Sick cows risk

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MAL orders cattle from farm with TB-outbreak history

BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

A cattle farm in Fiji the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) orders cattle from has a history of cattle tuberculosis (TB) outbreaks, it is reported.

Interestingly, MAL’s Livestock Division prefers to be tight-lipped over this allegation when approached by Island Sun for clarifications.

This was brought to attention by concerned farmers who learnt that the Yangara farm, in Tavua, Fiji, has reportedly experienced few outbreaks of TB in recent years.

This concern has been raised on social media’s ‘Solomon Farmers Corner’ and have sparked quite a debate.

It is currently questioned if anyone knows of any information regarding a current proposed shipment of cattle from Fiji to Solomon Islands.

“The cattle (250 heads) are from the Yangara Farm in Tavua, Fiji, and this shipment is proposed for a breeding farm in Western province,” explained a post on social media.

According to the local poster from Makira province, who is also part of a family farming cattle themselves, he recently spoke to senior veterinary officers in Fiji and they raised two concerns.

First is why the Agriculture Livestock Division in Solomon Islands would want to buy and import animals from a farm experiencing regular outbreaks of cattle TB when they (veterinary officers) know the lack of capacities with big animal vet services in Solomon Islands.

“They had mentioned that the DFAT funded Vet in the Livestock office in Solomon Islands had already been advised of the situation by them but preferred to listen to the Yangara Farm personnel’s that the animals destined for Solomon Islands have been quarantined and are disease free,” said the poster.

“This is where the second concern is as to why would one believe the seller and not independent professional advice?

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“Yangara Farm has many issues with damaged fences and animals mixing even going as far-a-stray as Ba, so how would infected animals not come into contact?

“Whilst I am a strong supporter of reviving the cattle industry and the need for import of live animals, I think importing animals from Fiji are not our best option. Even the Fiji Government has had to put strong control measures against use of its own dairy produced products within Fiji.

“This is by subsidising farmers to kill off animals in infected farms and even do stronger checks and balances on slaughtered animals being allowed for consumption.

“Vanuatu’s Government stands ready to assist us, however we have not been able to produce a report on the first and second batch of breeding cattle imported to Guadalcanal and Malaita respectively.

“I think the Vanuatu Government deserves that much of a jester and respect, considering they had to amend laws around export of breeding animals in the goodwill of helping a fellow Melanesian country only to have the herds killed at will without any real monitoring and support by our Livestock department.”

With the lack of check and balance in the Solomon Islands Livestock sector, according to the local, speaking in his capacity as a cattle farmer, without any Government or donor assistance the repercussions of one infected animal anywhere in Solomon Islands will affect the current disease-free status enjoyed.

“Why would we a free from any serious cattle diseases country would want to risk any future development of the cattle industry? Kill it even before it starts I suppose?” posted the local.

Island Sun has followed up on this issue for more than two months, and it is loud and clear that no one in positions of responsibility is willing to talk. From Solomon Islands ministry of agriculture to Fiji’s veterinary and livestock officers, there is screaming silence.

The MAL Director of Livestock Barnabas Keqa said that he will not comment or respond to the issue raised on social media.

“I have already been directed by the MAL Permanent Secretary (PS) to not make any response to this issue,” Mr Keqa said.

Attempts to get response and information from authorities and the cattle farm in Fiji that MAL is said to be buying and importing cattle herd from has not been possible within the weeks.

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