“DA acting spokesperson on Agriculture Veliswa Mvenya said a speedy response to the outbreak was of key importance to contain the disease.”
THE disease affecting livestock on farms along the East Coast Resorts and around Kei Mouth and Haga Haga has been confirmed as Rift Valley Fever (RVF).
However, the lack of availability of a vaccine is causing concern among farmers trying to inoculate their cattle and sheep against the virus, which frequently manifests itself as a wave of unexplained abortions amongst livestock.
The Komgha Farmers’ Association (KFA) said that 210 calves valued at R700 000 had already been lost since the outbreak began.
Les Trollip, a farmer in the Kei Mouth area, said he had sent a foetus away for testing last week Monday after his cattle started aborting.
“I got the results back on Tuesday, which confirmed that it is Rift Valley Fever.”
“When my cattle initially started aborting I immedifarmers ately began inoculating them, but from what I’ve been told, there is no vaccine available at present, which is of great concern.”
Trollip said the implications of the disease were potentially catastrophic for small-scale, emerging and subsistence farmers who didn’t have the means to vaccinate their livestock.
“It’s a major problem and the potential losses could be huge,” he said. “At the moment it seems as if (RVF) is confined to the coastal areas but it can spread quite quickly, specially if people start moving cattle around.”
Norton Thompson, chairman of the KFA, confirmed the lack of vaccine availability.
“The solution to the problem right now is to inoculate, which a lot of farmers have fortunately done already, but there is a shortage of the vaccine and we’ve been told additional stocks will only be available next week,” he said.
“Without assistance, emerging farmers and subsistence farmers could be hit badly.”
Thompson said RVF could have a big economic impact if not treated. “Some farmers in the Karoo lost their entire lamb crop to the disease.”
DA acting spokesperson on Agriculture Veliswa Mvenya said a speedy response to the outbreak was of key importance to contain the disease.
“The Democratic Alliance calls on the provincial Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to contain the spread of the disease in livestock, and to avoid human illness as well,” she said.
“Officials must be deployed as a matter of urgency to distribute vaccines and to quarantine affected farms. An awareness campaign is of utmost importance, especially amongst rural communities, to prevent eating meat from infected carcasses.”
An employee from the Department of Agriculture confirmed the RVF outbreak and said they had secured 2 000 doses of the vaccine from Queenstown, which would be used for communal areas surrounding the outbreak areas.
The employee said awareness campaigns would initially be held with villagers in the area and then a date would be set to begin vaccinations.