Belizean Veterinarians participate in workshop

A National Animal Health Workshop for the accreditation of veterinarians started on Tuesday of this week in the Cayo District and will continue until this Friday. Some fifteen veterinarians from around the country are currently participating at the Faculty of Agriculture (University of Belize) in Central Farm. Funding for the four day event is coming from the Inter American Development Bank IDB.

Belizean Veterinarians are being taught how to do testing and sampling of Bovine Tuberculosis and Bovine Brucellosis as well as conducting cattle traceability. (In cattle traceability each animal is traced from the time of birth to expiration.)

The Epidemiology of both Brucellosis and Tuberculosis was reviewed by experts in Central Farm on Wednesday. Both conditions are of particular interest because they have carried along with it both health and economic burdens in other countries in the past.

Bovine Bucellosis by itself is a contagious disease of ruminant animals that also affects humans. Animals affected by Bovine Brucellosis have decreased milk production, weight loss, infertility and lameness and is considered one of the most serious diseases of livestock. The disease is caused by a group of bacteria under the genus Brucella; with the B. abortus bacilli affecting cattle.

Bovine Tuberculosis or cattle Tuberculosis is caused by three forms of bacteria that are part of the Mycobacterium group. But Bovine Tuberculosis comes from the M. bovis bacterium, which can be transmitted from livestock to human and other warm-blooded animals. Unpasteurized milk which is a source of nourishment to calves can also spread the disease. Transmission of the M. bovis can also be via the aerosol medium. Interestingly the M. bovis and others like it can survive in the carcasses of cattle, left abandoned in a field, from one to four years.

As early as August of 2012, the Belize Agriculture Health Authority BAHA had launched a pilot cattle sweep project in the Blue Creek Region of Northern Belize with the hope of eventually covering some 100,000 live stocks across the Country. During that time the project was financed by the farmers themselves. Since then a twelve million dollar Belize National Sanitary Cattle Plan Project BNSCPP was rolled out nationally in January of 2013; with major sponsorship coming from the European Union as well as the Government of Belize. BNSCPP has also obtained support from OIRSA, the Agriculture Health Authority of Mexico, the Belize Livestock Producers Association and Belizean Farmers in testing animals for both Brucellosis and Tuberculosis.

“We expect that the Country will be free; in two weeks time we should get through with the Central Zone and then move to the Southern Zone, we will complete the Southern Zone by October 2013,” says Dr. Miguel Depaz from BAHA and who is assisting with the BNSCPP.

The BNSCPP entails three cycles of surveillance; with each cycle actually testing each and every cattle for tuberculosis and brucellosis and identifying each and every animal. For the second cycle most of the animals would have already been identified so that is when the new born calves are checked. The same is done for the third cycle as the second cycle and that would be when the requirements to declare Belize free from these two diseases would have been met.

At this time live cattle is being exported to the huge market in Mexico as a result of an agreement between the Government of Belize and the Agriculture Health Authority of Mexico. Cattle is also being exported to Guatemala where they fetch good prices via an informal trade says Dr. Miguel Depaz. (High resolution photos from Google Earth are now showing undeclared tracks and in-road from Guatemala to Belize near the Western Border and Bullet Tree Falls. The back roads from Bullet Tree Falls, which become active at night, have already raised the eyebrows of the local Police Authorities.)

The success of any cattle sweep program to ensure a healthy population is highly dependent on the support and participation of livestock producers. One of those producers is Louise August from the Cayo District, who reports that recently a group of Mexican Veterinarian came to test his 189 heads of cattle for both Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, for which the outcome was an all negative.

The Project Directors of the Belize National Sanitary Cattle Plan Project would like to see cooperation from the farmers as they move to the Southern parts of Belize. Under ideal settings the farmers should have their animals ready for testing when the Veterinarians arrive at their farms.

The Guardian