RPO provides advice on foot-and-mouth disease

The Eastern Cape Red Meat Producers Organisation (RPO) has held several meetings with stakeholders about the status of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, while industry expert Dr Shaun Morris has also been consulted for practical advice on limiting the spread of the disease.

Two adjacent properties just outside Humansdorp and a farm in the Zuurveld area connected to them have yielded cases of foot-and-mouth disease, while a case on an unrelated farm 28km west of the initial infected farm has also been confirmed.

According to the Eastern Cape RPO, the latest survey shows more than 140 animals in the province have tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease. Movement control has been imposed on all cloven-hoofed animals within, through and out of the Kouga and Koukamma municipalities:

  • Cloven-hoofed animals may only be moved from one farm in the Kouga municipality directly to an abattoir for slaughter.
  • Farmers on farms within a 10 km radius of an infected farm must have their animals’ blood tested and show a negative serological result before any movements from these farms will be allowed.
  • Regarding the movement of bull calves: Where calves from more than one farm are transported together, this will be allowed only if the calves are transported by the farmer to the main road and loaded onto the vehicle there.
  • No cloven-hoofed animals originating from the Kouga and Koukamma municipalities may be moved to other farms within or outside these municipalities until further notice.

Biosecurity essential

It is the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that strict biosecurity measures are implemented and adhered to. Experts say biosecurity on farms and access control to farms are the best measures to combat the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.

The following measures should be implemented:

  • Lock the farm gates and limit visitors and deliveries to the property. Meetings with agents and other parties should preferably be held elsewhere.
  • Any livestock trucks allowed on the farm must be cleaned upon arrival and departure. Spray them clean then disinfect them. When loading calves, no trucks should be allowed on the property. The truck must park on the main road and animals should be transported to the truck by pickup. Workers assisting with loading animals must be properly disinfected and receive a clean set of clothes or overalls and shoes before re-entering the farm.
  • Do not divide loads of animals between farms.
  • Do not allow cattle to move in areas where trucks and vehicles drive. The farm should have designated areas and routes for vehicles to avoid contact with animals and manure. If this is not possible, excess manure should be removed from these areas and they should be sprayed with a disinfectant solution.
  • Any person entering the farm must walk through a footbath and disinfect their hands. Workers returning from leave must also have a clean set of clothes before entering the farm.
  • Workers handling animals should be provided with a plastic apron and a 2% citric acid solution which they should use between each animal they handle.
  • Be vigilant and report clinical signs immediately to the state veterinarian or a private veterinarian. Clinical signs include salivation, a decrease in milk production, lameness, and sores in the mouth and on the tongue.
  • Any animals brought onto a farm should be kept separately for at least 28 days before being allowed to join the rest of the herd.
  • Animal identification and traceability are extremely important. No animals should be accepted onto a farm without a verifiable, traceable history and a health declaration.
  • Apply good personal hygiene practices, such as sanitising and regularly cleaning hands with a good disinfectant like F10 (diluted 1:125) or Virocid. Any virucidal disinfectant can be used, but care must be taken to dilute it correctly and apply it properly.
  • Implement a waste manure management plan.
  • Train staff and provide knowledge about biosecurity and biosecurity protocols.
  • The virus can be present in the human respiratory system for up to 48 hours and can thus be transmitted from people to animals. The Eastern Cape RPO has emphasised that foot-and-mouth disease is spread by both animals and humans.

If a comprehensive security programme is in place, it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of the outbreak and spread of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm.

If farmers are uncertain about clinical signs or have difficulty reaching a veterinarian, they are welcome to send photos to Agri Eastern Cape’s 24-hour coordination centre. The centre can be contacted at agriops@agriec.co.za, agriops2@agriec.co.za, or 060 997 4503.

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