The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement yesterday slaughtered and burnt 16 foot-and-mouth infected cattle at Ardlui Farm in Chegutu to curb the spread of the disease in the province.
The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services confirmed the development and said the disease had been confined to a single farm in the province. The farm had 239 cattle and 16 tested positive to foot-and-mouth (FMD). The department's director Dr Josphat Nyika said a stray cow that encroached into the infected area was also shot and burnt.
"The department is authorised to destroy, bury or burn livestock that would have been moved without a permit and not offer any compensation," he said.
Dr Nyika said the farm had also been placed under quarantine and veterinary officers were stationed at the farm to ensure the infected cattle do not mix with the rest of the herd. He said the risk of the disease spreading to neighbouring farms was low because all the eight surrounding farms had no livestock on them.
"This means it is an isolated outbreak. The farm has good biosecurity infrastructure, " he said.
He added that all the three Mashonaland provinces and Makoni District in Manicaland had been free of the disease as they were the country's nucleus export zones in the good old days when Zimbabwe used to export to the EU.
"We have not had FMD infections in Mashonaland provinces for the past 10 years, so when we have an outbreak in any of these provinces, we slaughter and burn the infected animals. For the in-contact animals, we test and slaughter the animals that test positive for FMD.
"The aim is to maintain an FMD-free status in these provinces, which have potential to resume exports under the current thrust of the Special Programme on Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife production, " he said.
He said the slaughter and burning or burying of the animals should always be done in the presence of the police. FMD is the most contagious disease known to cattle. It is caused by a virus. It is a notifiable disease. Symptoms of FMD include excessive salivation, limping, presence of sores in the mouth and in between the toes.