Lungi Langa | September 29, 2023
Neeve Andrews is the first animal health technician in South Africa to open an animal health facility following new legislation that allows paraveterinary professionals like her to open their own facilities and offer primary animal healthcare. Previously, animal health technicians were required to work under the supervision of a veterinarian or to be employed by the government, leaving many of them unemployed. The new regulations allow animal health technicians to offer basic animal care and physical rehabilitation from their own facilities. While some farmers are concerned that services may be inaccessible due to cost and the limited number of animal health technicians, training is underway to support more animal health technicians to set up their businesses and start offering services.
It’s eight o’clock in the morning and Neeve Andrews has already arrived at her animal healthcare office. She is preparing to attend to clients who called requesting vaccination services.
With her stethoscope in hand, she puts vaccines in her cooler box. Before visiting her clients, she picks up the cooler box, a bag of needles, syringes, cotton wool, and everything else needed to vaccinate animals.
Apart from vaccination, Ms. Andrews provides a variety of animal healthcare services. She explains, “I also provide technical assistance on internal and external parasite control, microchipping and nail clipping .”
Ms. Andrews is an animal health technician in Fourways, the fastest-growing commercial and residential area in Johannesburg, South Africa.
She is the first animal health technician in the country to open an animal health facility following new legislation that allows paraveterinary professionals like her to open their own facilities and offer primary healthcare.
Previously, animal health technicians were required to only work under the supervision of a veterinarian or to be employed by the government while, with the new legislation, they can open their own primary animal health care facility and work more in collaboration with a veterinarian.
Ms. Andrews had always wanted to own her own facility, and says it took her less time than anticipated to set up. To start the business, she took out a loan. And by June of this year, the facility was up and running.
She says, “This regulation has opened up many job opportunities,” adding “Our contribution to our profession as [animal health technicians] is to look out for the physical and emotional well-being of animals and people.”
The new regulations allow animal health technicians to open facilities and offer basic animal care such as beak and nail clipping and catheterization without sedation, as well as providing vaccinations, administering medicine prescribed by a vet, lancing abscesses, caring for wounds, and offering physical rehabilitation.
Before starting operations, all private animal health facilities must be registered with the South African Veterinary Council, and follow standard requirements established by the council.
Christian Nithianandham is an animal health technician based in KwaZulu Natal. He says that the change in rules is exciting. But Mr. Nithianandham knows that establishing a practice will be challenging, especially in rural areas, given the competition from other sources of animal health support. One challenge, he explains, is that farmers often turn to long-time producers in their area whose knowledge and skills in animal health care are trusted.
He adds: “There are also veterinary product shops where a salesperson gives the farmer a possible diagnosis based on the symptoms described by the farmer. This makes it easy for farmers to believe that they have no need for [animal health technicians].”
Norah Mlondobozi is a livestock farmer and a member of the Rural Women’s Assembly. She is worried that the new rules might not benefit small-scale farmers.
She explains: “While [animal health technicians] will be readily available, farmers will now pay for services that could be expensive. [Animal health technicians] might be forced to charge fees similar to those charged by veterinarians, because they will want to keep their facilities running.”
Ms. Mlondobozi adds: “We also don’t know whether the government will help farmers by improving access to government [animal health technicians] because they are already very few. I think the situation might become worse.”
Dr. Johan Oosthuizen is a senior advisor at the Food and Agriculture Organization. He says that the new regulations will help livestock farmers access cost-effective animal health services near their areas. He adds that the FAO is running a project that is training 48 unemployed animal health technicians in essential business skills to prepare them to establish their own animal health facilities.
Dr. Oosthuizen says that, as the veterinary industry evolves, the government’s role may also change. The government may shift towards focusing on the prevention and control of controlled diseases, while private veterinary services take on a more comprehensive role in addressing non-controlled diseases and aspects of animal production.
This resource is funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under the project “Sustainable Business in Animal Health Service Provision through training for Veterinary Paraprofessionals.”