The Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s Provincial Veterinary Laboratory has been approved by the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for continuing the testing of diseases such as brucellosis, anthrax and sheep scab.
Brucellosis is a disease caused by the Brucella bacteria and is capable of migrating from cattle, sheep, pigs and goats to human beings through improperly cooked meat and unpasteurised products. Farmers in the Northern Cape have an advantage due to a dry and warm environment that is less conducive for the bacteria. Dr Andries Fourie, a state veteriniarian in Upington, said that fewer cases of the disease are found in cattle moving further west in Southern Africa. However, Fourie said he believes that the extensive farming in this dry region could have an effect on the spread and lifespan of the bacteria. The Northern Cape has fewer cases of brucellosis, but this does not minimise the level of biosecurity farmers should take to prevent the disease from entering a herd.
Anthrax too is a bacterial disease, which is spread through water by infected animals. This disease is also capable of being contracted by humans and typically affects the skin and lungs causing symptoms like high fever in addition to nasal and digestive bleeding. Anthrax is reported to affect game such as buffalo and gemsbok as well as cattle.
Sheep scab, as the name suggests, is a disease that affects sheep and is caused by a mite which traverses the skin of the animal. It is usually referred to as a winter disease and can cause fatalities through loss of condition, malnutrition and hypothermia.
Dr Willie Harris, another veterinarian from Upington, says the problem is greater than most farmers would admit and even though the prevalence is not currently a major concern in the Northern Cape, it is definitely an issue that requires more attention and awareness.
DAFF and the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) have a shared responsibility to ensure that veterinary laboratories carry out their activities in a manner that allows the needs of the customers and regulatory requirements to be met.