Dr Francois van Niekerk, a long-time veterinarian in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape, last night received the Ricky Wilson Award at the annual RuVASA gala dinner held in Umhlanga Rocks. RuVASA is the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa and Dr Ricky Wilson was a colleague who died in 2002.
Dr Wilson believed that the most important role of the rural veterinary practice, is the empowerment of the producer. This, he believed, would allow the vet and the producer to work together as a team to improve profitability.
The epitome of team work
Dr Francois van Niekerk epitomises this ideal, having served his community for 40 years. In this time he has seen two Holstein dairy herds produce South African champions consistently. Both farms have been bona fide clients of his since 1980. He has watched several other dairy farms under his care grow into large herds of over 1 000 cows.
But he not only served the farmers. He also, at his own cost, made an effort to establish two useful forums which draw on key role-players within the farming community to pay attention to concerns of common interest. The Ruminant Liaison Committee was established to bring milk suppliers, feed companies and other interested parties to one table to discuss matters of vital importance to the industry.
The TB and CA Liaison Committee has a similar function, namely to bring the key role-players in the control of these diseases, onto a common platform. He also advises farmer study groups and has written several articles for veterinary journals. In addition, he has been serving as the general secretary of the International Pig Veterinary Society since 2011.
The best accolade, however, comes from a farmer and client: “Hy is ‘n slim dokter – hy het kennis van alles …” (He is a clever doctor – he has knowledge of just about anything.) – Izak Hofmeyr, Plaas Media