The North West department of agriculture and rural development is investigating reports of illegal livestock vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Farmers across the province are cautioned against using unregistered substances which could be harmful to animals or ruin their farms’ disease-free status.
The warning comes after the department had placed five farms under quarantine, and others under precautionary quarantine, to mitigate recent outbreaks.
“Vaccines without authorisation can result in ‘vaccinated’ animals testing positive and being classified as infected, resulting in further measures being imposed on the farm,” says Emelda Setlhako, spokesperson for the department. “In the province, [private] vaccination of cattle and pigs against foot-and-mouth disease is not permitted and is therefore illegal. The sale of such vaccines is also illegal.”
Setlhako adds that legal vaccines are registered and authorised as fit for purpose by the national director for animal health, and are thus only in the hands of government officials.
According to the province’s director for veterinary services, Langa Madyibi, there is no time frame for the quarantine to be lifted, as authorities will do so only when they deem it safe.
He says a farm is usually placed under quarantine upon the first reports of clinical signs of a controlled disease. It is then kept imposed until blood tests offer a guarantee that the farm is free of the disease. “Normally it is two incubation periods after the last clinical signs we have seen on the farm, or the last serological sample that is negative.”
‘Be alert but don’t panic’
Setlhako says the most recent decision to place farms under quarantine follows an auction at which 12 cattle were received from infected farms. The department decided to act before the disease could spread beyond the province’s borders.
“About 217 cattle, sheep and goats that were sold at the Potchefstroom auction [in question] have been traced to Gauteng, the farms have been visited and Gauteng and Free State veterinary services have been informed,” Setlhako says.
“The veterinary services team is hard at work to ensure that all precautionary measures are taken to prevent the further spread of the disease.”
Farmers are urged not to panic but to be alert to possible clinical signs. “Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals of domestic and wild origin. It presents with sores in the mouth and in between the digits [of the hoof], causing the animals to be depressed, reluctant to eat and lame,” she says.
Farmers are advised to report signs that resemble these symptoms to the nearest state veterinary office immediately.
Free State on high alert
Meanwhile, the Free State department of agriculture says it is also investigating a possible outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease following notifications of suspicious movements of cattle from North West and Gauteng.
“Two farms are being investigated in the town of Viljoenskroon, following the procurement of animals from a farm that tested positive in Potchefstroom,” the department says in a statement.
“A third farm is being investigated in the town of Frankfort following the procurement of cattle from a speculator in Roodepoort. All animals bought by our farmers have been linked to the possible illegal movement of cattle from Limpopo where the initial outbreak was recorded.”
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