Brucellosis in a beef herd may be compared to a slow spreading cancer eroding your herd. One may think that all is well until the reality suddenly dawns upon you. It is an erosion disease which should never be underestimated.

Brucellosis is one of the biggest threats to your herd in South Africa and, to ignore this, is equivalent to indirectly acknowledging that you are farming with livestock without the objective to derive a profit from them.

As a veterinarian and livestock farmer I decided from the onset that a stringent brucellosis management programme must be one of the most important priorities in my herd.

Brucellosis is an important zoonosis (disease transmitted from animals to man) and occupational disease hazard which may sometimes have serious consequences for humans.

Good management practice

Infected cows and heifers often remain permanent carriers of the bacteria and contamination of the environment takes place with huge numbers of organisms when they calf or abort. Hence it is of utmost importance that, with good management practice and with the use of a good traceability system, ALL infected cows, and their progeny (calves) be immediately removed from your herd. Failing to do so and to implement this important culling step, will result in brucellosis remaining in the herd.

Stud breeders who market breeding bulls are rudely awakened when their bulls test positive for brucellosis shortly before an auction, having been born from infected mothers. The cost to breed bulls and to raise them speaks for itself. The financial losses and accompanying loss of reputation to your stud name are huge.

Commercial beef producers have as much to lose in terms of profitability in the herd if brucellosis is ignored. A female animal usually only aborts once but she remains a constant source of infection in discharges when coming on heat or calving. Inter-calving periods may increase and reproduction management becomes difficult. Positively tested female animals have to be culled and financial losses escalate. – Dr. Santjie Pieterse, Greylingsrust, Bultfontein