Thursday, August 26, 2010

Healthy Farm Animals Help Ensure Public Health

The black piglet squirmed out of the milk crate and shot between the legs of its owner. It took off across the cow pastures, heading towards the woods. Two boys pursued it, scaling fences as easily as the pig dove under them.

An hour later, the boys returned with their wriggling quarry. The piglet was one of dozens of animals which Colombian farmers brought for Army veterinarians to treat. Over the course of the day, the vets saw cows, horses, burros, swine, and dogs.

I myself was interested to see the living conditions for rural Colombians. The farm that had been selected for the day was in the hills above Coveñas, about twenty minutes away from the medical site where Project HOPE volunteers worked.

Right away I could tell that the farm was one of the more prosperous in this region. The concrete houses for the family and farmhands were neatly painted and well-kept, with either tile roofs or palm thatching. Richly plumed chickens and guinea fowl pecked among the lawns.

The farm’s cows were a Brahmin-Broma hybrid, small white cows with loose skin and small humps on their backs. Farmhands would wrestle the calfs and hold them by their ears so the vets could vaccinate them. The adult cows were herded into a tight pen to keep them still for the needles.

The Army’s primary goals were to vaccinate and deworm the livestock. They also administered vitamins B and E, and rabies shots for the horses and donkeys.

The veterinary operations are an important part of Continuing Promise’s strategy to improve the health of Latin Americans. Colombian veterinary doctor Luis Mariano spoke of the relationship between domesticated animals and humans. “Public health (in humans) is only one (reflection of national health). We need to achieve equilibrium in the environment.”

Healthier livestock will increase food and fertilizer yields in Colombia’s rural areas. Also Colombian agriculture is becoming more industrialized nationally.

As the HOPE team continues to care for the people of Colombia, it is reassuring to see that the Continuing Promise mission covers far more than the health of one species.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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