The South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) recently held their Annual Council Indaba at Pheasant Hill in Pretoria. Several role-players attended the indaba which was opened by the minister of agriculture, Senzeni Zokwana. The theme of the indaba was the Big Brucella Debate that aims to create an understanding by all role-players of the involvement of the various industries in brucella programmes, whether controlling, managing, implementing, servicing, consuming or any aspect relating to brucella.

Current challenges

State veterinarian, Dr. Alicia Cloete discussed the protocols currently in place for controlling the spread of brucella.  According to Cloete as part of the Veterinary Strategy for 2016-2026, the bovine brucellosis control policy needs to be reviewed. Cloete emphasised the fact that all stakeholders need to be involved in the reviewing process. The policy for eradication of bovine brucellosis will include the testing, quarantine and slaughter of infected animals. In order to update the control policy for brucella, the discussion document and the final draft policy will be sent out for public commentary before the final policy can be implemented to amend legislation.

However, currently the industry faces several challenges that impede the proper control of this disease. According to Dr. Sewellyn Davey, Western Cape state veterinarian, the extent of the current brucellosis situation in South Africa is not clear due to  poor reporting of infected farms. The correct census of cattle in the country is also not available, which adds to the problem.

Animal identification is poor in many herds and there is an urgent need to get the Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS) in parallel with the protocol for brucellosis as part of the veterinary strategy. According to Davey the current scheme is not compulsory. Furthermore, there is a capacity problem with respect to laboratories for testing of the disease.  These are only some of the challenges he discussed.

Accomplished so far

Davey discussed the steps that have been taken thus far to create awareness of this disease. In 2017 a brucellosis event was held in each province to inform farmers of the disease. There were also regular interviews on major agricultural media platforms relating to the disease on programmes such as Grootplaas and RSG Landbou. Another major milestone will be achieved this year when the brucellosis vaccination awareness campaign pamphlets will be translated into multiple languages to increase the demographics of the campaign.

Dr. Faffa Malan and Dr. Trish Oglesby, chairlady of Ruvasa, spoke about brucellosis control from the perspective of the rural practitioner. They emphasised the fact that state veterinarians, private veterinarians, animal health technicians and laboratory personnel must work together as one health department to make the fight against brucella successful.

They said that it is of the utmost importance for the following aspects to fall into place immediately: improved liaison between public and private veterinarians, official public/private partnerships and private veterinarians need to be authorised to test for the disease.  Malan reminded industry role-players that disease sees no colour and that we must work together as a whole to protect the well-being of the local meat industry against this disease. –Yolandé Roodt, Stockfarm