Investigating strategies to improve the reproductive efficiency of cattle and buffalo in smallholder farms in Cambodia and Laos
Luisa Olmo is one of our PhD students who has been working on our projects since 2015 when she started as an honours student investigating reproductive improvement in Cambodian cattle. Luisa’s key honours findings were that agrarian skills help farmers adapt to forage growing, that native cattle compared to Haryana have more calf births and using cattle for draught power reduces farm reproductivity. Luisa has since published baseline prevalence data on the reproductive pathogens; Neospora caninum, Bovine viral diarrhoea virus, Leptospira interrogans serovar Hardjo and Brucella sp. which are potentially related to abortions and calf deaths. Tracking and preventing these diseases will become increasingly important as animal trade and production continues to intensify in the region. Luisa has also been surveying emerging trends in the lowlands where some farmers are starting to experiment with cross breeding the native Laotian ‘yellow’ cattle with exotic breeds such as Brahmans and Charolaise. Luisa believes regular contact with farmers and building the research availability in the region is essential to enable development projects and governments to make evidence based decisions and to pave the way for local researchers.
Nichola Calvani – University of Sydney PhD student
The molecular diagnosis, prevalence and control of Fasciola spp. in smallholder large ruminant systems in Cambodia and Laos
Nichola is a mid-candidature PhD student working on the molecular diagnosis, prevalence and control of the common liver fluke (Fasciola spp.) in smallholder large ruminant systems in Cambodia and Laos. The liver fluke can cause significant production losses through poor productivity and sudden death. Additionally, while the parasite most commonly infects ruminants, spread to other species, including people is reported worldwide.
Nichola first came on board during her honours year as an Animal and Veterinary Bioscience undergraduate where she was conducting a case study into the prevalence of liver fluke infection in selected cattle in several Cambodian provinces. This work highlighted the potential for external feed sources to act as vectors spreading the parasite.
She has spent the last 18 months working to develop and fine-tuned a molecular diagnostic workflow for the highly specific and quantitative detection of Fasciola spp. This work has so far resulted in two scientific publications, with the opportunity to present at both national and international parasitology conferences.
Nichola hopes to bring her diagnostics to the field in 2018 with several prevalence and control trials planned in both Cambodia and Laos. Here she aims to implement medicated molasses feed supplement blocks as a novel form of liver fluke control. It is hoped that the benefits of anthelmintic use and parasite control will become more tangible when combined with the nutritional benefits of feed supplementation.
Francesca Earp – University of Sydney PhD student
Francesca is a new PhD student starting a PhD in 2019 after completing her honours project in country in 2018. Francesca’s honours project assessed the cost benefit of three FMD intervention strategies, and hopes her PhD will be an extension on this work. Her study aims to undertake a systematic analysis of the effectiveness of a variety of different intervention strategies used for FMD control in Laos.
Francesca hopes this research will provide a guide for the successful mitigation of FMD in Laos. Providing direction for future agricultural aid programs or FMD mitigation policy.
2019 Honours students
April Mcelligott – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Brooke Gallagher – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Maddison Pearce – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
2018 Animal and Veterinary Bioscience Honours students
Amanda Bouassi – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Bethanie Clark – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Francesca Earp – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Brianne Pepper – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient
Simin Khan – University of Sydney student and New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipient