As Uganda strategizes to position itself as a regional hub for the export of animal products, there is concern that efforts could be retarded by the careless handling of animals and birds by both farmers and veterinary professionals.
Senior veterinary experts have warned that poor administration of drugs to animals and birds has a negative impact on the quality of products like meat, milk, eggs and honey, hence impacting on consumers’ health.
“The use of veterinary drugs in animals like cattle, goats, poultry, bees has the potential to generate residues in animal derived products,” Dr Fred Monje, a Senior Veterinary Inspector in Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), observed. This, he says, leads to contamination and therefore unsuitable for human consumption.
Dr Monje says that veterinary practitioners and farmers must stick to guidelines, warning that the continued improper immunization of animals weakens body processes like metabolism and detoxification which would otherwise help to filter drug residues that exit the body through urine and faeces.
When processes don’t take place normally, the result is the retention of drug residues in body, which then contaminate meat, milk and eggs in chicken, Dr Monje, adding that “the residues can cause diseases like cancer, allergy and damaged cell genes. The residues could also lead to antimicrobial resistance and congenital malformations.”
“The main reason for drug residues in animal products is due to improper usage and failure to keep the withdrawal period,” he says, advising veterinary shops to destroy expired medicines, as guided.
He advises farmers to use qualified veterinary personnel instead of relying on the unqualified ones but also that they avoid exposing chemicals to the environment as it provides most of the animal feeds.
Dr Monje also warns farms to keep their animals away from spilled chemicals as well as improper use agricultural chemicals such as pesticides.
Dr Mareb Acham, also veterinary inspector in the MAAIF says farmers should utilize the services of district veterinary officers, stating that officers have the obligation to guide farmers on the usage of chemicals and antibiotics. “They should not just buy drugs without the advice of veterinary personnel,” he says.
However, despite Dr Acham’s advice, most farmers in Uganda find it hard to access qualified personnel, and if identified, they are so expensive to engage.
The World Animal Health Organization, says Uganda’s veterinary sub sector is understaffed with minimum structures which offer low services, despite the high economic potential of the animal industry. For instance, Uganda produces 1.5 billion litres of milk annually, records from the Uganda Dairy Development Authority show.
“We have had problems of recent while trying to export our beef and milk. Markets like the European Union emphasise the issue of safety so much because they don’t want our products to cause diseases to their citizens,” says a local milk exporter.