The holidays are over and it is time to hit the ground running again. This year is promising to be our most exciting year as we plan to solidify all the achievements of the past two years and finally getting the national programmes implemented. Here are some of the things we can look forward to in 2014:

Government Engagement

We spent the better part of 2013 reviewing the protocols of the controlled diseases with the help of the SAPA Poultry Health Group vets and the GDARD, with the support of the DAFF colleagues. The drafts that were developed have been well thought through and will go a long way in simplifying how we deal with controlled diseases as industry and government together. These protocols will be circulated for further input and thereafter signed off and implemented.

We will continue to work with DAFF in establishing the national disease status of poultry and thereafter conduct a disease risk assessment to establish where the highest risk of disease introduction will come from. This will allow us to effectively protect the national flock from potential disease introduction, particularly of those diseases that South Africa is currently free.

In order to effect good disease control, it is important that solutions to culls and the cross provincial chicken movements are found. This will again help to limit the disease risks posed by the uncontrolled and unmonitored movement of chickens. It is also important to impress the importance of applying disease prevention actions that will protect not only the commercial sector, but also the backyard poultry to stop the spread of diseases and the devastation caused, a case in point being the current Newcastle Disease that is causing a lot of havoc in the country across all production systems.

Training of State Vet Poultry Experts

The PDMA in collaboration with the Poultry Section of Onderstepoort successfully trained 18 state vets in 2013. Follow up contact sessions were conducted to enhance the initial training. The contact sessions were equally successful, thanks to the support of the Avimune vets and GDARD. The plan for 2014 is to train a new group of 21 state vets from various provinces. Symposia are planned for 2014 to continue with contact sessions for all the 2013 and 2014 to gain experience with dealing with field cases. The invitation will be extended to include all consulting vets to enhance the experience. This will also be used as a platform to get feedback on disease research and also what the future research requirements will be. This is an exciting adventure and we look forward to the benefits that will emanate from this initiative.

The highlight is that the one week refresher course at Onderstepoort carries 26 CPD points for the veterinarians, which is a great bonus to add to the practical knowledge they gain from the course.

Development of the National Residue Monitoring Programme (NRMP)

It may seem as if very minimum progress has been made in this regard. That is not the case. Now industry has shared the protocols used to meet the retailers’ requirements with DAFF. This is the platform currently being used to develop the national programme.  Work has already started in looking at spot tests of meat at various points to establish the current practices. This information is vital to the development of the standards that producers will need to meet to comply with the increasing quality standards demanded by the consumers.

Microbial Reduction Programme

DAFF VPH is planning a large study on both microbials (mainly bacteria) and residues to establish where the various meat commodities are in terms of their standards. The poultry industry has already started extensive engagements to ensure that it plays a key role in supporting this work. The industry is very well placed to achieve this as it was already engaging with VPH for the same work. The industry has started the consultations with the Onderstepoort Epidemiologists to ensure that scientifically defendable sampling protocols are developed. These will feed into the survey planned by DAFF as well as the industry planned risk assessment. The bacteria to be surveyed have already been selected and all programmes will track the same bacteria to ensure synergy and consistency.

Producers will be requested to make their results for the routine bacterial tests that they perform to develop an extensive national database that will serve as a knowledge bank for both industry and DAFF.

Developing a searchable registered products database

After many months of trial and error and working towards a simple system for the product database, we have finally managed to develop a system that will work much better and will be an effective tool for making information available to producers to make farming easy. The database will be go live during the first quarter of 2014, and will be accessible through a link on the PDMA website. This is a great milestone for the agency and we plan to have all registered Act 36 products listed by end of second quarter 2014.

Technical Support for DPFO Members

Admittedly, this is one area of the agency’s work that is lagging behind. It is our intention to pay special attention to this work to ensure the agency continues to be inclusive. The plan is to work with the provincial structures of the DPFO to organise the members so that we can quantify the amount of resources required to provide meaningful support. We will work to assist with production improvement plans, with special emphasis on management issues as well as disease prevention through improved biosecurity and vaccination.

The DPFO members should support this initiative that will go a long way in assisting with issues that are holding them back and stopping them from reaching their potential. Your cooperation will be the determining factor in this regard. To those of you who were devastated by Newcastle Disease in 2013, we plan to engage you to ensure your flocks are adequately protected.

Improved Communication

The agency strives to employ all types of communications tools to ensure that information is passed to the stakeholders timeously. It is in this light that we will continue to improve the experience on our website. The website is updated almost on a daily basis or as new information comes in. To make sure that our communication is inclusive, more disease information will be communicated to the producers in a form of short news clips on a weekly basis. Disease related information will be communicated on a weekly basis.

The PDMA relies on input from the field for information. It is for this reason that a disease notification application for tablets and smart phones has been developed. We would like to request all producers to encourage their veterinarians to feed information through so that everyone can benefit from up to date field knowledge that will allow the agency to send the hot news.

So, 2013 was extremely exciting for the agency. From where things stand, it looks like 2014 will be an even more excited year, where you will begin to see the benefit of having a hub for all disease related matters. We look forward to 2014 and your continued engagement.

Please remember to keep up with your vaccinations to protect your flocks from the disease scourges that continue to engulf the country and cause devastation!