‘Observe basic biosecurity’
THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) has called for all chicken keepers to observe basic biosecurity measures in order to prevent contact with wild birds. The department took this action in an effort to curb the spread of the H5N8 avian influenza.
This can be achieved in commercial farms by improving biosecurity and in free range farms by simply removing feed and water from where it attracts wild birds.
Avian Influenza is caused by viruses adapted to birds and is classified as either highly pathogenic or low pathogenic by the World Organisation for Animal Health. The type that has been reported is highly pathogenic and is extremely contagious.
Minister Senzeni Zokwana said: “Our team of veterinarians has swiftly responded to this threat. We have placed the affected farms under quarantine and the affected birds have been euthanised and the eggs destroyed. Approximately 260 000 birds have been culled.”
Local poultry producers such as RCL Foods, Astral Foods and Sovereign Food have put necessary measures in place to ensure that the outbreak does not affect their operations.
RCL Foods, which owns Rainbow Chicken, said following the outbreak of avian influenza in Zimbabwe, RCL Foods had put in place enhanced biosecurity measures in all of its farms.
“We have introduced even more stringent biosecurity measures including a complete lockdown in terms of access to our farming operations, increased surveillance programmes, protection against wild bird infiltration, as well as the suspension of the interregional transfer of eggs and chicks.
“We have also altered some of our operational procedures. We are mindful of the seriousness of the situation and are monitoring it closely,” an RCL Foods spokesperson said.
Despite these precautionary measures the department continued to alert poultry owners about the eminent threat of avian influenza when Zimbabwe reported their first case at the end of last month. The disease, which at that time had been reported in 14 countries, two of which were in Africa, had been confirmed in Zimbabwe, making it the third country in Africa to be affected.
Zokwana said his team had since met with the poultry producers and had devised a solution that would provide the desired disease management outcomes and improve traceability, while ensuring that micro businesses continued with their operations.
“The buyers or sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered abattoir will be subjected to certain conditions,” Zokwana said.
Some of the conditions included registering with the Poultry Disease Management Agency and only registered sellers and buyers were allowed to trade and it was the responsibility of the seller and the buyer to ensure that their counterpart was registered.
Meanwhile Gareth LloydJones, chief commercial officer at Ecowize Group said the local commercial poultry industry was at high risk of the outbreak turning into a pandemic with major financial and operational implications. Ecowize is one of South Africa’s leading hygiene and sanitation service providers for the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries
Daff Minister Senzeni Zokwana said veterinarians responded swiftly to H5N8 outbreak.