Livestock farming is to a large extent regulated by the laws of nature, but state-mandated regulations are also in place to protect national herds and flocks from disease and to safeguard trade. At another level, vets and animal health technicians help farmers set up and maintain standards and norms that ensure the health of their animals.
Merino sheep farmer Gershwin Louw, who produces quality export wool in the Western Cape’s Overberg district, says livestock industry standards demand a lot from farmers. He speaks highly of his mentor and employer, Schalk Viljoen, as he explains that Viljoen has laid down a culture of diligence and attention to detail in flock management. “He’s tough about meeting standards, but this gives us confidence in the knowledge that we can one day start and grow our own commercial agribusiness,” says Louw.
Ratselane Marumo of animal health company Afrivet says maintaining standards in the livestock sector is critical but not always easy to implement, especially for communal and small-scale farmers. Afrivet has used its resources to develop expertise and product hubs in rural areas so that communal and emerging farmers can learn about industry standards and implement the necessary actions.
“It’s easier for farmers to comply with regulations if they have a good relationship with their local vets, vet technicians and co-op agents,” Marumo explains. “Even if it’s only for one animal, farmers should feel confident about calling people who can help them.”
He cautions that strict adherence to the rules in infectious disease control is very important because of the enormous impact some of these diseases have on the financial survival of individual farmers and on the entire sector’s economic viability.
Ethical farming and compliance with animal welfare regulations promote a farmer’s reputation and and play a role in the branding of livestock products, such as free-range eggs, grass-fed beef and gestation-crate-free pigs. There is growing demand for these products from a public that demands the right to make sure the standards for humane and ethical farming are met.
“Compliance with regulations and standards is key to sustaining a strong livestock sector,” Marumo concludes.
For more information, visit www.afrivet.co.za