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Vet on Call: Make agro-laws work for you

Friday September 1 2017

A livestock handler leads a heifer to the auction yard during the ongoing Mombasa Show.

A livestock handler leads a heifer to the auction yard during the ongoing Mombasa Show. Livestock farmers should always ensure that they strive to make the laid down agriculture laws work for them. PHOTO | KEVIN ODITI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
By DR JOSEPH MUGACHIA
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Any time I engage livestock farmers, it always reminds me of their great work, without which humans would always be grappling with issues of nutritional diseases.

For this reason, I always put lots of efforts to help farmers solve operational or regulatory challenges that impede their ability to carry out their farming business.

Solving such challenges does not necessarily mean doing away with a regulation.

The solution may be as simple as helping the farmer to understand the regulation and the benefits of complying with it.

Something as simple as an animal movement permit requirement has in some cases resulted in farmers missing an opportunity to purchase their desired high quality animals.

I recall the case of a farmer who went to purchase animals but did not know she needed a movement permit.

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By the time she obtained one, the animals had already been sold to someone else.

Had she got proper advice, she could have been able to reserve the animals while she worked on the movement permit.
December 2016 presented me with a challenging situation.

“Hello doctor, I wish to import 47 pedigree Friesian cattle from South Africa but our government requirements are proving too expensive,” the caller began the phone conversation.

I recognised Njoroge’s voice immediately.

He had called many times in the year telling me he had been looking for pedigree Friesian heifers in Kenya in vain. His intention was to establish a pedigree herd at once.

He did not wish to go through the process of breeding to create a pedigree stock. I understood Njoroge’s dilemma because, as I have said before in this column, most dairy farmers in Kenya have poor records of their animals’ health, production and breeding history.

The few with good records do not have large enough herds to offer farmers like Njoroge the big number of start-up stock they need.

URGENT SOLUTION

In November the same year, I had provided Njoroge with the government requirements, otherwise known as “conditions”, for importing dairy cattle.

“So, what’s the problem and I already sent you the conditions for importation?” I replied him.

He told me he had shared the conditions with his supplier in South Africa but compliance costs would push up the cost of importation by close to Sh1.5 million, a figure he had not factored in his budget.

“Is there any way of lowering this cost or doing away with some of the conditions?” he wondered.

I told Njoroge to provide me with a written response from his supplier explaining why the cost would shoot as claimed and I would consult the Director of Veterinary Services to find out if there was any excess of caution in the import conditions.

“However, any relief in regulatory situations takes long to come. You must therefore be willing to wait for a while and without the guarantee of getting any concessions,” I concluded.

As I reflected on Njoroge’s dilemma, it became clear this was a challenge that needed an urgent solution because he was seeking to invest heavily in dairy farming and add value in the national dairy cattle genetic stock, create employment and contribute to food security.

I committed to assist him get a favourable solution.

Between January and April, I held many consultative discussions on phone, email and WhatsApp with all the parties involved in Njoroge’s case.

They included the Director of Veterinary Services, Njoroge, the South African supplier and the South African veterinary authorities at the state and national level.

I also thoroughly reviewed the cattle disease situation of South Africa in general and the specific region where the supplier’s farm is located, as recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

OIE is the abbreviation of the original French name of the global intergovernmental organisation mandated by member states to coordinate, support and promote animal disease control in the whole world.

It was retained as the official abbreviation of the World Organisation for Animal Health. The full French name is Office International des Epizooties.

My consultations were disappointing initially as all indications were that my client would have to foot the compliance bill.

THANKS TO TECHNOLOGY

The DVS was legally bound to the conditions set out because South Africa had the diseases that required to be tested in the animals to certify that all the 47 pregnant heifers being imported were free of the diseases, including Foot and Mouth (FMD) and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP).

The South Africans claimed their country was free of CBPP while the region where the cows were coming from was free of FMD.

The problem was that the claim was a self-declaration and it was not recognised by the OIE, which officially confirms disease-free status for countries and zones. Kenya would, therefore, not accept the assertion of disease-free status.

Njoroge got frustrated because his selected heifers were advancing in pregnancy and at some point, they would either be unsuitable to fly to Nairobi or they would calve down and become cows.

He would miss his heifers and also lose the booking fee he had already paid to the supplier to reserve the animals and prepare them for export.

The supplier was jittery that if the heifers calved, he would have an additional 47 calves and cows he had not planned to keep.

Just as I was resigning to fate in May, we got a break. All along, the South Africans had been working for country disease-free status recognition by OIE for CBPP and zonal disease-free status for FMD.

The good news of recognition for FMD zonal disease-free status, in the region Njoroge was getting the cattle from, came in May followed in June by country CBPP free status.

The Director of Veterinary Services quickly acknowledged the new disease-free status and gave Njoroge the authority to import the cattle. Fortunately, the heifers were still fit to fly.

As I prepared the import permit for the animals, I reflected on the six months work that all the parties had done to assist the two business farmers in Kenya and South Africa to make an international transaction that would otherwise have been stymied by regulation.

Njoroge’s animals landed in their Kenyan home in July to the great joy of their new owner.

Thanks to technology, none of us left our offices despite all the discussions we had.

Njoroge said as he confirmed on phone that all his animals had arrived in good health and condition.