From the spread of the new disease in cows and buffaloes in Isan called the lumpy skin disease, which happened in March this year, and because farmers still lack information about the disease, lack the medicine to treat it, and lack veterinarians or animal husbandman to assist them; the Faculty of Agriculture is therefore joining the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, KKU, to set up the “Voluntary Cowboy Project” to help the farmers and work on site with the KKU U2T team.
U2T Team from Faculty of Agriculture, KKU
Assoc. Prof. Darunee Chotisayangkoon, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture of Khon Kaen University explained that since March, 2021 there has been a newly emerged disease in cows and buffaloes called the lumpy skin disease that is derived from virus. There have been reports of the death rate at 5-10 %, with hardship of farmers who owned the animals. This means a lot of loss of incomes, too. Therefore, Khon Kaen University, with the vision to assist the community especially in Isan, took action in this respect to assist the farmers. The work began under the U2T project, or the university to tambon project of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation. The target areas cover 3000 sub-districts, of which 135 sub-districts are under Khon Kaen University’s responsibility. Out of the 135 sub-districts, 17 are under the care of the Faculty of Agriculture, KKU. These 17 sub-districts scatter in many provinces. There are now 8 new graduates working on site, 5 villagers and 5 students. That means Khon Kaen University is now at the front line to help solve this problem.
The Faculty of Agriculture by Assoc. Prof. Kritapon Sommat, Ph.D., and lecturers from the Department of Animal Husbandry are joining the Faculty’s U2T Team to set up the Voluntary Cowboy Project. The volunteer cowboys from KKU are now on site to teach the farmers and help treating the animals. The implementation has been informed to Prof. Thidarat Boonmars, Ph.D., Vice President for Innovation and Enterprise, who is in charge of KKU U2T. The Vice President then asked for cooperation from U2T in various sub-districts under KKU, who all agreed to join.
The Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture added that the Faculty added budget to take the students who volunteer to join the project to the site. Even though there are worries about the spread of Covid-19, all share the pain and set up their mind to work under the DMHTT measures. The work has begun for some time now, and the Faculty has been reported that the working team is planning with Khon Kaen Livestock Office to ask for 90 more student volunteers to help vaccinating 900 animals in 3 districts.
Assoc. Prof. Kritapon Sommat, Ph.D., a lecturer of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Faculty of Agriculture, Khon Kaen University, as the leader of the Voluntary Cowboy Project.
Assoc. Prof. Kritapon Sommat, Ph.D., a lecturer of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Faculty of Agriculture, Khon Kaen University, as the leader of the Voluntary Cowboy Project said, “As the leader of the team, I understand the feeling of the farmers. They do not feel safe because they do not have the knowledge. There’s shortage of medicine, vets and husbandmen to help the animals with the lumpy skin disease. The animal with this disease has a high fever and lumps all over their body, and is infected. If it does not receive any treatment, it may die. Even though the incidence rate is only 10%, infection may lead to death and loss, for the death rate is 1% of a herd. It is anticipated that in 3 to 6 months, the disease will be more severe and bring impact to Isan farmers, killing roughly 400,000 animals. Since the price per animal is 40,000, the loss means a lot of money for farmers. Thinking in terms of a sub-district, 92 dead animals means the loss of 3.6 million baht or 450,000 per village. As it is a newly emerged disease, people still know nothing about it. Moreover, the government is unable to assist the farmers in time because it is at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, there is no animal pharmacy in the villages and sub-district. Therefore, the problem is serious and must be solved urgently.”
KKU’s U2T network center is a state’s implementing unit that is closer to villages. It is a government’s mechanism that can help solving problems as required by sub-districts. The contact has been done both on site and online to provide information to farmers. The actions being implemented now are: 1) provide online classroom to disseminate information to farmers in the form of video clips and news; 2) run workshops for new graduates, people, volunteer vets, volunteer husbandmen, village husbandry and farmers that develop the skills in caring cows and buffaloes, protecting against lumpy skin disease; 3) operate a mobile KKU U2T’s lumpy skin disease treatment and prevention and set up a village animal medicine funding; 4) provide online consulting such as hotline for solving lumpy skin disease: Tel. 0897117898, website for lumpy skin disease information: https://th.kku.ac.th/lumpy-skin-disease/ Line: “KKU volunteer to treat lumpy skin disease”, or ZOOM.
The voluntary cowboy leader added that the period to work on site has been set with the working plans and activities for the following sub-districts: Banthan, Chonnabot, Khok Snga, Phon, Huay Tikchu in Srisaket. In July, more U2T sub-districts under the responsibilities of other faculties have asked for assistance. The work plan is as follows: July 7, 2021 at Samsung and Ban Fang Districts in Khon Kaen; July 8, 2021 at Nong Rua, Khon Kaen; July 9-11, 2021 at Muang District, Kalasin; July 12-15, 2021 at Ban Fang District, Khon Kaen; and on July 22-23, 2021 at Choonabot District, Khon Kaen. The project will also be evaluated when completed, on the following indicators: 1) the farmers’ confidence; 2) reduction of the death rates of animals/ reduction of cost/ reduction of economic loss at the sub-districts and villages when compared to non-U2T areas; 3) satisfaction of the KKU volunteers to treat lumpy skin disease.
Assoc. Prof. Kritapon Sommat, Ph.D. added that from the implementation of the voluntary cowboy team that consists of lecturers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Agriculture at the beginning, now there is a team of KKU volunteers with more faculties and departments joining. All have the feeling that they work as a team from KKU. When the community is in trouble, KKU team is ready to help, for we have the knowledge, personnel, and students that are prepared to help in time of crisis. Everyone can be a volunteer to help treating the lumpy skin disease. Here, it is ‘Mission Transformation’. Anyone can become a volunteer and work at the villages; or else, one can donate money in the funding to buy medicine for the animals.
News compiled by Benjamaporn Mamuk
Photos: Voluntary Cowboy Project, Faculty of Agriculture