Animal health and welfare in South Africa fall under the control of the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (has since June 2019 changed to Department Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development) and veterinary services (under various departments) in each of the provinces. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) proficiency evaluation of veterinary services highlighted various deficiencies in the current structure of veterinary services in South Africa. This has led to a number of disease conditions re-emerging in South Africa that require urgent attention by more modern approaches. These diseases, among others, include foot-and-mouth disease, East Coast fever, brucellosis, PPR, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, etc. They occur in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and require constant vigilance and elimination.
Furthermore, new challenges are being faced by the red meat sector on various fronts. On the animal health front the emergence of quality assurance guarantees by various levels of consumers also need to be taken into account if market share is to be maintained or expanded. These include food pathogens, residues of an ever-increasing list of chemicals, antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics and freedom from disease.
The interaction of production animals with the environment and game species, especially with climate change, presents new disease challenges and potential epidemics. Producers will have to be aware and be prepared for these scenarios.
New and more holistic solutions to existing and newly emerging disease situations will have to be found. The reliance of animal health on chemical control of pathogens, the development of resistance of pathogens to these chemicals and the increasing cost of developing new chemical substance that can be used in pathogen/disease control, are all contributing factors.
The welfare of farm and wild animals is coming under more intense scrutiny by better informed consumers. Although great strides have been made in improving the welfare of our domesticated species, these practices will need to be made more transparent and a trusted and audited traceability system will have to satisfy the national and international consumer.
Animal health is of the utmost importance for the financial success (profitability) of farmers, which will naturally lead to food security in South Africa and the Southern African sub-region.
Substantiated disease control, residue and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) data that can be easily accessed and audited, will become even more important in order to facilitate international trade of products of animal origin.
Therefore, effective disease control strategies, residue monitoring and AMR monitoring form the basis of the future of animal production in South Africa. Research and development should concentrate on these factors to create an enabling environment for livestock producers to flourish and provide a safe and high-quality source of protein for an ever-increasing and demanding population.