I have received numerous questions from farmers over the last one month seeking to know how to evaluate the quality of services offered by veterinary doctors and veterinary para professionals.
Allow me to call the two “animal health service providers” so that I can talk about them in an organised manner.
I interrogated one of the farmers who called me as to why she could not seek answers from her service provider instead of trusting that he knew what he was doing.
“Sorry doctor, I can’t bring myself to do that because he may think I am questioning his knowledge and expertise,” she replied.
The answer motivated the writing of this piece because there are many farmers sailing in the same boat. As a routine, I always do a lot of explanations to my clients but in some cases, the farmer will casually say, “No problem doctor, I trust your work.”
That usually leaves me at a loss because part of my responsibility is to educate the farmer on disease prevention and livestock management for animal welfare, public heath, food production and profitability of livestock farming.
Early this year, (Seeds of Gold, March 11, 2017), I explained how to identify qualified veterinary service providers.
In summary, I said they have different levels of education from institutions recognised by the Kenya Veterinary Board (KVB), are maintained annually in a KVB register and are licensed to practice animal health service delivery to farmers and any other entities requiring their services.
The service providers also have a KVB identification card.
You see, once you have confirmed the vet is qualified, it is advisable that you also ensure they offer you quality services.
You do not need to be an expert in animal health to detect this, but you must have indicators that you can measure.
To begin with, references are a great way of assessing the quality of a service provider’s work.
PROMPTNESS OF THE SERVICE PROVIDER
The vet should tell you who else they serve and let you know that you are free to contact them.
They should even freely give you contacts of references.
Another parameter to watch is the promptness of the service provider’s response to your call.
Once you report your case, he should tell you whether they think it is an emergency, urgent or can be attended in a few hours without jeopardising the success of treatment.
This way of arranging and attending to cases according to priority is a standard medical practice meant to ensure that emergency cases are attended to immediately, urgent ones follow and other cases are attended to preferably the same day they are reported.
The way a service provider behaves towards the client, workers and the animals is also an important measure of the quality of service offered.
The person should be courteous, work in a way that leaves no doubt they know what they are doing, explain to the farmer diagnosis of the problem, the cause of the problem, how the problem is treated and how to prevent it from recurring or spreading to other animals or humans.
A good service provider must be able to handle all animals smoothly and subdue them physically or through the use of medicines regardless of the species, size or ferocity.
Every animal has a weak point that experts use to subdue it.
The farmer should compare the information given by a service provider with the other they have from other sources.
If there are any differences, the farmer should seek clarification from the service provider.
A good service provider will always frankly say what they know, what is doubtful and what they do not know.
They must demonstrate they will confirm what is doubtful and seek to know what they do not know or refer the case to someone with superior expertise.
A good service provider should have a drug kit neatly parked with different types of medicines to treat the various types of animal illnesses, either as single drugs or a combination of drugs.
If the service provider claims to have a one-shot-cure-all medication, then the farmer should have absolutely nothing to do with him.
If drugs are fished out of the pocket, send the service provider out of your farm because our bodies and clothing can contaminate medicines.
There must be good records for all work done with the farmer keeping the original and the service provider keeps a copy.
A farmer should be very concerned if a service provider carries out treatment without examination and diagnosis.
Diseases may appear to be obvious but then, they never hold a meeting to outlaw multiple infections in one animal at the same time.
The basic tools of examination are a thermometer and a stethoscope and, if properly used, they generate a lot of information on the health status of the animal.
Avoid service providers who use one needle to draw and inject medicine to different animals or use water to clean needles and syringes.
ASSESS QUALITY OF EXPERT SERVICES
That is poor hygiene and may cause infections or contamination of drugs.
However, mass vaccination of cattle, sheep, goats and camels may be done with one short metallic needle that is disinfected after injecting a determined number of animals.
After treatment, the service provider should explain to the farmer the activities to be carried out such as withholding the milk, meat or eggs from human consumption, time within which the treatment should be seen to be taking effect and whether there would be repeat treatments by the service provider or the farmer.
To cap it all, the farmer should assess the service provider by evaluating the duration of treatment of an animal and the rate of achievement of the desired results.
For instance, a good service provider for artificial insemination in cattle will be assessed, among other things, on the number of animals that get pregnant once inseminated.
Most animals should become pregnant with the first insemination.
If the pregnancy rates are poor, the service provider should be able to find out the cause and offer solutions.
Animals may still die even after being treated very well.
A good service provider will always seek to know and explain to the animal owner the possible cause of the treatment failure.
My advice is, we are all good at doing one thing or the other.
Thus, we should be able to assess the quality of expert services without being perceived to be challenging the expertise.
Gideon: I would like to know how to make pig silage using maize stalks and combs. I know of the sweet potatoes vines silage but I currently can’t get the raw materials.
Unfortunately maize stocks and combs are not suitable feed materials for pigs.
You are better off using commercial feeds for high and efficient performance of your pigs.
Unlike cattle, pigs are single stomach animals and are not able to digest high fibre materials like the maize stocks and combs.
Further, even for cattle, these materials are very poor in nutrients.
Sospeter: I would like to know much about pigs, like maturity period both kept for breeding and for meat.
Female pigs may be bred at 6-8 months.
Pigs may be slaughtered at the same age but for economic reasons, one should try and attain slaughter weight within 6-7 months.
Boars may be used for mating at 7-8 months as junior boars but they fully mature at 15 months.
Our veterinary expert breaks down for you the categories of service providers in the livestock sector, their roles and what you need to do to curb cheats and seek redress in case you are aggrieved.