Podcast: Be on the lookout for Rift Valley fever

It is a viral disease with a mortality rate of up to 100% in young sheep and goats. In adults, it can cause abortion storms. It goes without saying that preventative measures against Rift Valley fever can save a farmer from devastating losses

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Transmitted by mosquitoes, Rift Valley fever poses a danger to both ruminant animals and human beings. Dr Didi Claassen, Afrivet’s technical and marketing executive, joins the Farmer’s Inside Track podcast this week to emphasise that the best way to treat the virus is to prevent it altogether from occurring in your herds. 

“This is a viral disease and there’s no specific treatment for viruses. The body has to fight it off itself, so the only thing we can do is to give supportive therapy to animals that are sick. The best thing to do [is] prevention, rather than trying to treat an animal where your odds are not very good for pulling it through.” 

In humans, Rift Valley fever can appear in varying degrees, from mild flu-like symptoms to death. Claassen says that this is one of the reasons why farmers need to take precautions to prevent their animals from contracting the virus.  

“We really need to take it seriously and know how to protect ourselves and our animals. People usually contract the disease when they work with the body fluids or the tissues of infected animals, and that includes undercooked meat and unpasteurised milk.”

Potential for massive losses

The animals most prone to Rift Valley fever are sheep and goats, especially when they are young, says Claassen. The virus has the potential to cause massive losses for farmers.  

“You can have mortality rates of up to 100% in the younger proportion of the flock. In adults, about 20% to 40% can get very sick, and what we mainly see with the adult animals is abortion storms, where farmers can lose between 80% and 100% of the pregnancies in their herds.” 

Cattle are less likely to be affected as direly, although they still stand the chance of dying or experiencing abortions.

Claassen recommends that farmers promptly vaccinate their animals against the disease, as vaccinations usually become scarce when an outbreak does occur.

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“As with anything in life, it works on supply and demand, so it’s important that we get our vaccine now. If there is an outbreak, everyone is looking for vaccine then it might not be available. Make sure that, if there’s a rainy season coming [like the one] they are predicting at the moment, you vaccinate now before the mosquitoes hatch that might have the virus.” 

ALSO READ: Vaccinate now to guard animals against Rift Valley fever

Other farmers’ podcast highlights: 

The best agriculture news podcast on the planet also features other highlights for the agricultural sector this week: 

  • 101 of beer brewing: Beer brewing has enjoyed immense popularity in the last few years. We chat to Gauteng-based brewer Sibusiso Skosana about the ins and outs of making beer.  
  • Farmer development: Farming mentor Barry Nel from FarmSol utilises his decades of farming experience to educate the next generation. He has some advice for new farmers starting their journey in the agri industry.  
  • Book of the week: Our book of the week is “For the Love of Soil: Strategies to Regenerate our Food Production System” by Nicole Masters. The book is being reviewed by Food For Mzansi citizen journalist Terri-Ann Brouwers
  • Farmer’s Tip of the Week: Our farmer tip this week comes from Sinethemba Botha, a crop farmer from the Western Cape.
  • Soil Sistas: This week’s #SoilSista, powered by Food for Mzansi and Corteva Agriscience, is Limpopo mixed farmer Dipitseng Manamela. This farmer and environmental scientist is taking a more practical approach to farming.  

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