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Vet on call: What every vet should know on exporting cows



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Dr Korir called me the other day seeking my services as he wanted to export cows to a neighbouring country. He had landed a lucrative contract but he was not familiar with animal export procedures.

Veterinary work is so diverse that all veterinary doctors retire from the profession only having worked in a few of the options the discipline offers.

I probed Dr Korir and he revealed he wanted some lessons on animal export health certification and documentation procedures so that he can add the service to his practice’s portfolio.

I agreed to do so in line with professional ethics and the Veterinarian’s Oath. If it were normal business, I possibly would have read his enquiry as competition and made myself unavailable.

The first step, I explained to him, was for the importer of the animals to obtain an import permit from his country. The import permit states the receiving country has no objection to the desired animals being imported but also issues conditions that the exporter must fulfil before the animals can be allowed to enter the importing nation.

The import permit is issued by the veterinary authority of the importing country. The counterpart authority in the exporting country then confirms the exporter has complied with all the conditions set in the import permit before they can be issued with an export permit, officially called an international veterinary certificate (IVC).

Korir contacted his client and he provided the import permit through email in a few days. The list of conditions was fairly standard.

They included confirming that the cattle were vaccinated as required against foot and mouth disease, anthrax, black quarter, lumpy skin disease and Rift Valley fever.

They also asked for confirmation that the animals were well-identified, had up-to-date breeding records and were free of blue tongue disease and rabies.

At the time of departure from Kenya, the animals must be declared, by way of a health certificate, free of any signs of disease by a recognised veterinary doctor.

In addition, the animals would be tested for tuberculosis (TB) and the reproductive diseases campylobacteriosis, trichomoniasis and brucellosis.

The test results must be negative and must be carried out by a government-approved laboratory. The results would be attached to the export permit.

Dr Korir had already identified the required eight heifers on a farm in Nairobi that raises pedigree Ayrshires.

The farm had about 300 well-looked-after high-yielding Ayrshire cattle. The animals are kept on grass and supplemented with dairy concentrates and minerals.

Only female animals are kept on the farm since it uses artificial insemination for breeding. Bull calves are sold off soon after suckling colostrum.

“Now, we need to organise the laboratory testing team,” I told Korir once he showed me the import permit.

The most-efficient team is usually from the government veterinary research laboratories because they have all the personnel, equipment and technology required to carry out the tests, I told Dr Korir.

The team carried out the tests in one week. Fortunately, for Korir, the eight heifers were free of all the diseases. The next thing was for me to carry out the health certification of the heifers to ensure that they had no signs of any other disease, had no observable genetic, developmental or any other abnormality; and that they had the standard purebred Ayrshire characteristics. Further, I was to confirm the breeding records as well as the parents’ milking records.

On the farm, Muriungi, the manager, took us to the milking parlour where the heifers were restrained. A herd of 100 milking cows, including the mothers of the heifers, had been kept in the milkers’ pen opposite the milking parlour for my inspection.

To the left of the milking cows were paddocks with about 80 calves of different ages. The spectacle of bright white and red well-fed cattle and the noises of the calves calling for their mothers was very refreshing.

For a moment, I totally forgot I was still in Nairobi with its concrete jungle and cacophony of noises from vehicles, people, sound equipment and sirens.

Muriungi assured me his animals were clean of diseases and the lab results were a good confirmation.

The animals were all pregnant as stated in the records and they all conformed to the standard expectations for purebred Ayrshires. None had discernible deformities.

Two heifers, however, showed signs of the tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis respectively called gall sickness and red water in layman’s terms. The two are caused by blood parasites that are spread by ticks.

The sick heifers were a bit lethargic. I noticed their feeding was slow. They had fever of 40 degrees centigrade and their rumen movements were slower than normal at one cycle in five minutes.

The heart beat was pounding and I was able to pick it with a stethoscope when listening to the rumen movements.

Normal heart sounds are soft and are not supposed to be picked at the level of the rumen.

My findings explained some very hard faeces that I had seen on the corridor to the milking parlour. Anaplasmosis causes constipation by lowering the movements of the digestive system.

As I did rectal examination of the heifers to confirm the pregnancies, I encountered hard partially pelleted dung in the two sick heifers.

Muriungi was shocked by the findings. He could not understand how his two heifers had contracted the two diseases.

I took blood smear samples from the ears of the heifers for laboratory confirmation of the diseases. Korir promptly treated the heifers with the respective medicines for the two diseases.

Four days after the treatment, Korir confirmed the heifers were back to normal. I applied for the export permit and five days later Korir delivered the animals to his client.