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Socio-economic impact of Snotsiekte

Socio-economic impact of Snotsiekte

Socio-economic impact of wildebeest-derived malignant catarrhal fever (snotsiekte) on South-African communal and commercial livestock production

Industry Sector: Cattle and Small Stock

Research focus area: The economics of red meat consumption and production in South-Africa

Research Institute: ARC-Animal Production Institute Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and University of the Free State
Researcher: Mr W Grobbelaar BSc 

Research Team: Mr P. R. Taljaard MSc, Prof M. van Vuuren PhD, Mr P.C. Cloete MComm

Final report approved: 7 Feb 2017

Aims of the project

  • The primary objective of this study was to quantify the socio-economic impact of WA-MCF in South Africa to establish the economic importance of the disease.
  • In order to achieve the main objective, the following secondary objectives had to be achieved:
  • Determination of the socio-economic effect of WA-MCF on farm-level of the commercial livestock production, in terms of employment at farm level and the impact on households which include, income, expenses (treatment of cattle), legal costs for court cases (if any), opportunity costs for expanding farmland, opportunity costs in terms of lost time.
  • Conduct case studies from each province in South Africa where WA-MCF outbreaks have occurred to develop a framework for measuring the impact of WA-MCF.
  • Determination of the most prominent possible factors causing WA-MCF in cattle by doing a factor analysis.
  • Make recommendations on possible control methods that can be implemented to avoid outbreaks of WA-MCF by the experiences from case studies analysed.

Executive Summary

The Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) is a fatal, disease in cattle and reported outbreaks are Wildebeest-associated. The way these carriers are farmed in South Africa make them present everywhere and the disease just that more transmittable. There was also a closer look at the areas Wildebeest are situated and numbers as well as breeding patterns. Cattle get infected when in close contact with the wildebeest. When outbreaks occur these farmers that are dependable on the income of their livestock suffer big economical losses that could take them years to recover. 

The factors that cause this fever to spread to livestock must be identified so that farmers can benefit from it to minimize losses. The main causing factors were identified through questionnaires to farmers. The variables were then analysed to test their significance. The study could help indicate farmers which combinations of these factors (variables) are likely to group together. Farmers can then use this data in the management of minimizing and/or preventing WA-MCF outbreaks.

Comprehensive report

Given the background of the growing incidence of WA-MCF over the past four decades in South Africa, it has become clear that there are several challenges regarding the outbreaks of WA-MCF in terms of the factors causing the transmission of the virus and the preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the number of outbreaks of WA-MCF, especially since an effective vaccine is not available.

This study has been undertaken to evaluate the socio-economic impact of WA-MCF on farm level in all the provinces of South Africa which only includes the commercial livestock sector due to availability of information. Socio-economics typically analyze both the social impacts of economic activity and economic impacts of social activity.

The aim of this socio-economic study was to obtain certain valuable information via a network of local state veterinarians, provincial nature conservation officials and with the cooperation of the Redmeat Producers Organisation (RPO) of South Africa, to identify the high-risk regions of WA-MCF outbreaks. With the help of local farmers in areas which had a WA-MCF outbreak on his/her farm, information was obtained via a structured questionnaire to determine the full extent of the losses the farmer had suffered.

Wildebeest are considered the only species that is involved with the direct transmission of AlHV-1(Malignant catarrhal fever) to cattle. Only through direct (close) contact with wildebeest can the AlHV-1 virus be transmitted. A distance of 1000 meters is considered as the absolute minimum “safe” distance between the species. In South Africa most wildebeest are living in smaller enclosures on game farms and game reserves, which interfere with the natural migration patterns of the wildebeest. In this study a few factors were identified through a survey to farmers, farming with either or both species. They were New Wildebeest, Rainfall and Floods, Poor veldt, Wips, Dry Year, Overstock of Game and Wind. These factors were then statistically analyzed for significant contributors to this transmittable fever. More than 80% of the farmers admitted outbreaks of WA-MCF in their regions and astonishing amounts of economic losses also occurred during the past decade on these farms. 

The results from the factor analysis showed a lack of structure exists in the identified possible causing factors for WA-MCF, the farmers mentioned in the questionnaire. This indicates that there are other external factors that have an influence on the outbreak of this fever. To manage this decease effectively these other external factors should be identified and must be used so that the outbreaks can decline. The other option is that there must be an antidote developed against the WA-MCF than can be injected into cattle that would make them immune against the fever.

Please contact the Primary Researcher if you need a copy of the comprehensive report of this project –
W. Grobbelaar