It was clear that the attendees at the foot-and-mouth disease information day held recently in Bothaville realised the crisis that had resulted from the widespread outbreaks of the disease, said Dr John Purchase, former CEO of Agbiz and facilitator of the event.
According to him, this was especially true after the recent outbreak in North West, a region considered part of South Africa’s agricultural heartland.
All role players, including farmers, auctioneers, agents and animal health practitioners, would have to collaborate far more effectively to manage the situation as efficiently as possible, Purchase said.
“However, although the debate [became] quite heated at times, it was evident that the majority of the participants were committed to finding solutions in a collaborative way, and that they grasped the fact that the problem would have to be dealt with in the short, medium and long terms.
“First and foremost, the disease cannot be eradicated, because it’s endemic in the northern parts of the country and must be managed as such.”
Purchase added that the challenge therefore was to contain the disease and prevent it from spreading outside the so-called protection zones.
He said the “biggest takeaway from the day”was the fact that the non-profit Red Meat Industries Services Company, an existing company in the fold of the Red Meat Industry Forum, had been tasked to come up with draft measures to manage the issue and engage with government.
“The livestock industry and value chain will have to take charge of the situation and bring new dimensions into the equation based on an in-depth feasibility study and a needs assessment.
“The vaccination of livestock is one of the matters that needs to be investigated. It was evident from the meeting that the idea of vaccinations is quite strongly supported in some circles.”
According to Purchase, vaccinating would, however, be extremely expensive and would cost the industry an inordinate amount of money every year.
“It would also be a mammoth task to inoculate [South Africa’s] 14 million head of cattle every year. Issues such as who would be responsible for the cost of vaccinations also need to be ironed out in the feasibility study,” he said.