File photo: Reuters.

RUSTENBURG - The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) called on livestock owners and farmers to assist in speedily clamping down on the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease in South Africa.

"This, in Afasa's view, can be done by fully complying with the recommendations made by the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development and the livestock industry," chairman Neo Masithela said.

"The department called for farmers and livestock owners that all parties transacting with cloven-hoofed animals should observe the utmost caution and advised that all gatherings of animals from more than one source, including auctions, livestock shows, and speculative transactions, should be discouraged until the exact situation is known." 

He said the further spread of the disease could be detrimental to the industry and have a negative socio-economic impact on those directly affected, especially rural livestock owners who depend on livestock for income. 

He added that in 2011, the foot and mouth disease outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal's Umkhanyakude district cost the country R4 billion in revenue following a ban on SA exports.

Masithela warned that if not contained, the disease could spread further in the country and specifically into communal areas. 

He said because of the upcoming festive season, animal movement increases due to the high demand of animals for meat. 

"Farmers should adhere to safety protocols to ensure the curbing of the disease. All stakeholders must work together to ensure we don’t put the whole country at risk," he said.

Following the outbreak of the disease in the Molemole municipality, in Limpopo on November 1, all livestock auctions in the northern provinces which includes Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and North West were suspended with immediate effect.

The outbreak occurred in the free foot and mouth disease zone of South Africa. The outbreak was confirmed in eight sites which include feedlots, abattoirs, and on farms.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects all cloven-hoofed animals of domestic and wild origin.

It presents with sores in the mouth and in between the digits causing them to be depressed, reluctant to eat and be lame. The disease does not affect humans and meat from such animals is safe to eat when it has been treated in a prescribed manner.

The previous outbreak that happened in Vhembe in Limpopo in January cost the export status of the country and resulted in a series of negotiations with South Africa’s trading partners to re-establish trade with the country.

African News Agency (ANA)