Zoetis initiative improves poultry health for Nigeria’s farming and veterinary communities

CHI Farms, one of the leading poultry farms in Nigeria, will open a new diagnostic centre today, in poultry production hub Ibadan, with the support of Zoetis and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
calendar icon 12 September 2018
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The new diagnostic centre is part of a three-year initiative to build a sustainable veterinary diagnostic network and animal health infrastructure in Nigeria through the African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative.

The initiative, co-funded by a £14.4 million grant from the BMGF, will upgrade more laboratories across Nigeria, bringing veterinary services, diagnostics and medicines closer to the country’s farmers.

Regional Director, Africa, at Zoetis, and leader of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative, Dr. Gabriel Varga, said the diagnostic hubs will provide tests and veterinary consultations from state and private veterinarians to local farmers.

A.L.P.H.A. will contribute to the laboratories by providing technical expertise, as well as materials and equipment for testing, education and training,” he says.

Dr Varga says the initiative has confirmed a significant need for training and education on the use of veterinary products and diagnostic tools, as well as ensuring an overall understanding of the benefits of advanced animal care on a farm’s productivity.

“We learned that initiating a vaccination program for animals will not help if biosecurity conditions are not respected on farm. We are therefore organising education and training sessions with smallholder farmers around biosecurity and disease prevention, the responsible use of medicines, and veterinary diagnosis,” added Dr Varga.

Local partnerships for better diagnostics

To develop a certified local distributor network, Zoetis has teamed up with local poultry producer, CHI Farms, to improve the accessibility of veterinary medicines and technical services where they are needed.

CEO of CHI Farms, Martin Middernacht, says one of the biggest challenges facing Nigerian poultry farmers is that they don’t understand the health status of their birds.

Mr Middernacht says the new diagnostic centres will facilitate the accurate screening of bird blood samples on local farms, while farmers and vets are taught when and how to vaccinate an animal, how to properly diagnose a disease, treat sickness and restore productivity on the farm.

“We have a customer focus team that provides support to the farms through training, explaining to farmers what constitutes good poultry management. Part of that is using high-quality vaccines based on the correct diagnostic screening of the birds.”

He says the initiative is to the benefit of all communities, including rural farmers who otherwise don’t have access to affordable screening of the health of their birds, and through training so they better understand what constitutes good poultry management and biosecurity.

“The A.L.P.H.A initiative will have a major impact on the economic success of farmers with low mortality rates amongst birds, leading to increased protein availability throughout the country.”

Fresh challenges, fresh solutions

For Dr Varga, seeing first-hand the dire animal health situation in sub-Saharan Africa has meant working on all possible fronts to quickly establish the framework for success of the A.L.P.H.A. initiative.

“We have made good progress and have also learned a lot. We are applying our learnings to achieve pioneering results in our first project year. Looking ahead, we are taking steps to ensure we can continue to build the infrastructure needed to help veterinarians and farmers to improve the health and productivity of their livestock and livelihoods.”

Mr Middernacht says that while the provision of diagnostic centres is providing a solution to one challenge, poultry farmers in Nigeria are also struggling with the availability of raw materials at steady prices to produce feed.

“We have seen a volatile market for maize and soya products, which are predominantly used to produce poultry feed,” he says.

“We also need quality vaccines and are currently working with Zoetis to supply these to farmers.”
Dr Varga says the initiative identified barriers to progress – specifically a limited number of quality medicines available to farmers, and a poor understanding of how to store and use medicines properly.

He said Zoetis has submitted numerous registrations for vaccines in Nigeria and applied for product registration in Uganda and Ethiopia.

“Providing registered quality products will improve efficacy and safety, while providing critical support to veterinarians and farmers to advance the health and productivity of livestock.”

A strong future for farming and animal agriculture

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the largest livestock populations in the world – and the highest density of impoverished livestock farmers. Livestock is an essential asset to rural communities: improving its health, and the productivity of smallholder farmers are critical to achieving food security in areas of exceptionally high animal and human disease incidence.

Executive Vice President and Group President at Zoetis, Clint Lewis, says animal health is extremely important in contributing to sustainable economic development goals and business opportunities in Africa:

“Farming and animal agriculture are major forms of livelihood for people in sub-Saharan Africa. By improving access to critical veterinary products and services, and building an infrastructure for quality animal healthcare, we can make a positive long-term impact.”

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