Sunday Times

Farmers, Eastern Cape towns in wandering cattle battle


Legal battles are being waged against Eastern Cape municipali­ties by farmers desperate to stave off bio-security health threats endangerin­g meat exports and the lives of livestock worth billions of rands.

In the latest legal battle, the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda granted Agri Eastern Cape and the Komga Farmers Associatio­n (KFA) an order compelling the Great Kei municipali­ty to ensure no animals within the municipali­ty’s boundary roam free.

The KFA represents both commercial and emerging farmers.

The order is the fourth that Agri Eastern Cape has obtained in the past four years against provincial municipali­ties failing to enforce bylaws designed to prevent the outbreak of infectious animal diseases.

Gerhard Neethling, the Red Meat Abattoir Associatio­n’s general manager, said the dangers to the economy from an outbreak of infectious animal diseases, commonly spread through roaming animals, are huge.

“The three diseases which can kill off SA’s meat export industries are foot-and-mouth in cloven-hoofed animals, swine flu and avian flu.

“These diseases are internatio­nally notifiable. One cow infected with foot-and-mouth brings the entire R22bn red meat export industry to a grinding halt, with all exports stopped until importers are satisfied that our cattle are disease-free.”

He said movement control is crucial for disease control.

But for many farmers the order has come too late, with livestock worth millions of rands culled in the past year to halt the spread of infectious diseases.

In the latest order, handed down in March, judge Gerald Bloem instructed the Great Kei municipali­ty to seize and impound all roaming animals.

KFA chair Coert Jordaan said they launched the court action after a five-year battle with the municipali­ty.

“We were left no choice. The municipali­ty ignored our requests for help. Communal and emerging farmers’ livestock are also in danger.”

Komga cattle farmer Spololo Welani said he prayed daily his animals would not become sick.

“Some of these diseases, where the animals suddenly lose their calves, I have never seen in our area before.”

Welani said he looked after his cattle “as they are my bread and butter [but] the municipali­ty does nothing to stop unknown livestock from roaming here”.

Komga Beefmaster stud farmer Pierre Hart said last year was the first time he had to cull animals. On one of his farms he slaughtere­d six bulls worth R100,000 each and 60 cows worth R20,000 each.

“Once an infected bull is in your herd you have to slaughter,” he said. “The diseases reduce conception­s. From this outbreak we had a 40% conception reduction in our herd of 400 cows.”

He said a potentiall­y devastatin­g animal disease crisis is unfolding.

“There have been pockets of highly infectious diseases such as TB and contagious abortion 300km away around Gqeberha, which, though contained, is worrying.”

Hart said if herds become infected with TB or contagious abortion, the entire herd has to be culled.

Brent McNamara, Agri Eastern Cape CEO, said the March order is one of four obtained against provincial municipali­ties.

“We have similar orders against Ndlambe municipali­ty [Port Alfred], Enoch Mgijima municipali­ty [Komani] and Inxuba Yethemba municipali­ty [Cradock].

“At the rate animals roam freely we are bracing ourselves for a major animal health crisis.

“In May, African swine fever broke out in the province, with pockets of contagious abortions occurring on dairy farms around Gqeberha last year.”

McNamara said the government is establishi­ng important bio-security legislatio­n, but municipali­ties are not implementi­ng it.

Lawrence Mambila, Great Kei municipali­ty municipal manager, said it will abide by the order.

“There is a serious problem with roaming livestock. We have repeatedly engaged with the KFA and communal farmers to find solutions, including providing access to fenced commonage for grazing for animals and municipal shepherds. The communal farmers were not interested. They wanted farms, which we said we cannot afford.”

National agricultur­e spokespers­on Reggie Ngcobo failed to respond to questions.

 ??  ?? Herd immunity takes on a new meaning as unfenced cattle in the Eastern Cape spread disease.
Herd immunity takes on a new meaning as unfenced cattle in the Eastern Cape spread disease.

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