With no vaccine available for African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country, pig farmers in the Eastern Cape have to watch with broken hearts as their pigs suffer with little or no help to offer to them, leading to a loss in revenue and a threat to their operations.
Cases have been reported in areas of Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, Mnquma Local Municipality, and Makana Local Municipality, which are predominantly farming communities.
A pig farmer in the Makhuzeni village in the Eastern Cape, Busisiwe Mbane told Food For Mzansi that she lost 13 pigs because of ASF. With only piglets left, she is anxious that she might also lose them with no vaccination available.
“Swine flu has affected us as young farmers a lot more especially when starting from scratch on your own without any support. As it has been said vuka uzenzele, (get up and do for yourself).
“This African Swine Fever came unexpectedly and it killed most of the pigs I had. At first, I did not know what the course of death was and because of this doubt, we couldn’t eat them so I ended up burying them,” she said.
The Eastern Cape has reported signs of the spread of African Swine Fever with cases increasing from an outbreak of two cases in April to four at the end of June.
Counting her losses
Devastated, Mbane admitted that there is nothing else that she can do because there is no cure for the disease.
“We are just praying and crossing our fingers that they don’t die at all,” she added.
She is now relying on her remaining piglets to continue farming because the 13 pigs that died have set her back.
“Seeing my dream disappear down the drain is so painful. I started this piggery from Covid-19 grants which I am no longer getting. Having a piggery was one of the ways to start a business because of the lack of jobs.”
Mbane said what is left for her is to start all over again to ensure that her farming dreams are kept alive even though there was a lot of uncertainty, “So, I do not have any choice but to be strong,” she said.
Poor biosecurity at the root of it all
Dr Zoleka Ntondini, manager of animal health at the department of agriculture and rural development, explained that the major cause of this disease is poor biosecurity in the keeping of pigs. That means when pigs roam and they are not enclosed in the pig pens, they are at risk. They have to be kept in enclosed pens to avoid contact with other pigs.
Ntondini told Food For Mzansi that the feeding of food waste is also a cause because there is meat that has been exposed to the virus. However, if a farmer would like to feed food waste, they need to boil that food again for 20-30 minutes to kill the virus.
“Symptoms are fever, and reddish discolouration of the skin, especially in the abdomen and feet causing the pigs to stagger. The disease causes high mortality and when opened up, there will be haemorrhage in all the organs, especially lymph nodes.
“The best way to keep pigs safe is to keep them in pens, away from direct contact with other pigs. We discourage farmers from consuming meat from sick animals or animals that have died of diseases. But they still can continue slaughtering healthy pigs and eating meat. It does not affect human beings,” she said.
No need to panic
Spokesperson for the Eastern Cape MEC for rural development and agrarian reform Masiza Mazizi said there is no need for panic. However, farmers need to contact departmental officials for guidance as there is no vaccine for the disease.
“There is no vaccine for it in South Africa. Pigs that are affected by the disease are most likely going to be sick and die from the disease. All farmers who need more information in this regard can contact extension officers of the department who are placed in their respective wards,” he said.
Mazizi said the department offers awareness and training to the farmers to keep their pigs enclosed so that they cannot be in contact with other pigs that could transmit disease to them.
Onderstepoort Biological Products spokesperson Zipho Linda confirmed that they do not produce any vaccination for pigs.
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