Cow export easier said than done

Export cows

Kenya requires an importer to contact his or her CVO and obtain an import permit or a “No Objection Letter”.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

I have talked of searching for Jersey heifers for export to a neighbouring country for the last few months.

It was a relief when the first lot of five animals arrived in the Federal Republic of Somalia safely by road last Sunday.

They exited through Mandera border post after a two-day journey.

Transporting cattle to Somalia presents serious challenges due to the road conditions and high temperatures.

Truckers are made to seek special permission to transport the animals in the cooler hours of the night.

Dairy cattle from the highlands are heavily stressed by heat as they are not used to it.

In addition, the heifers being exported were more vulnerable to stress because they were pregnant and had mostly been reared in confined grazing areas.

The cows left Kiambu County at about 8am on a truck, well-fitted for cattle transport.

I had inspected the lorry the previous day to ensure it was properly fitted for the giant task ahead.

The truck had plenty of sawdust on the floor to cushion the cattle from road shocks and to prevent slipping and sliding on the floor.

It also served to dry out dung and urine during the long journey.

Failure to prepare the floor properly could expose animals to discomfort and injuries.

The truck had plastic drums containing about 400 litres of water. I estimated every heifer would drink about 40 litres per day.

There was sufficient hay, silage and dairy meal to ensure the animals were properly fed on the way and had familiar feed in their first few days in the Horn of Africa.

The process of exporting live cattle may sound easy but it requires execution of a very elaborate programme regulated by international, national and local laws.

My client was a first-time importer. He had been erroneously informed that he could just come to Kenya, select animals and ship them to Somalia.

The official process begins with the importer identifying a suitable contact in the country; who can be a representative or supplier of the required animals.

The contact should investigate the prevailing export requirements for Kenya from the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO). The CVO in Kenya is officially called the Director of Veterinary Services (DVS).

Kenya requires an importer to contact his or her CVO and obtain an import permit or a “No Objection Letter”.

The document states that the destination country does not object to the import from Kenya but gives conditions the animals must fulfil.

In the case of Somalia, the CVO required the animals to be in good health and body condition; and to have up-to-date vaccination for quadrivalent foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease, Rift Valley fever and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.

The animals must be accompanied by an export permit and health certification issued by Kenya’s CVO.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Kenya CVO to assure the CVO of the importing nation that the conditions set by her country have been met at the time of exporting the animals.

When the importer’s contact receives the “No Objection Letter”, she should ensure that it is possible for her to meet the conditions set out in the letter.

Since some contacts are not veterinary doctors, they should engage the services of such an expert to be able to understand the medical conditions in the letter and how to comply with them.

Once the contact is clear that she can fulfil the import conditions, she should submit the letter to the Kenya CVO and request for permission and assistance to process the animals for export and eventually be issued with an export permit by the CVO.

Some contacts have caused their importers to incur losses because of not following this procedure.

All must be very careful to follow the procedure closely because international trade is economically beneficial to the country but can also bring disrepute and diplomatic rows if players fail to follow protocol.

The DVS confirms the country can comply with the conditions of the “No Objection Letter” and writes to the County Director of Veterinary Services (CDVS) to assist the importer’s contact to fulfil the set guidelines.

The letter is also copied to the importer’s contact.

The CDVS works with the sub-county veterinary officers and the importer’s contact to ensure the conditions of the importing country’s CVO are fulfilled.

Finally, the CDVS writes a health certificate for the animals and provides evidence of compliance to the import conditions.

This includes vaccination records issued by the animal owner’s veterinary doctor.

The CDVS issues the health certificate to the importer’s contact and submits a copy to the DVS.

The importer’s contact uses the certificate to apply for the export permit from the DVS online.

After obtaining the export permit, the exporter can ship the animals to the destination within 14 days or seek to extend the permit if the period elapses.

Some import conditions are numerous or may require quarantine or vaccinations that have to be waited for up to 60 days before the animals can be exported.

This happens mainly when exporting animals from Kenya to a country which does not have the diseases in Kenya such as blue tongue in sheep.

In some situations, the importing country may request for several laboratory tests against tuberculosis, brucellosis, tick-borne diseases and others.

It is, therefore, advisable for farmers planning to export animals or with export quality livestock to vaccinate their animals diligently against trade-sensitive diseases and illnesses that affect human beings and animals such as anthrax.

I was fortunate my “No Objection” only required vaccinations that are routine in Kenya and no lengthy laboratory tests.

This was because Kenya and Somalia are within the same ecosystem and have similar disease burdens.