Russia’s military aggression towards Ukraine is causing significant damage to the Ukrainian agricultural sector. National animal health and food security are among the first to suffer as a result. The security of livestock farms in Ukraine is currently in a critical situation.
Ukraine is among the top twenty cattle-producing countries in the world, and approximately 30% of the livestock population is raised in oblasts (provinces) with ongoing hostilities. According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, there were 2.9 million cattle of which 1.7 million cows, 5.9 million pigs, 1.1 million sheep and goats and 200 million poultry in Ukraine in 2021. Livestock is nearly equally distributed between farms of different sizes and forms of ownership i.e., enterprises, private farms, and households. Depending on the species, between 40 and 80 % of the livestock population is raised in large-scale enterprises. The remaining populations are raised on small family farms and by smallholders.
Availability and access to animal health services are critical for the support of the livestock industry. At this time, the most vulnerable areas of animal health are the supply of veterinary drugs, diagnostic test kits and vaccines, access to veterinarians, and the continuity of national disease surveillance and control programs.
Immediately following the beginning of the military aggression, the Ukrainian government invoked martial law, which allowed it to quickly adopt further regulations addressing the new circumstances. Among other, procedures were simplified for receiving veterinary humanitarian aid in the form of veterinary drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic kits and for their subsequent distribution in Ukraine to ensure continued availability of veterinary products. Also, heads of the territorial body of the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection (SSUFSCP) in the regions were given authorization to relieve personnel of their work duties in case of threat to their lives and health. Some staff may have joined the ranks of territorial defense or were temporarily relocated from warfare zones. Select personnel must ensure the operation and management in the region for support of agricultural enterprises and provision of consumers with food. Overall, the capacity of the SSUFSCP has been severely affected by an overall reduction of staff, which may affect its ability to control the sanitary and epidemiological situation.
SSUFSCP is operating under one of three modes depending on the oblast and rayon (district): regular operations, duty mode, or complete suspension of operations due to active hostilities. Duty mode means that every day, there is a minimal number of active personnel who maintain the minimal needed services even where there are no active hostilities. At the time of writing, eleven oblasts are conducting regular operations, five oblasts are in duty mode, and in the remaining eight oblasts, work has been stopped, suspended or we were not able to obtain any information. These oblasts include Kyiv city and Kyiv oblast, as well as seven oblasts in the north, east and south of Ukraine.
Further information on the situation on the ground and on the implications for animal health is provided in this article. Please note that the situation in Ukraine in terms of normal operation, availability of infrastructure, laboratory network and veterinary hospitals can change dramatically at any time, as non-military facilities are increasingly under military fire.
Access to veterinary care
Access to veterinary care has been greatly reduced because of Russia’s military aggression, which can have far-reaching consequences for animal health considering Ukraine’s substantial livestock industry. Reduced access to veterinary care implies reduced clinical and diagnostic surveillance, which could result in animal disease outbreaks going undetected. A decline in animal health could also result in production losses, exacerbating existing challenges to maintain food security for the country. An increase in zoonotic disease events would also affect public and consumer health.
Support for animal health is normally provided both by private or state veterinarians as well as through advisory services, including private consultants or licensed veterinarians. Capacities in both sectors to provide their services have been reduced. There are fewer available veterinarians, and resources, such as drugs or diagnostics, for veterinarians which are available are limited. Each large and medium-sized farm has a dedicated veterinarian who is currently maintaining the health of the animals during this critical period. Small family farms often use the services of local private veterinarians or public SSUFSCP veterinary hospitals. However, access to veterinarians is severely hampered due to active hostilities, especially in the east and south of Ukraine.
There is a variety of public and private organizations as well as private entrepreneurs who offer consultation services for agricultural producers and processors. Areas of consultation include nutrition, health and welfare, veterinary diagnostics, quality and safety of raw materials, milking, cheesemaking, design of animal housing, and workshops and trainings for processing. Our Quality Food Trade Program in Ukraine is engaged with over twenty private service providers in the dairy sector and supports them to improve their services in the sector. However, some advisory organizations have had their activities interrupted, or they have adapted their services to the current needs during this critical period.
In March 2022, we reached out to our network of service providers to better understand their current situation. Most service providers continue delivering their services, however, with some changes in their routine work. Several service providers indicated that they now focus primarily on the most urgent needs of their clients, including support for the provision of veterinary drugs, grains, food, and feed that are now critically needed. The service providers also highlighted that dairy farmers need urgent support for milk transportation, feeding and housing of animals, processing and delivery of milk.
Not only access to animal health services is limited, but also access to supplies such as veterinary drugs. Livestock farms during peacetime usually do not maintain large stocks of veterinary drugs, as timely supply is typically excellent. Even large agricultural holdings did not maintain stocks of veterinary drugs for more than ten days at a time.
Currently, there are around ten to fifteen companies that distribute various veterinary drugs, vaccines, diagnostic kits, etc., and around twenty-five to thirty national manufacturers of such goods. Manufacturers and suppliers of veterinary drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests maintained larger stocks, but unfortunately, a large number of companies have suspended their operations because they are in combat zones or company workers have been mobilized. Delivery of even existing reserves is a struggle, as logistics may be interrupted depending on the region.
Lack of access to national supplies would normally be compensated by imported goods. Some agricultural sectors in Ukraine rely more heavily on imports of vaccines than others. For example, vaccines for industrial poultry farming are 100% imported, while vaccines for household farms are 100% domestically manufactured. In the cattle industry, there was an equal interrelation between usage of imported and nationally manufactured vaccines, in pigs – 80/20%, where 80% are covered by imported vaccines. Generally, there is around 85% of imported vaccines and 15% of those manufactured in Ukraine. However, it is currently very difficult to import veterinary drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests into Ukraine, because companies face acute liquidity constraints, and there is a severe shortage of fuel for transportation.
A crisis taskforce has been set up at the SSUFSCP which looks for sources of veterinary humanitarian aid and provides logistical and informational assistance. The taskforce is constantly gathering information on the needs of farms, looking for the companies that still have some of the necessary veterinary drugs in stock, contacting international donors and searching for ways to supply goods to farms. The taskforce has also set up a group of manufacturers and suppliers of veterinary drugs for rapid communication and to find out which company has the appropriate veterinary drugs. Unfortunately, the stocks of veterinary drugs and other necessary goods of those companies are running out, and the warehouses in the war zone are not accessible.
To exacerbate the issue, a large number of veterinary immunobiological drugs has been lost as a result of electricity loss and thus refrigeration. Veterinary drugs, feeds and other veterinary products were destroyed during shelling and fires. There is no information available on the quantities of drugs lost.
There is therefore a great need for help from other countries to provide humanitarian aid, veterinary drugs, vaccines and other goods needed to maintain animal health and to ensure the country's food security. At the time of writing, several large deliveries with veterinary medicinal products have already been received and others are in preparation, however, the received quantities do not fully replace the lost amounts. For this reason, the National Platform on Food Security was formed to collect information from the country on the needs for food and other goods in the regions and to share it with those in the international community who can provide assistance. Donors have the opportunity to submit proposals for commercial and non-commercial beneficiaries.
Implementation of national disease control programs
Prior to the start of Russia’s military aggression, Ukraine had made significant steps toward improving the capacity for prevention and preparedness of animal disease events in the country through official plans, herd health checks, and routine diagnostic testing. Diseases of animal and human health concern, such as bovine leukosis and tuberculosis, that have until recently and through extensive efforts been under control, are now at risk of re-emerging. For example, the incidence of bovine leukosis began to decline particularly rapidly after 2007 due to the adoption of serological diagnostic methods. According to the latest report of the SSUFSCP, in the first half of 2021, twenty outbreaks of cattle leukosis were registered in Ukraine, of which five were new. Since 2016, Ukraine has been considered free of cattle tuberculosis, with one outbreak occurring in 2021. With monitoring and control programs suspended, the long-standing efforts to control these diseases could be undermined.
Annual plans for the prevention of major infectious and parasitic animal diseases in Ukraine were developed and implemented, with the most recent plan prepared for 2022. This plan includes a list of tools (i.e., veterinary drugs, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and other consumables) to support its implementation. However, the procurement of these tools is now facing delays. As of February 2022, the SSUFSCP has not initiated any tenders for the purchase of veterinary drugs. There was only one tender for the purchase of vaccine for oral immunization of carnivores against rabies announced.
The animal disease prevention plan in Ukraine also includes the diagnostics of cattle for enzootic bovine leukosis, brucellosis, and tuberculosis and vaccination of animals against anthrax, as defined by national guidelines for measures to prevent and control these diseases. Delays in the procurement of veterinary tools and the implementation of the animal disease prevention plan could result in increased risk for major animal disease outbreaks in the country.
The annual examination of animals in Ukraine has begun in some oblasts during the relatively calm period in hostilities. However, some measures, such as diagnostics for tuberculosis enzootic bovine leukosis and brucellosis and vaccination of animals against anthrax are not fully carried out or are suspended in areas where hostilities are taking place due to reduced personnel capacities for implementation.
A survey among state inspectors has shown that there are several reasons for the reduction in a number of planned activities. Firstly, nearly half of respondents indicated that samples cannot be taken because of life-threatening conditions, one third indicated insufficient number of staff, and nearly half indicated insufficient personnel due to involvement in other work (volunteering, territorial defense, etc.). Furthermore, many personnel are unable to travel to farms to take samples due to a great shortage of fuel, or the vehicles are repurposed for other needs according to wartime requirements. Other challenges include absence of consumables such as needles, test tubes, diagnostic equipment, etc. and shortage of laboratory staff.
As a result, the number of samples from animals for laboratory tests has decreased. Nearly half of laboratories that are supposed to receive samples according to the approved plan are actually receiving samples, and nearly half of laboratories do not receive samples at all. In other laboratories, samples are received in reduced quantities.
Laboratories of the SSUFSCP are typically provided with diagnostic kits for research on tuberculosis, enzootic bovine leukosis, and brucellosis. However, there is a limited number of diagnostic test kits remaining from last year. In some areas, the volume is sufficient for 3-6 months. Provision of diagnostics in the future will depend on the resumption of the regular operations of the Central Office of the SSUFSCP, the possibility of tender procurement, and the availability of funds if they are not allocated to other priority government needs. It should be noted that some diagnostics such as tuberculin, brucellosis, and bovine leukosis antigen and veterinary vaccines were produced by national biological factories that are now located in oblasts with active ongoing hostilities. In case of disruption of their work for reasons such as destruction of facilities, active hostilities, or loss of production strains of microorganisms, it will be necessary to replace these tools, which can be a time-consuming process. Delays in the procurement including imports of veterinary diagnostics and vaccines put the country at risk for animal disease outbreaks.
The situation in Ukraine is constantly evolving. However, the impact of the Russian military aggression on the access to veterinary care and services, the supply of veterinary supplies, and the continuity of disease surveillance and control programs in Ukraine is getting worse as it continues. This leaves Ukraine increasingly vulnerable to animal disease outbreaks, which may subsequently lead to reduced public health and increased food insecurity.
Every six weeks, the newsletter provides a summary of relevant articles as well as our viewpoint on the news.
The newsletter is free and without obligation. You can unsubscribe from the distribution list at any time.