Thousands of sheep had to be inoculated and quarantined after an outbreak of sheep scab in the Namaqualand and Bushmanland areas of Northern Cape.
“More than 12 000 sheep in our area had to be inoculated twice against it this season and there are currently 5 000 animals under quarantine,” said Danie Jacobs, a sheep farmer from the farm Kammasoas near Springbok.
He said that, alarmingly, outbreaks have become endemic to these areas and have occurred annually for the past 10 years on virtually the same farms. “It happens mainly near the towns of Springbok, Aggeneys, Pofadder and Loeriesfontein,” he explained.
“A number of farms, including Middelputs, Kalkvlei and Stofbakkies, are affected year after year. It’s difficult to determine the specific cause of the outbreaks, but it could be inefficient animal health programmes on farms.”
Jacobs said the patterns of the outbreaks had changed over the years. The mites that cause sheep scab usually develop in winter but the disease is increasingly occurring in summer, especially over the past two years.
“It’s a notifiable infectious animal disease that must be reported to the appropriate authority so that control or preventative measures can be taken, according to the Animal Diseases Act,” he pointed out.
“I call on farmers to report all outbreaks and on government to treat the problem in the same way other notifiable diseases such as rabies and foot-and-mouth disease are treated. Affected animals should be quarantined and their transport strictly controlled.”
Sheep scab is a serious problem in communal farming areas in Eastern Cape, said general manager of the National Wool Growers’ Association, Leon de Beer.
“It’s hard to quantify the exact extent of the wool lost to sheep scab, but, coupled with the decline in production, we’re looking at major losses. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plays an important role in combating and preventing the disease with regular sheep scab dipping campaigns, but the losses remain high.
“It’s vital that the department increases its capacity in rural areas. The significant shortage of animal technicians and vets in these areas makes preventing diseases such as sheep scab very difficult.” Sheep scab is probably the most serious external parasite problem in sheep in the country and is on the increase, said veterinarian Dr Chris van Dijk, Pfizer’s group manager: veterinary services.
“Farms aren’t inspected regularly anymore and the movement of sheep is less controlled than in the past,” he pointed out. “The main cause of outbreaks is the introduction of infested animals to flocks. Sheep scab decreases immunity and increases susceptibility to diseases such as pneumonia and internal and external parasites.”