April 25, 2021

By: The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development in collaboration with the SAVC

Bovine brucellosis is a chronic herd disease caused by Brucella abortus bacteria and it negatively impacts on cattle production and reproduction. The disease can also infect other animals and humans.

Bovine Brucellosis is a controlled animal disease in South Africa under the Animal Diseases Act (Act No. 35 of 1984) and control measures are currently described in the legislation. Non-compliance with the prescribed control measures have over the years led to the increase and spread of this disease.

As part of the Veterinary Strategy of South Africa (2016-2026) the “Bovine Brucellosis Control Policy, South Africa” has been developed, which is available on the departmental website: https://www.dalrrd.gov.za/Branches/Agricultural-ProductionHealth-Food Safety/Animal-Health/information/dahpolicy.

The nature of bovine brucellosis calls for a concerted effort to effectively control it. It has a long incubation period and the clinical signs in cattle are not always apparent; hence testing of the entire herd is required to determine the brucellosis status. For infected herds strict control measures have to be applied – not to punish the farmer, but to prevent the disease from spreading to other farmers’ animals. The disease can silently spread within a herd and between herds which leads to erosion of the herd’s production and reproduction capacity.

With brucellosis, prevention is the key. It is a disease that is difficult and costly to eradicate from a herd as it requires time, resources and strict control measures being applied. By preventing the disease through vaccination, regular herd testing, biosecurity, careful purchases from test-negative herds and good management, the farmer can be spared the devastating effects of brucellosis. But in order for this to work, all farmers need to work together to protect each other.

Cattle owners have the responsibility under Section 11 of the Animal Diseases Act to ensure that their animals do not contract disease and if they are diseased, to prevent it spreading to other animals. Veterinary Services and the Livestock Industry need to play their role to educate farmers and assist them to prevent and control brucellosis. If we all play our part, we can control brucellosis.

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

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