In a worrying new development, the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) has confirmed that the country has already reported 48 African swine fever outbreaks to the World Organisation for Animal Health this year.
This is the highest number of cases recorded since ASF was first detected in North West in May 2016. The alarming increase puts commercial pig farmers at great risk, warns SAPPO.
The pig industry body says in the past six months, two commercial farms have been affected. This includes a farm in Potchefstroom that has since been depopulated while being cleaned and disinfected since a recent ASF outbreak. This farm is only expected to be repopulated in about three months’ time.
Over the past five years, cases of ASF have occurred outside of the disease control zone in various parts of the country. Thus far, KwaZulu-Natal is the only province that has not yet had an ASF outbreak.
Spike in informal trade
Meanwhile, the informal pork trade is growing in leaps and bounds in the Western Cape.
According to Dr Cilliers Louw, SAPPO’s liaison for veterinary services in this province, this is due to abattoir and auction restrictions in infected areas such as Mfuleni, Saldanha and other parts of the West Coast.
SAPPO has also confirmed two more outbreaks in the Western Cape, one in Saldanha and the other in the Strand.
Dr Gary Buhrman, state veterinarian in the province says, “The outbreaks are both relatively small and appear to be self-limiting at this stage. We could not find any links to the Mfuleni outbreak.”
SAPPO says it has met with the Western Cape department of agriculture to discuss a strategy going forward. They are focused on increasing awareness throughout the province and educating small farmers on biosecurity.
Role players on edge over ASF
The Pig Veterinary Society says it is concerned about the management of the disease. This, according the chairperson Dr Annie Labuschagne, was a major point of discussion at recent meeting. “We agreed that a one size fit all contingency plan may not be the solution,” she says.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BIOSECURITY TO CURB AFRICAN SWINE FEVER, AS WELL AS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF IT, WAS ALSO DISCUSSED.
According to the chairperson, the Pig Veterinary Society’s various ASF prevention pamphlets and videos contribute hugely to making up-and-coming farmers in rural areas aware of the disease.
The directorate of animal health have also expressed concern regarding recent outbreaks of avian influenza and foot-and-mouth diseases.
Dr Mpho Maja, who heads up the directorate, says they are doing everything in their power to stop these diseases from spreading.
“We are doing as much surveillance as possible. We have meanwhile reconvened the FMD technical task team, which will meet [this week]. We also urge producers to adhere to strict biosecurity measures,” Maja says.
Prevention ‘a million times cheaper’
WHILE THERE ARE CURRENTLY NO APPROVED VACCINES FOR ASF, PREVENTION REMAINS THE ONLY SOLUTION.
Professor Mary-Louise Penrith of the University of Pretoria, who is an expert on ASF, says preventing the disease from entering a farm is a million times cheaper than trying to eradicate the disease.
“We can eradicate the disease in domestic pigs, but that is a long-term goal and the infection cannot be eradicated from warthogs. Controlling and preventing the disease are the only options for pig producers at the moment, and the more we prevent it, the more likely we are to eradicate it from our pigs in future,” she states.
Penrith warns that farmers should not rely on foot baths only but in addition, supply a change of clothing and boots to your workers. “And don’t feed dangerous swill. All swill must be boiled at least 15 minutes.”