Q. What do you do at work?
Dr Han Zi Yang: I am a veterinarian with the Surveillance and Inspection Department of the Agri Establishment Regulation Group.
My team plans surveillance programmes for Singapore’s animal farms. This involves going to farms on land and sea to check on the health of animals, and collecting samples for laboratory testing. These could be faecal, rectal, or blood samples, among others.
Even when we are not carrying out inspection work, we can still be found in farms. When farmers find that their animals are not in the best of health, they will enlist our help to check on the livestock. Occasionally, I will also assist my colleagues in the Veterinary Pathology Section in conducting post-mortem examinations in AVA’s Animal Health Laboratory.
How does the work you do contribute to the well-being and interests of AVA and/or Singapore?
Updated and effective policies, coupled with regular monitoring, can help us to detect diseases early. This is important as it prevents the spread of diseases and safeguards the health of our animals. In turn, this also means that the food produced by our farms is safe for consumption.
Share some lesser-known facts about your work.
Many people may not know that we have quite a variety of animal and plant farms in Singapore and these are a crucial component in our local food supply. Besides cattle farms and chicken egg farms, there are quail farms, a goat farm, and even a crocodile farm. We also have ornamental fish farms and more than a hundred coastal fish farms.
What do you find enjoyable/satisfying about your work?
I feel I am doing something meaningful, knowing that my team and I are at the forefront of detecting animal diseases and ensuring that food from our farms is safe for consumption. Being a young veterinarian, gaining the recognition of the farmers for my knowledge and competency is also satisfying to me.
Carrying out checks at a bullfrog farm
What is the most memorable experience you have had in this job?
As a result of the fish mortality crisis in 2015, many coastal fish farmers lost their fish stock overnight. My team spent part of our Chinese New Year out on the fish farms together with our colleagues from the Technology & Industry Development Group and the Laboratory Group. We dedicated ourselves to the task and helped our farmers to dispose of the carcasses as quickly as we could.
It was a gesture much appreciated by the farmers, as we lifted some burden off their shoulders during the ordeal. We had to forego our Chinese New Year holidays but the gratitude received from the farmers was well-worth it.
Dr Han (right) helping out in disease investigation during a post-mortem examination.
What are the main challenges you face at work and how do you overcome them?
Sometimes, our farmers do not follow rules and regulations in their farming practices and I will need to carry out enforcement work. An example of incorrect farming practices could be the illegal storage of non-farming items (e.g. construction equipment) on the farm. It’s pretty challenging trying to strike a balance between building relationships with the farmers and doing what is right.
Instead of merely faulting them, it is also important to educate our farmers the reasons behind enforcing these rules and regulations. Ultimately, our job is to facilitate agri-trade and to ensure the health and well-being of the animals.