The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has resolved to penalise farmers who fail to dip their cattle consistently in a bid to control the spread of theileriosis, commonly referred to as January disease.
The tick-borne disease has wiped out tens of thousands of cattle across the country and authorities believe the situation can only return to normal if dipping is judiciously enforced, and adhered to.
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Manicaland Provincial Veterinary Officer, Dr Charles Guri told The Manica Post that from next month (November), they will adopt a more radical approach in a bid to contain the disease prevalence.
He said the Animal Health Act, which was promulgated in 1960 criminalises deviant behaviour regarding dipping. Said, Dr Guri:
In the past, people used to be force-marched to dip tanks. At independence, we adopted a different approach by taking proper veterinary extension services to the people, explaining the reasons, and importance of dipping cattle, hoping that the people will understand, and realise the benefits, but complacency crept in.
What we are now experiencing are the consequences. From November, we will be punishing those who do not heed the call to avail their cattle for dipping.
We will target those who violate animal cleansing regulations, and we will surely punish them.
Offenders will pay prevailing gazette fines, while repeated offenders will be taken to court for prosecution.
He said his department has the capacity to conduct post mortems of dead animals to establish the cause of death in the province, but in some cases, they were not being notified of the deaths. Said Guri:
It is not all animals that are subjected to post mortem. Only notifiable diseases are mandatory, the rest are at the discretion of the owner.
The predicament we find ourselves in is that some farmers do not report livestock deaths out of fear that they will be prevented from salvaging meat from the sick or dead animals.
We have enough personnel, 13 veterinary doctors, 30 supervisors, and 181 veterinary extension workers who can handle the situation in the province.