Biosecurity now more important than ever- South Africa

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Producer organisations, farmers and their employees, politicians, veterinarians, co-op personnel, representatives, auctioneers, agricultural writers and inhabitants of the Republic of South Africa should protect our national herd from becoming infected with organisms which could harm them and the people consuming products of animal origin.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD), Rift Valley fever, trichomonosis, Asiatic red water, cryptosporidiosis, E. coli, snotsiekte, rabies, fear of East Coast fever, sheep scab, ram's disease, listeriosis, tuberculosis, African swine fever, bird flu are a few important diseases that the red meat industry were confronted with during the last year or two.

A lot of farmers are not doing what they should, like identifying their animals, controlling movement, vaccinating their animals and demanding vendor declarations when buying animals - buyer beware! As was recently experienced, an auction could be the most dangerous place to buy animals if biosecurity measures are not heeded. All animals should be branded with a registered brand mark and or tattoo, health certificates in place and seller's home address (not post box number), should be available.

Take note that FMD, bovine brucellosis, tuberculosis, Johne's disease, trichomonosis, vibriosis, sheep scab (to name a few diseases) and parasites resistant to certain anti-parasitics are herd and flock diseases. Contact your veterinarian to assess your risk bringing in animals onto your farming unit. As an additional precaution, quarantine animals for at least 28 days.

The main goal now should be to get a Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS) in place. This will enable the industry to establish certain disease-free compartments and help to contain an outbreak within a short time period. In unity lies our strength - join your producer organisation!

What to do to be prepared for future outbreaks.

Follow these biosecurity guidelines:

During an FMD outbreak it is the producer's responsibility to keep their animals from getting infected.
Although FMD does not pose a food safety or public health concern it has a major impact on animal health and international trade.
Each commercial farm should appoint a biosecurity manager.
A written biosecurity plan is a basic requirement.
Development of a plan must be done by the biosecurity manager with assistance from a veterinarian.
The biosecurity plan must include a line of separation/demarcation of the biosecurity area.
Train all personnel in biosecurity principles at least annually.
Access points to the area must be identified and demarcated clearly.
A loading site must be identified away from animals.
A cleaning and disinfection station needs to be made available and should be away from any animals and a SOP for cleaning of all vehicles entering the biosecurity area must be adhered to.
Parking areas away from animal areas must be provided.
Vehicle movement pathways must be mapped.
Draw up a map demarcating all these areas.
The control boundary should always be respected and identified to all personnel.
No access of vehicles or personnel to the bio-secure area unless via proper decontamination protocols. People with any suspected contact with infected animals (or having been in an affected area) should stay away from "clean animals for at least a week.
Access points should be respected, well demarcated and procedures of access described. Animals arriving on the farm should only be directly from a guaranteed healthy herd accompanied by signed and dated veterinary health certificates.
Personnel entering the bio-secure area should shower and change clothing before entering the area.
Logbooks of all persons, vehicles, equipment etc. entering or leaving the bio-secure area should be kept.
No entry of persons, vehicles or products should be allowed if not expressly permitted by the biosecurity officer.
Feed brought into the bio-secure area should only be from sources determined by the biosecurity manager.
For extra security cattle should be quarantined at least 100 meters for 21 days away from the herd.
There will be absolutely no contact with the herd either directly or indirectly.
They should only be introduced after clinical (and preferably serological) evaluation.
It is now the time that we take ownership of our own industry.