Free State Agriculture threatens legal action if foot-and-mouth disease outbreak spreads

An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) that originated in Harrismith has been branded a state of emergency by Free State farmers.

Free State Agriculture (FSA) wrote a letter to provincial authorities last week emphasising more drastic action was needed.

Farmers neighbouring the province fear FMD spilling over its borders, infecting cattle and pigs from Tsiame, Phuthaditjhaba and Lesotho, Harrismith District Farmers Association chairman George Galloway said.

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Only a short stretch of railway and road separates the Harrmismith municipal commonage from the Tsiame communal grazing areas, with livestock regularly moving through.

This makes it easy to block – a move the FSA said should be done as a matter of urgency.

The N5 and N3 national routes also fall within the quarantined zone at Harrismith.

The FSA said it was “unacceptable” that no road blocks had been set up yet, despite the current ban on cattle movements.

“This in effect gave all in the know who possibly had cattle on the commonage more than a week’s chance to move their cattle with potentially disastrous effect for the communal and emerging farmers in and around the QwaQwa area if the virus cannot be contained,” a statement by the FSA read.

If infected livestock reach Lesotho, current restrictions on cattle movements could prove ineffective, due to South Africa’s permeable borders, the FSA explained.

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This would wreak further financial havoc on cattle farmers already suffering from restrictions instituted on 18 August.

They are expected to last for 21 days, with the possibility of being prolonged. Provinces such as the Free State have not yet been contained, raising the risk of FMD spreading to other cloven-hoofed animals.

“FSA thus calls for urgent action to contain the further spread of the virus and for farmers to step in once again where the state can’t fulfil their mandate.

“As such FSA reserves our rights to approach a competent court to obtain the necessary relief if the relevant legislation at the State’s disposal is not effectively enforced.”

South Africa is currently experiencing 116 FMD outbreaks involving farms, feedlots, and communal areas in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State.

NOW READ: Government’s ‘senseless’ foot and mouth disease ban risks ruining red meat industry, driving up prices

Sheep scab on the rise

Meanwhile, a sheep scab (also known as mange) outbreak has been reported in parts of the Northern Cape.

Farmer’s Weekly reported outbreaks in the De Aar, Vosburg, Carnavon, Williston and Upington districts, which have officially been placed under quarantine.

Sheep scab, a mite infestation that causes intense itching and loss of wool, is said to have infected more than 1 000 sheep in the province.

An example of sheep scab, which has affected at least 1 000 sheep in the Northern Cape. Photo: Northern Cape Red Meat Producers’ Organisation

The outbreak is being monitored by the Department of Veterinary Services.

Compiled by Nica Richards. Additional reporting by Sipho Mabena and Farmer’s Weekly.

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