Keeping Farm Animals Healthy
Next time you reach for a carton of milk or a container of eggs, give a thought to the people responsible for the quality of these products and the health of the animals that produce them.
That would be the Veterinarians employed by the Animal Health Division of Natural Resources. The image of the vet as the kindly, middle-aged man who helps deliver calves at remote farms in the middle of the night is just a bit dated. Today the vet is probably a young woman, and the farm might have 600 cows or tens of thousands of chickens, which is more than the Canadian average. Farm animals have many kinds of health issues for many different reasons, and keeping them healthy means keeping them economically productive. For Regional Veterinarians, over 75 percent of their work is done on the province’s 32 dairy farms. Because they are distributed over a huge area, private vet practice is not economically feasible, so government provides the on-farm service.
A single Poultry Veterinarian covers the health needs of the province’s broiler and layer industry across the whole island. Government also operates the internationally (ISO) accredited provincial Animal Health Laboratory in St. John’s that provides food safety and diagnostic testing overseen by a Veterinary Pathologist who teases the animal’s health story from tissue samples and feeds that information back to the farm animal vets.The division also monitors and controls animal diseases that affect farms or public health, like rabies or avian influenza, and also studies emerging illnesses such as Lyme disease or mosquito-borne diseases. This disease monitoring is often done in cooperation with university students and faculty to help produce the next generation of Veterinarians and Research Scientists. Veterinarians also inspect meat packing operations, help conservation officers treat sick or wounded wildlife, and promote heritage animals.