Review/Oorsig Volume 23, Issue 01 - Page 18

Oorsig/Review SOME LESSONS LEARNED OVER FIVE DECADES OF RESEARCH Gareth Bath, Emeritus Professor Faculty of Veterinary Science University of Pretoria Some people are suited to research, but others are not, and the sooner we establish our category the better. For success in research we all need some luck at the outset: good mentors, an enabling environment and some challenging problems – I was lucky enough to find all of these at Grootfontein in the Eastern Cape in 1971. What have I learnt since then? Always do a thorough literature search! We suspected that the problem of uroliths (bladder stones) in show rams was related to nutrition, mainly excess phosphorus – but nothing was known officially in South Africa. I did the investigations and could see a PhD beckoning until I went to the library and found that virtually everything had already been researched and published, mainly in the American Journal of Animal Science. However, all was not lost and an 18-page Memorandum based on my investigations and this literature was sent to the Registrar, Act 36 of 1947, showing that current Regulations were killing sheep. Forcing revision of the regulations - a cheeky start to my research career! Fig 2 Phytobezoars in the abomasum of goats – interesting but not of much economic value (Image provided by Dr Gareth Bath) Similarly, at the same time, the mystery of the cause of Enzootic Icterus in sheep could be solved by careful analysis of previous work and appropriate follow-up investigations, proving it to be a form of chronic copper poisoning caused by a combination of degraded veld and high-copper doleritic soils. This led, decades later, to my being described as the ‘father of veterinary geology’! Concentrate on problems of high economic importance! Fig 1. Phosphate bladder stones killed many rams and wethers (Image provided by Dr Gareth Bath) 18 The problems with phytobozoars (plant concretions) in the abomasum of goats and sheep was intriguing and totally un-researched in the 70s and it was very satisfying to find the answers to its causes and development, but its occurrence was of such a restricted extent that this research has had little impact. In contrast, proving beyond all possible doubt that the cause of Geeldikkop in sheep was the eating of wilted Tribulus terrestris