Ethnoveterinary medicine in organic dairy
Research of possibilities of ethnoveterinary medicine on
small-scale organic dairy farms in Tecoluca, El Salvador
Thesis for fulfilment of BSc degree in Tropical Animal
Production at Larenstein, International Agricultural College in Deventer,
The Netherlands, November 2001, by Rita van
In the municipality of Tecoluca in El Salvador the NGO CORDES (Fundación
para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo comunal de El Salvador) wants to
stimulate small-scale organic dairy farming as a means of rural
development of the region. Part of the project is the setting up of a
milking plant, by which the produced milk will be sold.
The organic milk production is bound to certain norms. An example is
that the use of a conventional, modern, western medicine is permitted
only if no organic alternative is available. The question is then: what
are the alternatives? Up till now, no local research on this has been
carried out and in general the organic farms make use of conventional
The basis for the research in this thesis is the desire to use
traditional veterinary knowledge of the local farmers as a basis for the
development of these organic alternatives. An embracing, modern term for
these methods is ethnoveterinairy medicine (which will be abbreviated as
This report consists of a literature study and a following field study.
For the field study, two case studies and 5 workshops are conducted, the
workshops in different regions of El Salvador.
From the literature study it comes forward that a holistic view of the
situation as a whole is very important when using EVM, as all aspects on
a dairy farm influence each other. Animal health can therefore not seen
apart from the management on other fronts. It has no use searching for
curative methods when causes of the health problem lie in another field.
In order to obtain a more complete image of the management on the local
dairy farms in the practical situation in Tecoluca, two brief case
studies have been conducted. These focus on a number of important
points, like alimentation, availability of water and young stock
rearing. From this it came forward that the field of alimentation
(especially in the dry season) may need more attention than that of
animal health. The possibilities for supplementary feeding next to grass
in the dry season are limited, seen the fact that many of these are from
conventional origin (according to the norms 60% of the total ration has
to be from organic origin). Next to this, the farms don't adapt the
rations to the varying individual needs of the animals.
From the literature study it comes forward that EVM doesn't offer equal
opportunities under all circumstances and with all health problems; for
acute problems the use of conventional means will be the only solution,
because in general these work faster than EVM. However, in these
situations, EVM can have a supporting function. But, the problems where
EVM offers biggest chances and where it could replace the conventional
medicines, is with common diseases and chronic problems, like colds,
skin diseases, worms and reproductive disorders.
The field research focuses mainly on this last group of diseases. During
the first workshop, in Tecoluca, a ranking list was made of the health
problems that were considered most important according to both the staff
of CORDES as the local dairy farmers. Of these, the diseases were chosen
where EVM would offer most possibilities as alternative to conventional
medicines. These are: “external parasites”, mastitis, pneumonia in
calves, retention of the placenta and neonatal diarrhoea. During the
workshops in the other regions, other priority diseases came up: Mieda
de araña (an infection which is caused by a spider that lays its eggs
on the coronal suture) and bubas (ulcers). Of "parasites" it
didn't become totally clear which ones are most important - the research
has focussed on ticks and stomach and intestinal worms.
In order to collect the local, traditional, veterinary methods for these
problems, four participative workshops have been conducted in other
regions in El Salvador where CORDES has dairy projects. These regions
are: San Vicente-La Paz, Cabañas-Cuscatlán, Sur la Libertad and Norte
la Libertad. The workshops were held with both groups of men and women.
In general, the women came up with more methods than the men and showed
more enthusiasm towards EVM. Quite a large part of the men seemed to
find conventional medicine much more interesting to use.
The collected methods have been evaluated by making use of literature
and discussions with experts in the field of animal health. This has
lead to recommendations for the methods that seem to offer best
possibilities. The used evaluation method is called
"non-experimental validation". The usefulness of the methods
has been measured against the following points: availability, effect on
the environment and the animal, ease of preparation, efficacy and
The recommendations mainly comprise of methods that use medicinal plants
that are locally easily available. A handout has been made of the
recommendations, which has been handed out to the farmers.
This research only forms a basis: the recommendations will have to be
developed further and experimented with. It is therefore recommendable
that they will be used as a basis for more detailed practical research
at the local farms, conducted by and with the farmers. The objective is
to test how the methods function on the farms, to adapt them and to
convince farmers to actually make use of useful methods.
Rita van Leeuwen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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