Penn Vet students blog about treating animals in Nepal

Penn Vet student in Nepal
Third-year Penn Vet student Lauren Aldinger gives an injection to an animal in Nepal.

Three Penn Vet students are blogging about their summer experience of treating rural animals in Nepal and helping to train community members there in basic animal health and husbandry.

Working on cases that range from goat dippings and bull castrations to routine vaccinations and wound treatment, third-year students Laurel Redding, Lauren Aldinger and Yoon Chay have chronicled their experience in a blog called “Nourish Nepal” at http://nourishnepal.wordpress.com/about/.

They have written entries about what farming is like in Nepal, how animals are used and cared for by the community and the economic aspects of producing food through livestock in the region.

The impetus of their project came in 2009 when Redding and fellow student Alison Barnstable were presented with the Penn Vet Student Inspiration Awards from the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation. Each award grants $100,000 that the students used to establish a project involving Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the nonprofit organization Heifer International. The collaboration connected Redding, Aldinger and Chay with Animal Health Training and Consultancy Services in Nepal, a nonprofit organization that focuses on training rural villagers about animal health. Barnstable did not travel to Nepal this summer, but plans to go next year.

Arriving in Nepal on May 31, the students spent their first three weeks in a small village surrounded by the Himalaya Mountains, about 10 kilometers from the city of Pokhara. In the field, the students have been living in farmers’ homes, some of which do not have running water. In addition to providing care to local livestock, they are working with a program called Village Animal Health Workers, training local residents interested in learning how to give basic treatment to animals and eventually marketing their services to farmers in the region.

The students are also conducting research with the help of a Nepalese veterinarian into the animal production practices of the area, studying the overall health and lifecycles of local livestock and how the animals are used to provide food.

The research has taken the three students to remote villages where they have distributed questionnaires to farmers, asking about animal housing, husbandry, nutrition, health and more. Their research also involves collecting farm feed samples that will be analyzed for nutritional content in the United States.

“We hope this project will provide valuable experience to vet students, exemplify ways in which veterinarians can become involved in improving global public health and animal productivity,” Redding says. “Perhaps it will enable us to make useful recommendations to farming communities in the area with regard to animal productivity.”

It’s monsoon season, which puts a damper on the students’ days and nights in Nepal, but has not dampened their spirits. Redding says they are having fun while working in conditions that are far from optimal. They will leave Nepal on June 29.

Originally published on June 22, 2010