Why strong veterinary services are needed

Veterinary services make vital contributions to livestock supply chains, from farm to fork, and must be strengthened for the benefit of people, animals and the environment. Livestock play a pivotal role in income-generation, employment, food and nutrition security, transport, draught power and social cohesion for millions of people worldwide.

Even small amounts of animal-source foods can contribute substantially to the nutritional profile of human diets, and by-products including manure, fibre and hides are used as fertiliser, building materials, fuel and clothing.

Livestock as savings account

Livestock can represent a form of bank or savings account, which can be accumulated or redeemed according to household needs, and used as collateral to access credits.

Working animals such as horses provide draught power for crop cultivation and facilitate access to markets and local services.

Used as a form of social currency, animals are exchanged and gifted during ceremonies and in times of hardship, building bonds and providing safety nets within communities.

As 42 per cent of the world’s poor are reliant on livestock as a livelihood strategy and two thirds of the world’s poor livestock keepers are rural women, the unique multifunctionality of livestock is particularly significant to the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people. [1, 2]

Impacts of ‘livestock revolution’

With a growing global human population, urbanisation and changing food preferences, our consumption of animal products is expected to double by 2050 — a consumption boom fuelling the ‘livestock revolution’. [3, 4]

The impacts associated with this paradigm are profound and highly complex. However the livestock revolution could offer a pathway out of poverty for the poor, with income multiplier effects resonating throughout the supply chain, and in non-farm sectors such as education and health.

To harness the pro-poor benefits of a rising regional and global demand for livestock produce, an understanding of the primary inputs and services to support sustainable livestock production is required. Basic livestock inputs include quality feed, water and animal health services. Veterinary activities make vital contributions to all stages of livestock production from ‘farm to fork’ by reducing animal diseases and public health risks, improving levels of production, and attaining food quality and safety standards.

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By Laura Higham