CAPE TOWN, The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science celebrated a century of veterinary education in South Africa at the Onderstepoort campus on Friday.

Established by Professor Sir Arnold Theiler, a Swiss veterinarian in 1920, the first intake numbered eight students. To date it has 1,200 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate students.

The faculty’s training covers all aspects of veterinary medicine, from primary animal health to advanced veterinary care. This training is boosted by work in a community clinic located in a world-class academic hospital using advanced diagnostic techniques.

According to Faculty Dean Professor Vinny Naidoo, University of Pretoria’ s Veterinary Science faculty is the only one in South Africa that trains veterinary scientists and nurses.

Through its history, the old UP, MEDUNSA faculties and new, merged national faculty, it has trained 5,040 veterinarians and 1,170 nurses. I believe it can, with organised agriculture, become a driving force behind the South African economy in terms of animal production, Naidoo said.

Furthermore, better food production will not only result in a healthier nation, but can help build foreign reserves from trade with international partners.

“Our training also empowers our students to work in any environment they choose. We also offer some of the best clinical training in the world as a result of our large caseloads.

The Faculty features in the top 50 for veterinary rankings in the QS and Shanghai Global rankings, and is ranked number one in Africa.

Its postgraduate syllabus includes training towards 22 different specialisations, meaning that whereas conditions such as equine colic would have been fatal in the past, they can now be easily managed in modern theatres by veterinary specialists.

Naidoo explained that students and new graduates can play a role in training farmers to keep good records, follow trends in animal health, and be more proactive in vaccinating animals to prevent disease.

Many farmers keep animals as a source of wealth. Unfortunately these animals do not breed optimally, and large amounts of income can be lost from failure to produce calves for sale.

He further explained that better management of animals in winter can result in lower weight losses, which has the positive effect of more productivity in the summer months.

Naidoo believes that the Faculty has helped position South Africa as a leader in the management of animal disease and vaccine development. Numerous research projects are being undertaken by master’s and doctoral candidates. Many vaccine development projects are being managed by UP academics.

Scientists need to have a better understanding of disease spread to enable control. Diseases such as the recent foot and mouth outbreak or avian influenza can wreak havoc on the economy. We need better vaccines to manage the local disease, he said.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe congratulated the Faculty on its milestone. The Faculty is helping the government address food security challenges and is filling gaps in scarce-skill careers.

“It produces world-class, cutting-edge research that matters, while the highly evolved skills and expertise of its wildlife vets are sought internationally.

Source: African News Agency