Global demand for poultry meat and eggs has increased dramatically over recent decades with the rate of in-crease especially high in developing countries. In developed regions, very large-scale commercial poultry sy-stems, often involving fully integrated operations that include all aspects of breeding, rearing, processing and marketing, dominate production. In contrast, in developing regions more than 80% of poultry are still kept in low input-low output backyard poultry systems.
To keep up with growing demand, which is driven by population growth, rising incomes and a shift from rural to urban areas, poultry production in developing countries needs to in-tensify and a major shift is needed from inefficient free-range backyard systems to emerging commercial systems. The latter are based on the use of improved genetics, feeds, housing and overall management, in-cluding effective disease control and biosecurity measures.
A major constraint to this shift occurring is the lack of vets in developing countries who have experience and knowledge of poultry diseases and their effective control in commercial systems. Without expert veterinary support it is extremely risky for far-mers to embark on commercial poultry production. Developing country veterinary schools currently emphasize cattle rather than poultry in their curricula.
The problem is especially acute in small to medium-sized commercial poultry farms which are often owned by emerging farmers who lack expe-rience and knowledge and also lack access to poultry experts and the knowledge, products and services they can bring. In contrast, the largest commercial poultry enterprises tend to have well established links to the same level of expertise, products and services as are enjoyed by their coun-terparts in more developed regions.
Ceva partners with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to train vets and boost dairy, poultry production and health in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Burkina Faso.
The project consisted of delivering our training modules to vets, each of which lasted a week. The modules were run at monthly intervals over a three-month period. Ahead of each module, participants – vets from the private and public sectors – received a reading list. This meant the week-long training sessions could primarily focus on practical activities, such as post-mortem examinations and farm visits. The overall focus was on preventive approaches.
To date, 90 vets in Bangladesh and 60 in Ethiopia have successfully completed the training course. Facebook discussion groups have been formed to enable the vets to keep in touch and continue to support each other as a community of practice. In addition, the most able vets have been selected for further training and mentoring by the international experts so they can now serve as trainers to future cohorts of vets wishing to gain the knowledge and expertise needed to enable them to support commercial poultry far-mers in their respective countries.
The existence of a cadre of trained poultry vets will enable the develop-ment of small and medium-sized commercial egg and meat producing poultry farms in ways that support safer and more efficient production. This will enable the poultry sectors in Bangladesh and Ethiopia to grow in a more sustainable way, enabling domestic production to meet more of the rapidly increasing local demand for eggs and meat as part of more di-verse and nutrition diets. In turn this will support a greater number of more sustainable jobs in the sector.
The creation of a pool of local poultry vets who have the expertise and knowledge to teach future cohorts of vets so they too can better support commercial poultry farmers means that specialist poultry vets will be available to support the growing commercial poultry sector on an ongoing basis.