14 November 1997

Improving life

in the former Soviet Union

The Nuffield Russia Trust was set up to improve agricultural

training in the former Soviet Union. Director Paul Charter,

who farms in Glos, describes the veterinary training work of

the trust and explains why your old farm machinery could help

THESE veterinary seminars have been the backbone of the Nuffield Russia Trust-funded retraining programme based at the Kaliningrad Veterinary Institute. It gives Russian ministry vets an opportunity to get up-to-date on west European technology and training in private practice operation.

The team consists of myself and three UK vets: Russel Kyle, a Wilts vet officer, John Gallagher, an ex-MAFF diagnostic specialist, and Peter May, a Swindon-based private practitioner and cattle specialist.

In the past 18 months the team has run a series of seminars in conjunction with the Russian State Veterinary Service in front of packed lecture rooms at the Kaliningrad Veterinary Institute. They covered all aspects of the livestock industry, from conception to table.

The Kaliningrad State Veterinary Service, like many other Russian government-funded departments, has had its financial support severely restricted since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with salaries often being unpaid for six months or more. Add to this a lack of modern veterinary equipment and drugs and you have a situation that has become extremely critical, not just in terms of livestock production but even in its risk to human health.

The importing into eastern Europe of cheap world surpluses in the past few years has devastated the Russian livestock industry to a point where their farmers cannot afford to treat sick animals, buy anthelmintics or, should the veterinary service be totally privatised, pay for any professional therapy or advice.

Hopefully the diagnostic and testing services will be maintained with ministry funding. But the financial lifeline for many state vets may well be the treating of the thousands of large pedigree guard dogs that every Russian household seems to own.

Only an import-protected industry, with a support system, will assist in the short term while farmers get their act together. With an abundance of uncropped land, education and cash in the right hands could work wonders in the long term.

Until then it is difficult to see how product quality and farm incomes can be raised without the useof veterinary supplies that farm-ers cannot afford in the firstplace.

Above: Old Prussian manor house now being used as orphanage farm.

Left: A seminar in progress at the Kaliningrad Veterinary Institute.

Below: Conditions at the orphanage farm are very basic (note damp on walls).