Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cases have now been confirmed in 10 locations in Limpopo. This was according to the latest report on the outbreak issued by the Directorate of Animal Health at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
“The affected properties include commercial cattle farms, a community farm, feedlots and associated abattoirs,” the report said.
Government, animal health structures, and auctioneers have called on all livestock role players to act responsibly to limit the spread of FMD.
While investigations were ongoing, no cases had thus far been reported in other provinces.
Dr Pieter Vervoort, managing director of the National Animal Health Forum (NAHF), told Farmer’s Weekly that South African farmers needed to remain vigilant and act responsibly.
He added that while a ban on auctions and livestock transportation had not been made official in the Government Gazette, the NAHF still advised against any congregation of animals.
“If you sell animals knowing there is FMD in the country and you manage to spread it, you can be held civilly and criminally liable for it [in terms of Section 11 of the Animal Diseases Act],” he warned.
Johann Vosser, a cattle farmer in Limpopo and chairperson of the South African Federation for Livestock Auctioneers (SAFLA), said that while the organisation had been shocked by the initial call to ban auctions, the rationale behind the decision was understandable.
Vosser said auctions unfortunately created an easy distribution point for the spread of disease, and he urged role players to allow officials to determine the extent of the outbreak and to provide necessary guidelines going forward.
A ban on auctions at this time of year, however, held devastating consequences for the industry.
“A lot of smaller farmers, especially, plan for their marketing to be done at this time of year to generate Christmas income,” he said.
He added that estimates suggested that the short-term suspension of auctions could result in losses of around R150 million.
However, this was still a better alternative to a nationwide FMD outbreak, he said.
“As far as possible, we call on auction houses to stick to the request to not have auctions [over the short term] to limit the possible spread of the disease,” he said.
Vervoort advised farmers to follow the NAHF’s guidelines for preventing the spread of the disease, which included ensuring that new stock was quarantined for at least 21 days to prevent the spreading of disease to the rest of the herd.
He said that a period of at least 28 days had to pass with no new reported infections before movement and auction restrictions could be lifted.