Three questions with ViParc info vet Nguyen Pham Yen-Linh
Info vets play an instrumental role in the success of ViParc – we’ve said this countless times! And to say it again, this time with more gratitude, we’d like you to meet Nguyen Pham Yen-Linh, one of our four info vets.
Together with three colleagues from the Dong Thap Sub-Department of Livestock Production and Animal Health, Ms. Yen-Linh regularly collects data from 91 chicken farms, spread across the two districts of Cao Lanh and Thap Muoi. For each production cycle, she’ll conduct four visits to a farm, recording information from antibiotic usage to biosecurity and other farming practices. On average, Ms. Yen-Linh visits three farms a week.
1. What do you find most challenging about being an info vet for ViParc?
Having farmers record information correctly! Even getting the participating farmers into the habit of documentation is tough, given that the majority of them are middle-aged and older, with limited education. Household farmers, the main type in our entire ViParc cohort, aren’t used to keeping records of their chicken flocks. Complicating this task even more is the fact that commercial products in Vietnam aren’t well labeled, which makes it almost impossible for our farmers to differentiate between, for example, antibiotics and vitamins.
2. How have you addressed the difficulties of your job?
Every time I see a farmer, I’ll always ask if she/he is doing okay with documenting her/his flock, production materials, medicine, etc. I’ll then “refresh” the process by showing her/him again how each section in her/his record book should be filled in, oftentimes with an example. The “secret to success” here is to retrain the farmers whenever there’s an opportunity to do so, even though my colleagues and I all conducted very detailed training from the beginning.
Another thing my colleagues and I have done is to let farmers record information in their own terms before translating them into our standard language for research. For instance, in rural Vietnam, farmers often refer to dates from the Lunar, not the Solar (Western) calendar. So I’ve installed an app on my phone, one that helps me convert Lunar dates from a farmer’s record book into Solar dates on my interview sheet.
Finally, we’ve made record keeping easier by providing big plastic boxes, those that ViParc’s farmers use to keep the packages of all medicine used. When ViParc was first planned by the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, it was thought that the farmers could differentiate between different types of drugs and record information according to their labels, which of course turned out to be too complicated. I don’t remember who came up with this idea; probably everyone in our team of info vets thought that we should ask the farmers to keep their old medicine packages, from which we’d detail the types and amounts of drugs used.
3. What do you hope to get from your involvement with ViParc?
Well, in line with ViParc’s main aim, I hope that people in my home province of Dong Thap will use less antibiotics on their farms.
Apart from that, I also wish to gain new skills and knowledge of poultry production, especially the disease-control aspect of it, because it’s my professional focus as a government official. From my interactions with ViParc’s farmers so far, I’ve learned a lot about chicken farming, which is quite an eye-opener, given that I only have an academic background in aquaculture.