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Minister meets Ntombela over deadly FMD

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza this week convened an urgent meeting with Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and several MECs to discuss the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) on 22 properties in Marquard and Bethlehem in the eastern parts of the province.

In a joint statement with the provincial government, the minister’s office said the meeting was aimed at soliciting the help of the Free State government and to explain the 21-day ban on movement of all hooved animals which was imposed last week.

The ban will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

“The minister feels that these meetings are important so that all spheres of government can work together to fight the spread of foot-and-mouth disease,” read part of the statement released after Monday’s meeting, also attended by MECs Makalo Mohale (Economic Development), Gadija Brown (Finance) and Thembani Nxangisa (Agriculture and Rural Development).

The minister has already met with the premiers of Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

“The minister has been targeting provinces that are mostly affected by FMD,” the statement added.

At the start of the week there were 22 open outbreaks in the Free State, with the last cases reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health on August 15.

“The affected farms are located in two main areas – in Viljoenskroon and in Marquard – with the most recent addition of a farm in the Bethlehem area. These premises have since been quarantined and vaccinated,” the statement explained.

The FMD outbreak in the Free State province started in April this year in the Vijloenskroon area after it was spread via auction a month earlier in March and was traced to a positive farm in the North West outbreak cluster.

The Free State Veterinary Services did surveillance and, according to the agriculture department, the situation in the Free State remained stable until the end of June.

It however said during July and August there was a sudden increase in the infected commercial farms in the Moqhaka, Setsoto and Nketoana local municipalities.

The flare-up of new outbreaks has been linked to movements between feedlots and backgrounding farms associated with these feedlots.

The initial re-introduction into the Free State was most likely due to movements from an affected feedlot in the North West, to a feedlot in same group in the Free State.

The department said, thereafter, a number of direct neighbours were affected.

The statement quotes Didiza as saying: “So far there has been good cooperation from the communities and private sector in providing access to camera footage to help with monitoring of movement of susceptible species.”

About 55 628 cattle have been vaccinated at five locations in the Free State. The vaccination campaign is ongoing, including vaccination of newly affected premises.

Blood samples have been collected from 92 locations in the province to determine the extent of spread and 73 of these locations have tested negative.

The Free State has also received additional veterinary personnel from the Northern Cape to be deployed in most affected areas.

“This disease is very serious and we must move very fast. If 22 farms and 60 000 cows are affected it means this thing is serious. We must move very fast to up our communication to our communities about the implications of this disease,” said Ntombela. – Staff Reporter

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