From farm to the market, stop Covid-19 using these practices

Saturday April 4 2020

A farmer tends to her okra. Agri-businesses

A farmer tends to her okra. Agri-businesses accross the country have been affected by Covid-19 disease. Photo by Michael Kakumirizi 

Several studies have linked Covid-19 to bats and other wild animals such as pangolins (lugave) as the likely source.

The disease is believed to have jumped the species’ barrier to humans. While the intermediate animal has not been identified, it could be a domestic food animal, a wild animal or a domesticated wild animal.

Generally, coronaviruses are found in many species of animals including cattle, pangolins, camels, pigs and cats, where they cause mild to severe infections.
Examples of severe infections include the winter dysentery and shipping fever in cattle. Some coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they affect animals and humans, but most strains are not.

Examples of zoonotic coronaviruses are the Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (Sars) that was caused by Sar coronavirus (SAR-CoV) and was transmitted from civets and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), that was caused by the Mers coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and was transmitted from camels to humans.

As for Covid-19, there has been no evidence of its transmission from humans to animals and vice versa and also no transmission from animal to animal so far, but as a precautionary measure, people suffering from Covid-19 should avoid contact with animals and those not affected should step up basic hygiene measures when handling animals.

Amid the mandatory or self-imposed quarantine requirement and implementation of various hygiene measures, as a livestock value chain actor, you must have a plan of action on how to control Covid-19 on your farm or premises. Here is what you can do:

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Input suppliers
These include feed manufacturers, animal health service providers, agrochemical suppliers, veterinary support services and others who provide goods and services to farmers for production of livestock products such as milk, meat and eggs. The feed suppliers travel long distances in search of raw materials and are therefore likely to transmit Covid-19 through contacts.

You can minimise human contact by ordering supplies online, via social media or through contact addresses. You can also avoid long journeys in search of raw materials by using locally available alternatives such as soya and sunflower for protein sources, instead of fish and wheat bran instead of maize bran for energy supply.

Although animal health service providers are more conversant with disease control, they should be more vigilant by using personal protective equipment, observing biosecurity such as foot and wheel baths and minimising the number of visits to a farm.

The recommended injection frequency for antibiotics, for example, is three to five days and unless it is a special case, the lower figure should be adopted for now. You can also use long-acting medication, which does not require daily dosing. Advise more on disease control to pre-empt infections and report any Covid-19 like signs in animals to veterinary authorities.

Most of the drugs used in the country are imported from countries that are currently hard hit by Covid-19. As a mitigation measure, the countries have imposed quarantines on people and goods, drugs included.
In due course, we may have acute drug shortage. Drug sellers, such as the animal health service providers, should emphasise on disease control to their clients.

Farmers
When life gives you lemon, make lemonade. Due to the stay-at-home directive, most telephone livestock owners have found a chance to be absent from their busy employment or business schedules and stay or visit the farm.
This may enhance food production in the long run and avert food shortage, which might arise from controlled importation.

But as a measure, if you are using commercial feeds, stock supplies to last the quarantine period. Minimise farm entry by service providers such as milk collectors and feed deliveries by opening up a drop-off point at the farm gate and limit access to animals by anybody exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms.

For most small-scale farmers, social distancing may not be an issue in the milking parlour since most farms have only a few workers. Large and medium-scale farmers either carry out machine milking or hand milking with many workers at a time. Social distancing on such farms should be observed and there should be thorough cleaning of equipment with soap and water, followed by thorough rinsing with clean water and hanging the equipment upside down to dry.
Workers should clean their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling animals, milking equipment and animal feeds.

Transporters
As a transporter, observe vehicle and personal hygiene and regular cleaning and sanitisation of equipment and packaging materials of the products you transport.

Processors
Milk processors should produce more of the long shelf-life products such as UHT and powdered milk. This would help consumers make fewer visits to milk outlets, thus decongesting such places. Slaughterhouses operate from 6am to around 11am to ensure that transportation of meat takes place before the ambient temperatures are high.
This is to minimise meat spoilage. Due to this requirement, slaughter premises are sometimes crowded with meat sellers, veterinary and other personnel struggling to meet the deadline.

Consumers
This is the time most consumers are stockpiling, with fear of lockdown in mind. Keep livestock products in hygienic conditions, whether chilled or not.
The SARs-CoV-2 coronavirus is killed by high temperatures. You should, therefore, cook the food well. Also wash food thoroughly and separate raw food from cooked ones. More importantly, avoid overeating to sustain the supplies.

adopted from Daily Nation

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