11 July 2006

Zimbabwe: Skin Disease Hits Zim Cattle

Harare — ZIMBABWE has been hit by a lumpy skin disease outbreak which is affecting cattle across the country, the Department of Veterinary Services has announced.

The department's principal director, Dr Stuart Hargreaves, urged farmers to vaccinate their cattle against the disease.

He said the disease was not confined to Zimbabwe and has also been reported in such neighbouring countries as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Affected beasts usually develop some lumps on their skins before dying.

"Farmers are advised to buy vaccines and vaccinate their cattle. The disease is preventable. This year is a fairly bad year regarding the disease.

"The disease occurs in cycles and an outbreak is experienced, after seven or so years," said Dr Hargreaves.

He, however, assured farmers that the disease was not a major threat to the national herd.

"It is not a serious matter where our department is involved, but there is need for the farmers to prevent the disease. It is not a disease which affects trade in cattle products," he said.

Dr Hargreaves said farmers with indigenous cattle breeds were at an advantage because these were fairly resistant to the lumpy skin disease.

"They (indigenous cattle) are fairly resistant to the disease. Exotic breeds have been more susceptible," he said.

He said while the disease was not a major threat, there have been a shortage of vaccines since the South African manufacturer was failing to cope with the demand from the whole region.

Dr Hargreaves emphasised that prevention was the best way against the disease, warning that once a beast was affected, it would be too late to treat it.

The department last month said it required at least $1,2 trillion for the effective control of livestock diseases countrywide.

The funds were needed for the purchasing and manufacturing of drugs as well as chemicals for disease eradication using locally available knowledge.

If not controlled, the disease outbreak might frustrate ongoing efforts to rebuild the national herd which had been affected by successive droughts.

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