The Vet Expo Africa 2020’s virtual exhibitions kicked off on 7 October 2020 with an array of speakers and presentations representing the crème de la crème of the veterinary and animal health industry. While many of the Vet Expo presentations are highly technical, a number of papers are certainly of great interest to livestock producers.

Among others, Dr Morné de la Rey, veterinary surgeon and embryo transfer specialist, explained how embryo implants are performed in an attempt to save our rhino populations. His Vet Expo presentation illustrated the process of implanting these rhino ‘test tube babies’ and the successes they have achieved so far.

Dr Chris van Dijk of the Milk Producers’ Organisation shed light on water usage in modern-day dairies. He emphasised the role of the dairy producer as a steward of water. Dr Andy Hentzen, a well-known feedlot veterinarian, elaborated on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in intensive beef production systems, notably the role of AI in establishing proper traceability in the beef value chain.

Vet Expo focuses on animal research

Bert Mohr of the University of Cape Town delivered an interesting Vet Expo presentation on animal research and why recent research does not seem to be finding its footing in terms of practical application. According to him, the problem starts with research design and obvious biases that occur in the design. He gave advice on several tools and resources that can be utilised to ensure correct research design, including an internationally accredited training course for animal researchers.

Prof Esté van Marle-Köster of the University of Pretoria’s Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences discussed the application of genomics in the dairy and beef industry. Her insightful presentation covered the use of genomics to improve certain livestock breeds, especially in terms of their adaptability to South African conditions. Among others, she referred to how the Hereford breed has adapted to local conditions since its introduction to South Africa.

Animal health highlights of day two

Day two of the Vet Expo Africa took place on 8 October and focused on animal health and nutrition. Dr Shaun Morris, an independent feedlot expert, was one of the speakers in the second day’s line-up. He addressed so-called pharmacovigilance and lowering antimicrobial usage in beef cattle, especially in feedlots.

Dr Morris emphasised the fact that becoming totally independent from antimicrobials does not seem possible, and that the focus should rather be on vigilance and responsible use of antimicrobials in livestock. He addressed health issues relating to especially respiratory diseases, noting the importance of calves building disease resistance via colostrum before they are weaned.

Following this talk, Dr Helena Steyn from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) discussed heartwater research in South Africa. Heartwater is a livestock disease with a high mortality rate. It is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia ruminantium that isspread by ticks in the Amblyomma family. These ticks are endemic to the coastal areas of South Africa, where heartwater is common. However, research has indicated that these ticks have been moving inland due to climate change.

Dr Hanneke Pienaar, a veterinarian at AnimaVet, continued day two’s focus on animal health with her presentation about sheep parasitology. She especially highlighted the symptoms of pruritus (itching), diarrhoea, and death.

Game species susceptible to brucellosis

Did you know that sable antelope can be infected with small ruminant brucellosis? According to Dr Johan Steyl, a senior lecturer of pathology at the University of Pretoria, sable antelope are closely related to small ruminants such as sheep and goats. Thus, they are susceptible to infections by the bacteria Brucella melitensis, which causes small ruminant brucellosis. This disease is an important zoonotic disease and therefore game farmers should know what to look out for.

Dr Steyl shared information from a case report that involved 16 sable antelope that were kept in an intensive camp system in North West. The first noticeable symptom was swollen joints of a pregnant sable. The sable also did not calve when the time came, and an abortion was expected – abortion is a symptom of brucellosis. Dr Steyl also highlighted the fact that lameness was not one of the symptoms. It took a very long time to determine that the sable was indeed infected with Brucella melitensis.

Animals that tested positive were euthanised and the farm was put under quarantine. In addition, animals that were in close contact with the infected sable were tested with further positive results ensuing. All infected animals were culled and disposed of appropriately. Dr Steyl emphasised that the proper disposal of animals infected with brucellosis is crucial to keep it from spreading. The animals were buried on the farm with agricultural lime, which disables the growth of this harmful bacteria.

Looking forward to the next Vet Expo

This year’s speakers and presentations at the Vet Expo Africa did not disappoint. As the media sponsor for the 2020 event, Plaas Media is looking forward to the next Vet Expo Africa. – Lynette Louw and Ursula Human, Plaas Media