BY REX MPHISA
BEITBRIDGE livestock farmers have challenged the government to spearhead the establishment of veterinary laboratories and mobile clinics at cattle sales floors to effectively deal with the foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.
Beitbridge and other Matabeleland South livestock producing areas, have largely been put under quarantine to contain the outbreak, although certain areas and animals are clean.
Worst hit by the blanket quarantine is the Boer goat production scheme. Most farmers in the district are part of the programme and remain restricted by the FMD quarantine.
“It’s time to think outside the box. Like any other diseases, foot and mouth cannot attack all the animals. Some are clean and this blanket ban of the movement of all livestock should be revised. Animals should be tested if they are being sold outside the district,” Boer goat breeder and cattle farmer Herbert Zhou of Klein Begin resettlement area said.
Zhou, who also sits on the National Boer Goat Breeders Association, says dozens of sales enquiries of his animals are being held back by restrictions on animal movement, arresting the growth of his enterprise.
“I get an average of three enquiries a week about people from other parts of the country who want Boer goats, but I cannot translate these into money because of this curse called FMD,” Zhou directed further questions to the local veterinary official Mike Nare.
”It’s beyond my capacity. There is nothing I can do,” Nare said.
Beitbridge, through Statutory Instrument 250/2018, was further prescribed as a foot and mouth district along with Mupfure area in Shamva, Rushinga, Chao Resettlement Area of Mazowe, Matepatepa, Mt Darwin (excluding Chiswiti and Mukumbura), Centenary (excluding Mukumbura), Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe and Mudzi.
Other areas also declared FMD zones are Midlands province, excluding Gokwe North and South and Gweru, Masvingo Province, Ndowoyo in Chipinge, Makoni District and Cashel Valley.
Animals moved from these areas into the green zone are strictly for slaughter, but farmers feel the government is not doing enough.
“We feel we must also be allowed to trade with other areas in similar zones to allow growth. Ultimately we feel the disease must be controlled and permanently eradicated, ” Zhou said.
Last week, Lands, Agriculture, Water Climate and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri told farmers to supplement government supplied dipping chemicals, which are inadequate for tick-borne diseases.
The government said it could not afford the chemicals, but farmers feel livestock does not get as much attention as the cropping and mineral industries of the country.
“By now we should be having laboratories in districts and new methods of early interventions. How long will we stay bound down by diseases, some of which can be controlled by just fencing and restricting animal movement,” asked one farmer.
In the developed world disease control programmes have been developed parallel with the increase in animal production in order to improve animal health, animal welfare and the production of healthy foods.
Diseases in animals are controlled for animal welfare, to prevent infections in humans, and due to food safety and trade interests.
Adaption of legal frameworks of disease control to changes in farming practices, disease risks, and veterinary contingency capabilities are continuously being improved to provide a prompt and effective response to every single suspected case or outbreak of a notifiable infectious livestock disease.
The Zimbabwe veterinary department is understaffed at the moment, hence the need to minimise the risk of national spread of a disease by restricting hazardous animal trade practices and improving bio-security.
Effective disease surveillance and early detection of diseases and appropriate and effective actions for the control of disease outbreaks can only be possible with adequate staffing, the livestock industry has noted.