures, general principles of animal disease surveillance and survey design, interpretation of survey results, and aspects of syndromic surveillance were some the key areas discussed.

This workshop was one of the main capacity-building activities of the Food Animal Biosecurity Network project funded by AusAID’s Pacific Public Sector Linkages Programme. This project has been delivering animal health field and laboratory capability building programmes in the region since 2010.

Its focus is on animal disease surveillance for Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. 

While attempts are being made at the regional level, we also need to look at how and what needs to be done locally. 

We acknowledge our research and development efforts in animal health and livestock as whole as been a struggle over the last 10 to 15 years. This is despite the fact that livestock makes a significant contribution to the livelihoods of more than 600,000 smallholder farmers in the country mainly through subsistence and small-scale commercial production of pigs and poultry. 

There are a number of constraints limiting our people from benefiting from livestock and related enterprises. Among them is animal health. These need to be addressed to improve our livestock services. The struggle in the sector may be an indication that current supports provided to smallholders at national, provincial and local level is inadequate. 

To improve animal health and other services, a strong partnership of all key players is required. Strong partnership needs to be established to deal with the many issues we have in terms of livestock research and development.

We hope the implementation of the project “Enabling smallholder livestock services in PNG’ will facilitate and strengthen such partnership. This project provides an opportunity for all partners to evaluate current services, and design simple and more effective support network for smallholders. 

Where required, capacity building is improved to ensure services are provided in a sustainable manner.

This project promises to have some major impact in the overall livestock services in the country. 

It aims to build an effective basic livestock health and production service, involving the identification, surveillance and management of health and production issues, and market access constraints on smallholder and commercial farms. 

The project also hopes to develop specific objectives under this broad objective to prioritise primary animal health and production issues. Development of appropriate animal health and production management plans are other possibilities. 

Further research is planned in priority areas to focus on instances of major internal and external parasites of livestock, reproduction and mortality issues, and develop management and treatment strategies to resolve the problems.

The project is expected to address key research questions regarding common animal health, production, and market constraints in priority livestock species. The role of improved housing, hygiene, animal management and nutrition and use of local herbal medicines on animal health and reproduction will also be addressed. 

It is also expected to look into overall management issues and capacity building needs at farmer and institutional levels.

We hope with the strong partnership arrangement in place, some efforts towards improving livestock services will be addressed, particularly in animal health and production. Such efforts we hope can be linked to the regional efforts being pursued by SPC. 

Past efforts may not have seriously addressed these constraints. NARI’s research effort in livestock has been focusing on feeding systems. We can build on lessons learnt from these projects and similar projects implemented elsewhere. This project and that being pursued by SPC look promising. 

We hope these projects can be the starting point to address animal health issues, improve capacity in animal health surveillance and help improve livestock production in PNG and regionally.