Farmer’s podcast: Tips on dealing with FMD outbreaks

This week’s podcast features (from left) is Dr Peter Oberem, Jo-andra Gregory, Ivor Price, Boitumelo Modisane, Thomas Keet and Aron Kole. Photos: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in KwaZulu-Natal has placed enormous strain on South Africa’s livestock industry. Speaking on the Farmer’s Inside Track farmers podcast, Afrivet chief executive Dr Peter Oberem says that the outbreak has major implications for the country’s export markets.  

“The world system has been developed to control the disease, and this system severely limits trade. If we then have an outbreak here, it affects us enormously, not because of the symptoms or the damage the virus causes, but very specifically because of the control measures that are put in place.” 

Oberem says that, to animals indigenous to South Africa or that have been here long enough to develop resistance, the damage done by FMD tends to be mild. The animals have evolved alongside FMD, making them mostly asymptomatic. However, livestock from other parts of the world are highly susceptible to the disease.  

“Exotic cattle, cattle in Europe, cattle in North America, the imported dairy cattle that we farm with, they are highly susceptible, especially the dairy cattle. They have their milk production destroyed.” 

The recent outbreak in KZN is having negative consequences for farmers in the area. Oberem says that commerce with those farmers have been severely restricted.

“There’s no movement of animals allowed. They can’t sell those animals, except with a permit to an abattoir. And if it is a productive cow, you would probably get R35 000 for it if you sold it. But now, the only outlet – at least until the quarantine is lifted – [is] to send it to an abattoir.”  

Despite the bleak effects of FMD, farmers are still able to enact some control over the disease. Listen to this week’s “Farmer’s Tip of the Week”, to hear Oberem’s advice.  

ALSO READ: FMD: ‘Commodity-based trade can protect economy’

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