BOTSWANA – Following consultations with disease control experts, the government of Botswana is mulling on culling 10,000 cattle to curb an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD).
Botswana, which is Africa’s largest beef producer was forced to halt its beef exports in August including to the lucrative European Union over the disease.
The first major outbreak in two years forced the southern African country to suspend all beef exports on August 24.
Botswana exports about 9,000 tonnes of beef to the EU each year — around half of its exports — competing with world renowned beef producers such as Brazil.
“The decision to depopulate is the one we have taken. We took the decision after consultation with experts. We don’t want any traces of the virus to remain or to have any further viral circulation,” Molebatsi, Assistant Minister of Agriculture.
More than 10,000 cattle will be butchered out of the 19,000 that are in the impacted area, which is close to the Zimbabwean border. Some sheep and goats will also be culled.
According to Mbatshi Mazwinduma who is a Veterinarian, culling means farmers must be compensated.
“It comes at a great cost because it means people have to be compensated. And there is also environmental issues of animals that have been slaughtered … on how do you dispose of them safely,” he said.
Mazwinduma said in disease control, there should be certain considerations, particularly for the affected farmers, according to VOA.
“When you are trying to control the disease, you have to consider the economic, social and often political impact. Politically speaking, remember at times you are going to be slaughtering animals that belong to farmers, and you might push them further into abject poverty.
“Most of the time, the compensation of animals that are slaughtered is nowhere near the equivalent value if they were to sell them at the market,” he said.
FMD is a viral disease that affects animals with cloven hooves, including cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, as well as wild animals like buffalo.
The virus is very contagious and can infect animals miles away from its source by traveling on air currents.
Additionally, animals can contract an infection by close or direct contact with diseased individuals, objects, or objects that have been polluted.
As the name implies, blisters and ulcers on places of friction, such as the mouth, foot, and teats, are a telltale sign of the disease. Affected animals lose productivity due to decreased milk output and stunted animal growth.
Since the FMD virus cannot infect humans, eating meat from an affected animal is safe.
Nevertheless, if the contaminated meat is not deboned, canned, salted, or cooked to inactivate the virus, it could act as a source of infection for other animals with cloven hooves.
South Africa currently has 127 open FMD cases, as reported by The Conversation. The country has battled with three epidemics over the 2021-2022 period starting from May 2021 when an outbreak was reported in KwaZulu-Natal.
The second one took place in Limpopo in March 2022.During the same period, another outbreak shot up in the North West province and spread to the provinces of the Free State, Gauteng, and Mpumulanga.