A Veterinary Mission to CAR

By Charles Short, Member, TX/LA Gulf Coast Synod CAR Team

CAR livestockMany millions of people in the developing world consume manioc (cassava) as their principal source of nutrition. This is no less the case with the people of the Central African Republic (CAR). Extended families spend their entire waking day hoeing, planting, harvesting, and preparing this tuber, which serves as the main dish if not the only item on the menu. One of the drawbacks of manioc, however, is that it is a poor source of protein and the amino acids used as building blocks in the body. The EEL/RCA, our partner church in CAR, has initiated projects promoting corn, red beans, peanuts and yams to add amino acids and other nutrients to the diet. The major source of protein at present is livestock. Central Africans are breeders and herders of cattle, goats and sheep. The Fulani in particular, are semi-nomadic herders of all three of these ruminants. In general, however, typical Zebu-cross African cattle are of poor quality. And in many instances good grazing is difficult to find. The constant search for greener pastures defines the nomadic lifestyle.

The purpose of this mission is to care for the medical needs of these animals and to improve the production of meat and milk for human consumption. One way to achieve the latter is to improve the efficiency of feed utilization in cattle and small ruminants. This can be accomplished through a program of veterinary care in which animals will be treated periodically with  anthelmintics and parasiticides to kill intestinal worms such as Ostertagia, Cooperia, and Haemonchus species, and to ameliorate infestations of lice, mites and ticks, the latter of which infect animals with organisms that cause Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Tick Fever, and Thieleriosis. Animals can also be treated for respiratory conditions, lameness’s, foot rot, wounds and vector-borne diseases. With proper facilities, animals can also be examined for pregnancy and assisted with difficult deliveries.

It has recently been shown that of all the health practices used to increase beef cattle production, treating for parasites gives the largest return. Parasites can suppress appetite, decrease milk production, reduce conception rates, and negatively impact the immune system. But treatment of infestations with the newer endectocides has been shown to improve heifer reproduction, produce more calves earlier, increase growth rate of calves, increase cull cow weights, and improve milk production. One report showed that treatment for parasites resulted in an increased return of $201 per head. This project, therefore, will focus on reducing parasite loads in the dual purpose stock of herders in the CAR.

The first year step in developing this project will be to survey Herders and establish their migration patterns. We hope to enroll the services of a young veterinarian named Jonas Donon, who lives in Bouar, in collecting information that will be used to create a plan of action. That plan will include the construction of a corral and chute for working cattle and pens for handling sheep and goats. That plan will be submitted to the EEL/RCA for their consideration. On final approval, we anticipate submitting grant proposals to agencies investing in World Hunger projects to fund a three year plan that would help fund costs of operations and the construction of at least two more corrals. At the end of the day, we hope to see more milk and beef made available to the people living in rural areas of the CAR.

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