YK Poudel

Despite the rapid outbreak of livestock diseases in the country, Wangdue dzongkhag’s livestock sector is facing a bigger challenge—an acute shortage of vets, with seven gewogs left without a livestock extension supervisor for a prolonged period of time.

Although the dzongkhag does not have a record of livestock death from other diseases this year, farmers lost 38 livestock to lumpy skin disease, an infectious disease that is currently ravaging the livestock sector in the country.

Of the 15 gewogs, Phobji, Gangtey, Sephu, and Dangchu depend primarily on livestock production.

Assistant dzongkhag livestock officer, Kencho Tshering, said that as the dzongkhag grapples with veterinary staff shortage, the existing ones are burdened with extra service hours and multi-tasking. “The dzongkhag does not even have a veterinary ambulance that can be used by the veterinary officials during official tours and emergencies.”

From the seven gewogs without vets — five resigned, one left for Australia, one is on extra-ordinary leave, and one is pulled to the dzongkhag veterinary hospital. 

According to him, the dzongkhag has about hundreds of stray animals on tshethar without proper care. “These animals are badly impacted with no proper care and timely treatment when the animal epidemic is at its peak in the dzongkhag. The dzongkhag is trying to reach out to these stray animals as well, although it is a challenge and extra-work for the livestock officials.”

Veterinary Officer, Dr Jamtsho, said that spread of diseases has reached 14 gewogs, affecting over 600 animals in the dzongkhag.

He said: “The dzongkhag has only three technical staff and an ESP. This has made the service delivery a challenge for the dzongkhag officials.”

A health official at Dakar gewog said that the stray animals are at high risk of getting infected. Officials are relying on the help of other animal care centres. “Recently, we were able to save an infected bull at Taksha with the help of agencies such as de-suups, Nakula team Zeus and Jangsa Animal Saving Trust. Their involvement has helped in timely medication the infected ox.”

Thangoo chiwog Tshogpa of Thedtsho gewog, Chimi Rinzin, said that the gewog does not have livestock extension officials who can be reached out during emergencies. “Although extension supervisors from nearby gewogs visit sometimes, the chiwog lost about 11 cattle this year.”

Common animal diseases diagnosed in the country include infectious bursal disease, African swine fever, foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease, rabies, and highly pathogenic avian influenza.

According to National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH), 5,390 animals died of various notifiable animal diseases in the country this year.

As per the statistics with NCAH, 3,761 poultry death due to infectious bursal disease, 970 livestock death due to lumpy skin disease and 292 pig due to African swine fever were recorded among others.

An official from NCAH said that due to the outbreaks of IBD, ASF and LSD, the overall livestock mortality has increased in 2023 compared to previous years. “Nation-wide critical human resource shortage in dzongkhags for PMC level is 12 and 26 posts vacant for SSC level.”

“This year, seven veterinarians have resigned from civil service. Currently, six dzongkhags do not have vets as some have resigned, while others are either on study leave or EOL,” said the official.

To fill the attrition, the agriculture and livestock ministry in consultation with the RCSC recruited 13 BSc Animal Science graduates this year. In addition, the ministry is working on recruiting interested retired livestock personnel.