Acting Features Editor
The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) recently slaughtered and burnt 28 herd of cattle that were illegally moved from a Theileriosis quarantine in Insiza.
The destruction of the cattle was meant to curb the spread of Theileriosis disease popularly known as January disease.
The cattle had no Veterinary Movement Permit. The farmer had contravened the provisions of Animal Health (Movement of Cattle and Pigs) Regulations, 1984.
This is not the first incident whereby the DVS has shot and burnt cattle for illegal movement.
Either the cattle would have been illegally moved from a quarantine or a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) red zone among other reasons.
Illegal animal movements are the single most important driver of transmission of animal diseases from one area to the next, with the most dreaded being FMD and January Disease.
The aim is to maintain an FMD-free status in provinces, which have potential to resume exports.
If farmers and traders illegally move animals, that is, moving cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and wildlife without permits from the DVS, the animals will be destroyed and the owners prosecuted, fined or jailed.
There is no compensation paid to the farmer.
It is disturbing that farmers continued contravening the provisions for animal health and in the process spreading notifiable diseases.
This has negatively impacted on the livestock industry. According to the Second and Final Crop and Livestock Assessment report cattle mortality rate is 9 percent and diseases have been cited as the major cause of cattle.
Tick borne diseases were the major cause of mortalities contributing 55 percent of overall mortality from the sampled households.
Government has come in with different measures to curb the spread of livestock diseases so as to rebuild the national herd but some farmers have complacent.
The DVS has been carrying out awareness campaigns in different farming areas, educating farmers on the importance of dipping their cattle and applying tick grease to curb the spread of tick-borne diseases.
This has resulted in a decline in tick borne diseases.
This gain would be reversed if farmers are complacent in dipping their livestock.
According to the department, complacency in dipping cattle results in an increase in tick-borne diseases cases and deaths.
The department has always advised farmers of the availability of dip chemicals and tick grease but some farmers do collect the grease while others do not dip their cattle.
Some farmers in communal areas have not been taking their cattle for dipping as they suspect the animals will contract diseases while some in the A2 areas prefer spraying on their own.
The DVS has on some occasions threatened to prosecute those not dipping their cattle.
Measures are also being taken to curb the spread of FMD.
FMD has a negative impact on the economy as it affected exports of beef and other related products.
Countries experiencing FMD therefore suffer from trade embargoes limiting exports of even non-livestock products from affected areas.
The Division of Veterinary Services maintains a high alert system of surveillance on an on-going basis and runs regular preventive vaccination programmes around known hotspots to prevent spread into other areas, thereby affecting commercial interests of the cattle industry.
The country is buying FMD vaccines to curb the spread of the disease which could be achieved by animal movement control.
Zimbabwe does not produce the FMD vaccines and spend lots of foreign currency to control the disease through routine annual vaccinations.
According to the DVS, farmers who move tick infested cattle are liable for prosecution, and so farmers must dip their cattle prior to movement to avoid the long arm of the law.
The DVS is working with the police at roadblocks throughout the country to ensure that all cattle moving to farms and markets have the necessary veterinary permits, and are tick free, as is required by the law.
If farmers and traders comply with animal movement regulations, Zimbabwe is able to maintain a stable animal health situation where there will be no more FMD outbreaks and the country can resume exports especially to the European Union and rake in foreign currency.
Stakeholders in the livestock industry are strongly advised to comply with veterinary restrictions if the cattle economy is to revive successfully.
While farmers may try to smuggle cattle out of the FMD red zones or Theileriosis quarantine areas and succeed, this will hit back at them; diseases will spread and livestock will die.
Most farmers especially in the communal areas rely on their livestock
Cattle is also a very important commodity, which is held in high esteem and ownership is associated with wealth and status.
Owners of the cattle will not receive any compensation.
A key feature of livestock in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole is that they fulfil multiple roles, ranging from draught power, to providing manure and milk.
When cattle are in a red zone, they are not allowed to be moved to another area and this also affects even the prices on the market when farmers want to sale.
For instance, in Gokwe, unscrupulous businesspeople are fleecing farmers by offering non-viable prices for cattle, justifying their actions by saying the area is prone to FMD.
Gokwe is among districts with the highest number of cattle but farmers are failing to get meaningful profits from the livestock due to the FMD.
Cattle cannot be exported out of Gokwe and will only be allowed to move the cattle for slaughter to the abattoirs.
Thus farmers sell their cattle at giveaway prices. Abattoir operators sell the beef at higher prices after buying cattle at low prices.
Farmers in the area should have been enjoying the fruits of their sweat, but the area is known to be affected by FMD and buyers are not willing to offer high prices.
As long as the area remains at high risk of FMD, prices will remain low.
FMD has been spreading in Gokwe because of the mixing of livestock with wild animals due to vandalism of game fences.
Sometimes farmers do not alert authorities early when there is an FMD outbreak and also they are not willing to have their livestock vaccinated even when it is for free.
Thus farmers also play a role in curbing or increasing the spread of diseases.
Efforts by Government to protect livestock and grow the economy are being hampered by lack of commitment from the affected farmers.
It is important that farmers realise the value in the livestock and start prioritising the health of their animals.
Livestock producers should play their role in FMD prevention by reporting outbreaks early and also dipping and vaccinating their animals.
Farmers should also designate areas for pastures.
For successful control, stakeholders in the cattle and pig industry need to comply with veterinary movement restrictions applied to hotspots and outbreak areas.
Once it has spread outside these hotspots, more vaccines are required to cover additional numbers of cattle in the outbreak areas.
Outbreak areas require to be repeatedly vaccinated at four-monthly intervals until six to 18 months after the last case has been recorded. This means additional costs.
Farmers should also play their role in reducing animal deaths.
For example, if there is a need to move livestock, farmers should adhere to regulations.
Animals should only be moved after thorough inspections because they have to be free from pests, parasites and diseases.
This is governed by Statutory Instrument 280 of 1984.
The SI prohibits the movement of sick animals, so those moving the animals for slaughter and reselling are contravening the SI under the Animal Health (Act) Chapter 19:01.
Slaughter of animals for human consumption was governed by the Public Health Act SI 50 of 1995 regarding abattoir registration, lawful slaughter and meat hygiene.
Under these regulations, no persons shall sell, keep, transport or expose for sale any meat or offals unless that meat has been obtained from healthy animals that have been slaughtered in a registered slaughter house and that meat has been inspected by meat inspector and passed as unconditionally fit for human consumption.
It is also an offence for a farmer to have a tick-infested animal.
The national beef herd has increased from 5 478 648 cattle in 2020 to 5 509 983 in 2021 and farmers should continue adhering to the animal health acts so they can reap benefits from their livestock.