Veterinary paraprofessionals and animal health

AgricultureLivestock and beekeeping

Notes to broadcasters

Veterinary paraprofessionals undertake formal training and are certified by a national veterinary statutory body to provide animal health services (for example, the Ugandan Veterinary Board, and the Nigeria Veterinary Council). Farmers can turn to veterinary paraprofessionals as trusted sources of advice and suppliers of quality veterinary services, including vaccines and medicines.

It is also important for farmers to understand that veterinary paraprofessionals do not just treat sick animals—they can also provide advice and care to prevent animals from getting sick. And prevention is better than treatment!

A preventive approach avoids the costs of treatment, including the cost of lost production (decreased milk, fertility, etc.), the cost of the treatment itself (veterinary drugs and the time of the VPP), and, when treatment fails—the cost of a dead animal(s). The cost of prevention through vaccination or implementing improved husbandry and biosecurity measures is often much less than treatment.

Please also note that veterinary paraprofessionals have different designations in different countries. For example, while they are called VPPs in Uganda and Nigeria, they are known as Animal Health Technicians in South Africa, but all are certified. Both women and men can be VPPs.

In these spots, you will learn more about the variety of services provided by veterinary paraprofessionals, including:

  • Preventive animal care
  • The services provided by veterinary paraprofessionals, and their training
  • Feed formulation
  • The benefits to farmers of using the services of a Veterinary Professional/Paraprofessional
  • Animal health planning

The spots vary in length from about 45-60 seconds and can be played multiple times during programs on livestock. They could also be played at other times when farmers are listening, and when women are free to listen.

The titles of the spots are intended only to identify the topic of the spot. They are not intended to be read aloud as part of the spot.

Note that some of these spots include specific information from Nigeria. Please adapt to the situation in your own country.


Spot #1: Why is preventive livestock care so important?


FATIMA: (CALLING) Who’s there? Oh, it’s you, Hajara. My VPP of life! I can’t thank you enough for your help last month.

HAJARA: (CHEERFUL) Sannu (hello). Good morning, Ms. Fatima. I hope all is well. I’m here to see your chickens.

FATIMA: Ah. Hajara, how are you? We are pleased that everything is fine. That medicine you gave me last time really saved me. I would have lost everything.

HAJARA: (PLEASED) Good! But that medicine was for an intestinal infection. Chickens can catch other infections and diseases.

FATIMA: We know only too well!

HAJARA: Amin. That’s why we need to ensure that we prevent them from getting sick.

FATIMA: That last sickness really cost me a lot, and not just the cost of medicines. A lot of my chickens died, and then there was the time we spent treating the ones that lived and quarantining them. You were here, you saw how we all suffered.

HAJARA: Exactly. You don’t need me to tell you that livestock disease is not something to play with.

FATIMA: I definitely don’t want it to happen again.

HAJARA: It won’t if we ensure that we stop disease before it starts. Prevention is better than cure! And cheaper!


Spot #2: Use only certified VPPs

AKANNI: (CALLS) Lasisi, please help. Bring my phone!!

LASISI: Ah, Baba, what’s the matter?

AKANNI: The cows are looking dull. I want to call Jelili to come and look at them.

LASISI: Jelili? Isn’t that Iya Adio’s younger son? I didn’t know he was a vet. I thought he dropped out of school.

AKANNI: No oo, he’s not a vet. He has not qualifications but he assists a vet, Dr. Tunde.

LASISI: But it’s not enough just to be an assistant! You must complete a diploma before you can be certified by the Veterinary Council of Nigeria to work with animals.

AKANNI: (SURPRISED) Wooow, a lot of things are making sense. It’s like Jelili doesn’t know the work. And, to make things worse, he won’t admit it, and he never wants to call his oga (boss) for advice. He just prescribes antibiotics for every little thing.

LASISI: That’s very bad and very dangerous. He will kill all the cows if we’re not careful. Please don’t call him, let’s find the number of a certified veterinary paraprofessional.

NARRATOR: Avoid quacks. Use only veterinary paraprofessionals certified by the Veterinary Council of Nigeria.


Spot #3: What does a veterinary paraprofessional do?

NARRATOR: So what does a veterinary paraprofessional, or VPP, do?

The answer is: many activities with more than we have time to mention here. But here are the basics.

VPPs are not animal doctors, but have a diploma in Animal Health and work in collaboration with veterinary doctors. They can examine animals and treat simple conditions.

That’s not all though. VPPs perform tasks like vaccination, advising farmers on good livestock husbandry, the most suitable environment for keeping livestock, ways to improve farm income, administering certain treatments, and much more.

So VPPs can do a lot to help your farm be the best it can be!


Spot #4: Can women be VPPs?

HOST: Welcome back to Agric Today on the Number One radio network. Still with us is Miss Hajara Ahmed, an experienced veterinary paraprofessional. Thank you again for coming, Hajara.

HAJARA: Thank you for having me. I’m happy to share my experiences.

HOST: So as a female VPP, did you have any problems finding work?

HAJARA: It was hard. Some farmers didn’t take me seriously. And even now with my experience, some still don’t trust that I am a skilled professional as much as my male colleagues or that I can handle the animals.

HOST: Wow. You must have felt very bad about that.

HAJARA: A little. But I knew I wanted to work with animals and I kept my focus on it. I started working with women farmers. And their husbands didn’t mind because at least I wasn’t a strange man talking to their wives.

HOST: Ah. That’s true.

HAJARA: But when they saw what a good job I was doing for their wives, they started trying to hire me too (LAUGHS). I’m glad I showed that women can be great VPPs as well.

NARRATOR: Women who work as veterinary paraprofessionals have the same skills and training as men, and perform the same tasks.

So use the animal health services provided by a woman VPP!


Spot #5: Feed formulation: Affordable, nutritious meals for animals

NARRATOR: This economy is not easy for anyone, including for farmers. Agric inputs are more expensive than ever, and that includes animal feed. Branded feed is so expensive! And obviously our animals don’t understand that times are hard!

But don’t worry. There’s a way around this and it’s called feed formulation. Certified veterinary paraprofessionals can create a balanced and healthy diet for your animals using local raw materials which are just as healthy and nutritious as branded, expensive feeds.

So farmers! Ask your local certified VPP about feed formulation. It can save you money and keep your animals happy and healthy.


Spot #6: Don’t misuse drugs on your animals.

WASIU: Good morning, Madam Rukayat. I’m just coming from the field. The cows are not feeling fine. Two of the cows, and one of the babies.

RUKAYAT: Oh no. Thanks for letting me know, Wasiu. Separate them from the rest. I’ll call the vet. What’s wrong with them?

WASIU: They don’t have any appetite. Since I arrived to work this morning, they have hardly eaten anything.

RUKAYAT: That’s serious, especially for the calf. I’ll call Dr. Tunde immediately.

WASIU: (NERVOUSLY) Madam Rukayat, do we need to call the vet? We still have some of the medicine he gave us last year. We can use it.

RUKAYAT: (SHOCKED) Haaa! Never. I hope you haven’t given them any.

WASIU: (QUICKLY) No, Ma. I wanted to let you know first.

RUKAYAT: (RELIEVED) It is very wrong to just give drugs to your livestock without knowing what is wrong with them. How do you know it’s the same issue?

WASIU: Sorry, Ma.

RUKAYAT: Just separate the animals for now, and let’s see what the vet or veterinary paraprofessional has to say first.

NARRATOR: Drugs can save your animal’s life but they can also harm it. It is important that you learn how they are used from a trained service provider. Only give approved drugs as prescribed by a vet or veterinary paraprofessional.

Spot #7: Benefits of VPPs to livestock owners

NARRATOR: Livestock keepers!

Veterinary paraprofessionals can be very useful. If you don’t live near a city, it can be hard to get a veterinary surgeon at short notice, and the cost can be quite high.

Veterinary paraprofessionals are well-trained and can step in when there is no vet. The benefits are many, including good agricultural and agronomic advice, and quality clinical and technical services.

Paravets are available to visit your farm and provide tailored solutions to your problems—and much more!

So get to know the VPPs in your locality. Your farm and animals will appreciate it!


Spot #8: Proper use of antibiotics.

NARRATOR: We all want to prevent animal diseases and stop them from spreading. They cost farmers a lot of time, labour, and money.

Antibiotics are a great way to stop some infections dead in their tracks- but they don’t work for all. Just because you saw a veterinary paraprofessional administer the drugs doesn’t mean you’re now an expert!

Do you know the right dosage, the right way to administer an antibiotic, or how many days or even weeks you should give them the antibiotics? Do you understand what a withdrawal period means after using a medicine? Why is there a withdrawal period?

Incorrect use of antibiotics can make them ineffective. It could harm your livestock and even yourself. And you risk diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics in the future!

So don’t play a dangerous game.

Only use antibiotics under the supervision of a certified veterinarian or veterinary paraprofessional.


Spot #9: Prevention costs less than treatment

NARRATOR: As a farmer, you’re constantly trying to save money and budget, and you might wonder whether it makes sense to spend money on your healthy animals to protect them against diseases they may never have.

But yes, it does make sense! Prevention costs less than treatment. In some cases, treating a sick animal can cost up to four times as much as vaccinating them against diseases.

Vaccines and other preventive measures will cost you a little, but nowhere near the cost of a sick animal.

Which choice will you make? Call a certified veterinary paraprofessional today.


Spot #10: VPPs do more than treatment.


AKANNI: Lamidi, where are you running to like this?

LAMIDI: (BREATHLESS) I need to get to town to get a vet … my goats.

AKANNI: Ah, I know two good veterinary paraprofessionals in the area.

LAMIDI: (DISMISSIVE) Akanni Abeg, abeg (please), I don’t trust them. Too many quacks.

AKANNI: I thought so too, but my son introduced me to both of them. They’re game changers.

LAMIDI: Don’t they just treat animals?

AKANNI: More than that. They are well-trained and local so understand our environment and market. They give good advice—one even advised me on the right animals to select and even mixed a less expensive but still nutritious feed for my animals. That’s really helping me save money. They are knowledgeable about a wide range of farming topics.

LAMIDI: Wow, that’s a lot of things o.

AKANNI: It is, and my farm is doing very well now thanks to that advice so I can’t complain. Lamidi, my friend, the veterinary paraprofessional has earned my trust.

NARRATOR: Veterinary paraprofessionals are well-trained and knowledgeable. So contact one today and watch your farm and animals grow.


Spot #11: Veterinary paraprofessionals create animal health plans

HOST: When veterinary paraprofessionals come to your farm, what do they do!

Well, one thing they do is create a careful plan to improve your animals’ health, efficiency, and productivity.

It can be helpful to know how they do that!

So here’s how.

The VPP assesses your farm to understand what your processes are, the livestock products you sell, and what your animals’ problems are. They focus on the biggest problems, both actual and the potential problems, and they recommend solutions.

They monitor how your farm is doing over time. You can see this yourself by checking for improvements in health and productivity.

Lastly, your VPP will adapt the plan to the reality on ground.

Your farm will even be more successful if you’re an active participant in the health planning process.

For a long-term animal care plan that leads straight to health and success, VPPs can show you the way!


Contributed by: Ted Phido, freelance writer, Lagos, Nigeria 

Reviewed by: Raymond Briscoe, Rosie Herrington, Holly Hufnagel, VPP Project Coordinator, FAO. 


Information sources

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.”