Despite gruelling workloads, many of the working animals SPANA vets treat are suffering malnutrition, a problem that can never be addressed by veterinary care alone. While many owners are desperately poor and lack the resources to feed either their families or their animals adequately, a significant cause is also owners’ lack of awareness of the importance of proper nutrition for working animals.
Malnutrition compounds many of the health problems faced by working animals. Dr Nigatu Aklilu, SPANA Ethiopia’s country director explains: ‘Malnutrition may predispose working animals to multiple infectious diseases and parasitic disorders which affect the body’s defence mechanism.’
Aside from our work developing greater compassion for working animals, helping owners understand the link between adequate nutrition and economic productivity is one of the most effective ways of addressing this widespread problem.
SPANA’s community training team works to address this. In 2014, SPANA trained owners across several Ethiopian towns in proper feeding and watering practices. As a result, owners are now able to mix different feed items, such as wheat bran, barley grain, barley straw, green grass, salt and oil in the correct proportions.
A detailed evaluation of the programme will take place during 2014, but Dr Aklilu is already seeing promising results: ‘These feeding practices are improving the health and body conditions of horses in those towns where our programme is running. We already have plans to extend the training to all Ethiopian towns where SPANA operates.’
With a similar programmes already underway in other countries, SPANA’s community training programme looks set to expand significantly in the years ahead.