Kiwi Post: The Art of Finding Disease

The International Conference on Animal Health Surveillance (ICAHS) comes to New Zealand in early May this year. This is a triennial event, and this is the third such event, so well done to everyone involved in getting us to host it.

Not the least of the roadblocks must have been the huge slab of irony that a conference on animal health surveillance should be hosted by New Zealand. This is like North Korea hosting a conference on democracy, or the Middle East hosting a conference on regional cooperation, or the White House hosting a conference on sanity.

New Zealand has many remarkable facets, but animal disease surveillance is not one of them. This in itself is quite remarkable on two fronts. First, being an island nation, heavily dependent on primary production, we are both largely safe from- and consequently at huge risk of- a devastating exotic disease coming into the country. The chances are low- although they get higher with every passing year and every increase in international travel- but the consequences are high. Continue reading Kiwi Post: The Art of Finding Disease

Kiwi Post: Remember When You Were Young

The greatest introduction to any song in the history of man is of course the almost nine minutes of instrumental that kick off “Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, by Pink Floyd. I defy anyone with an ounce of heart to sit through that 8:50 of creative genius without feeling moved.

That’s before the dulcet tones of Roger Waters ask us to ‘”Remember when we were young”. The lyrics are suitably poignant and the whole song is simply a masterpiece. Remember, this was created in an era when we were dropping napalm onto villagers in jungles and building more and more atomic bombs. Not much else from 40 years ago comes anywhere near to being as much value to humankind as this one song alone.

As veterinarians, we like to think of ourselves as scientists. We consider evidence and we weigh up cause and effect. We talk of evidence-based medicine. We argue the science to justify the procedure. Continue reading Kiwi Post: Remember When You Were Young

How to treat a hamster

The other week I developed Man Flu. I was quite buoyed when I announced it to the family at the dinner table and they were all brimming with remarkable sympathy. Then I realised that their sympathy was aimed at themselves, who would apparently now face a week of hell.

No matter. Being young and virile I shrugged it off after only a short week of intensive care and heroic battle and in such a fashion that nobody would have ever guessed I was ill. I struggled manfully to work each day and did all the househusband work expected of us these days whilst our wives are preoccupied with their coffee cards.

Then, I had a weekend on call. I’m not sure if it was the drama of the inevitable dropkicks (“My neighbour’s dog is barking, can you come out?”); or, as one of my colleagues lovingly said, “the stress of you donning overalls,” – but I had a sort of Man Flu relapse. Continue reading How to treat a hamster

Kiwipost: Mark Bryan writes from New Zealand.

My new passion is swimming, and I’m quite proud of it. I realise that to Australians this is about as interesting as the remarkably witty comment to Scots about “what’s under your kilt” whenever we wear one. But that’s the point?

Us poor Scottish people don’t do swimming. Although, like you, we live on an island; and although, like you, we’re a bit rough around the edges; unlike you, none of our watery bits ever gets above two degrees; and we’re simply not that rough and tough. Continue reading Kiwipost: Mark Bryan writes from New Zealand.

Kiwi Post July 2011

We arrived at a dairy farm the other day to find out just how much of a shambles dairy farming currently is in New Zealand. Of course, we all know things are changing fast, but none of us ever guessed it could slump so low.

There were three of us, on farm at 4AM, to pregnancy scan and record an 800 cow herd. We pulled most of the gear out of the car, got set up, and went back to the car to find we had managed to somehow lock it with our car keys and –most distressing of all- all our phones inside.

No problem, we had most of our gear and could carry on scanning while someone broke into it and unlocked it. Plenty of half-employed drongos on a dairy farm to do this in five minutes. So we started up scanning.

But modern dairy farms have changed. And, when it comes to a bit of breaking and entry, not for the better. Nobody employs drongos anymore. These days on Kiwi dairy farms the vast majority of staff are likely to be from overseas and have a tertiary degree. So, if they’re not from Europe with a science degree, they’re from the Phillipines with a veterinary degree, or Asia with an agricultural degree.

So, a little over 3 hours later when we came to wash up we found that nobody had broken into our car because nobody had any idea how to. Worst still, even if they could, it would be simply unthinkable for them to carry out such a wanton act of crime. On the farm that day, including us, were 8 people from 7 nationalities with at least 9 degrees amongst us, and not a single Kiwi. Continue reading Kiwi Post July 2011