The national Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (RPO) has welcomed the publication of the Bovine Brucellosis Control Policy by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. The policy aims for improved disease control and a decrease in prevalence.
In addition, it calls for enforced compulsory vaccination of all heifer calves between four and eight months of age with a registered vaccine, and potential booster vaccination of adult cows with a relevant registered vaccine. All vaccinated calves and cows must be identified.
Furthermore, the policy entails continued active education and awareness of bovine brucellosis, legislated compulsory testing of all cattle (herds), disease control through quarantine and movement control, the slaughter of cattle/herds that tested positive for the disease at an approved/registered abattoir, improved reporting of necessary data, and improved implementation of legislation and policy. The same central policy is to be applied across all nine provinces.
Vaccination against brucellosis
A compulsory national bovine brucellosis vaccination strategy will be developed and implemented with permanent visual identification of vaccinated heifers and recordkeeping. It will start by focusing on awareness and vaccination for a set number of years to aim to cover at least 80 to 90% of the breeding pool over the next ten to 15 years. The vaccine must be readily and consistently available and any vaccine manufacturing and procurement issues must be addressed urgently.
Education and awareness
An education strategy for veterinary and para-veterinary professionals will be developed and implemented to ensure that these professionals are trained to control the disease. The strategy will also aim to conduct awareness and education campaigns.
Moreover, an awareness strategy will be implemented to empower cattle farmers and keepers to prevent and control the disease in their animals and to safeguard them against zoonotic disease. Medical professionals must consistently be made aware of the zoonotic potential of brucellosis. In addition, abattoir personnel need to be trained to safely slaughter infected cattle.
Compulsory brucellosis testing
A compulsory national bovine brucellosis testing strategy will be developed to determine disease prevalence and detect positive herds. The strategy will be implemented in a stepwise manner. Testing should be prioritised and be ongoing for infected herds, high-risk areas/herds and suspect herds. Furthermore, testing should be legalised as compulsory for all cattle herds and should be implemented in a collaborative effort to control the disease in all cattle farming sectors.
Herds that test positive must be quarantined, positive cattle C-branded and slaughter of positive cattle instituted to eradicate the disease from the herd and to lift the quarantine. The owner of the cattle is responsible for informing buyers and neighbours if brucellosis is present in their herd. Laboratory quality and capacity and the availability of cost-effective test antigens should also be addressed.
The current Bovine Brucellosis Scheme will be amended to prohibit any infected and susceptible animals from being moved from a brucellosis-quarantined farm or area. A movement control strategy will also be implemented to prevent the movement of untested cattle and cattle from positive herds, requiring a legislative amendment.
Slaughter of positive cattle and reporting
A strategy will be developed that will provide guidelines on how to approach brucellosis positive herds based on biosecurity, intra-herd prevalence, owner co-operation, risk of disease spread to other farms, etc. A standard protocol for the slaughter of cattle that tested positive for brucellosis and high-risk cattle (female cattle over 18 months of an unknown brucellosis status) should be implemented to ensure that abattoirs address the matter appropriately.
A central brucellosis database containing all relevant variables to monitor and evaluate trends must be developed and implemented successfully. Disease reporting training will have to be conducted on an ongoing basis to ensure correct data capture.
Effective implementation of brucellosis control measures
Improved implementation strategies and roll-out will benefit the entire livestock farming community across the country. This policy is also intended to be used as a model for other disease control efforts. Specifically, improved implementation will decrease the brucellosis disease burden and decrease its risk to both animal and human health.
The next step will be the development of more detailed implementation plans on each of the seven objectives (vaccination, education, testing, movement control, slaughter, reporting and effective implementation of control measures).