The alarmingly small number of state veterinarians currently employed by the Department of Agriculture has had a definite impact on the country’s livestock industries say industry roleplayers. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Eddie Mulaudzi said that at the end of last year 20 of the possible 38 posts for state veterinarians in the department’s Directorate for Veterinary Services were vacant. Overall, the directorate has 454 approved posts of which 62 are vacant.
Gerhard Schutte, CEO of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) said that the shortage of state veterinarians has had an immense impact on the industry, “especially where controlled diseases such as Brucellosis are concerned. We were on the verge of completely eradicating the disease, but a shortage of vets led to a turnaround for the worse. “The latest EU export problems can also be traced back to certification problems due to a lack of skilled veterinarians. Furthermore, long-standing surveillance programmes of contagious abortions and tuberculosis are not being carried out sufficiently.”
He added the hardest hit are farmers in the developing sector, who rely heavily on the expertise of state veterinarians. Schutte said the lower number of state veterinarians can be attributed to many factors, “It’s well-known that specific posts have been earmarked for affirmative action, which creates the impression that whites might not have career opportunities in the field. Poor remuneration and a lack of bursaries are also to blame.”
The long lag in the state service between the positions being advertised and followed up with interviews and appointments being made, means that applicants are sometimes left “hanging” for nearly a year. This means they often find other jobs. Manie Booysen, CEO of the South African Meat Industry Company (Samic) said that at a national level the agriculture department offers good service and support.
“We have recently helped them with the appointment of three senior state veterinarians, but there is still a shortage of staff at provincial level. This is largely due to the massive brain drain from SA. Qualified veterinarians seek greener pastures, often overseas. “Samic has proposed that graduates be placed on two year mandatory service contracts, similar to those of medical graduates.” – Cornelia du Plooy