Digital portal for disease surveillance

The Poultry Disease Management Agency’s (PDMA) main focus is to protect the national flock through surveillance, monitoring and management of diseases which threaten the health of the flock and food security. This it does through coordinating and facilitating the implementation of poultry disease management strategies and plans, animal welfare policy, and practice guidance in collaboration with the government and other key stakeholders. Currently the agency is tasked with coordination of Avian Influenza surveillance information.

For the maintenance of data integrity as well as ensuring that reliable science-based information is available to decision makers quickly at the point of need, the PDMA is exploring options for the development of a digital portal, the Poultry Disease Monitor (PD Monitor).

The portal will allow State Veterinarians and other permitted users of the system to access reports on disease incidence and prevalence nationally. Although the portal is being developed for Avian Influenza, its use will be extended to other diseases. In providing specifications for the system, the PDMA requested that the system be compatible with other relevant systems, to allow for integrated “intelligent” reporting.

I am very excited with this development as it assists my office to maintain the integrity of disease surveillance data, makes it easier for users to access the information as well as plan related activities. I hope to pilot the system by the end of the year.

Capacity development with Department of Poultry Diseases and CE@UP

Capacity development is an essential component of the PDMA strategy. Over the past few years, the PDMA has, in collaboration with the Department of Poultry Diseases and CE@UP, conducted a Poultry Disease Management Refresher Course for veterinarians.

This course has targeted veterinarians in state service to ensure they are kept abreast with developments in practices within in the discipline and poultry industry.  Three poultry disease management courses were held during this year and a total of 18 veterinarians have been trained. Due to interest expressed from state veterinarians a further course is planned for the 23 October 2017.

Discussions have also been held with various provincial chief directors and directors who have welcomed initiatives aimed at identifying poultry specialists who will act as “hot seats” in each province to assist the industry on ALL Poultry related queries, as well as extension of training to Animal Health Technicians and Agricultural Extension Officers to support disease management initiatives.

The engagement between PDMA and the government is working well. The PDMA in collaboration DAFF Veterinary Public Health (VPH) ran a successful pilot study of egg sampling, residue and microbial testing as a first step towards the development of a national residue and monitoring programme for eggs. A total of 34 commercial and 5 small-scale layer farms were included in this preliminary sampling around Gauteng.

Furthermore, there is an on-going engagement between the PDMA and VPH in developing a national monitoring programme for testing of residues and microbial in eggs. The next phase will be to determine the basic guidelines on routine sampling of residues and microbial agents, and based on the outcome of the results, an application to the rest of the country will be made. Also, the VPH is considering the possibility of inclusion of National Department of Health (DoH) to participate in the engagements and facilitate One Health approach. Communication has been dispatched in this respect and a response is awaited from the DoH. The long term objective of the programme will be to enable export of products irrespective of the production size and endorsement from DAFF following standardized testing and monitoring programmes while benefiting human health at the same time.

We are on track to promote awareness on multi-agency collaborations, and interaction between government, academia and the industry on the regulation and control of veterinary antimicrobial agents and recommend best practices on the management of antimicrobial use, stewardship and resistance.

Training of State Vet Poultry Experts

A total of 51 State Vets have gone through targeted in-service professional training since 2013 to date. Furthermore, 14-16 vets have been scheduled for training in 2016. The 2016 course will run for over a week each in January and February equal numbers of state veterinarians (7-8) attending for each week. A follow-up contact session for 2016 for all state vets who have gone through training is being considered and will be implemented in due course.  

Developing a searchable registered products database

The information on registered products is available on the PDMA website. There has been a great progress on submission of package inserts from various companies since the notification sign was uploaded on the landing page of PDMA website. However, to date, not all companies have submitted their products’ inserts, but these are being followed up and these will be added as they come in. The web address is available and open to the public at:

Technical Support of Small-Scale and Backyard Farmers

The PDMA is working on a proposed plan to visit the 9 provinces with state vets who have gone through training and provide the much needed technical supports. This will be the first step in creating an interface and added value relationships between the state vets and farmers. This programme will ultimately achieve the goal of bridging the gaps between the two important role players in view of public health safety concerns of chickens sold in informal and sub-formal market. In addition, the programme will aim to improve the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions (KAP) on food safety of producers in this sector. An appeal will be made to the provincial structures to assist in identifying the smallholder farms that operate in this sector.

Improved Communication

The PDMA updates and informs the public regularly through the website, the Bulletin, postings on important dates of training, poultry diseases and disease acts & protocols. Information on the state vet’s telephone contacts are also made available and disease study cases of the last contact session held in October 2013 and other important information is posted on the website.

NAI Surveillance Monitoring Programme

A seminar on risk analysis and surveillance was held in February 2015. Private and state vets were invited to discuss the current status of disease surveillance and the risk posed by transboundary animal diseases. It was concluded that there is a need for an established and routine surveillance system to be in place. The PDMA continues its attempts to establish a system for poultry disease reporting that are diagnosed throughout the country. It should be understood that an active and reliable poultry disease surveillance system is a priority to enable a better understanding of the country’s disease situation and be able to do proper monitoring and control. We have continued to approach industry’s role players to provide us with previous and current confidential data on diagnosed cases for purposes of planning. In the same vein, we are appealing to Directorate of Animal Health (DAH) in DAFF to regulate this activity and make it compulsory for all industry players, laboratories, farms, abattoirs and necessary partners to report, and implement adequate measures of punishment to defaulters. This will get the industry into compulsory reporting whatever the situation is on a case by case basis. 

Development of the Testing and Monitoring Programmes for meat

Last year an abattoir project was conducted at three high throughput abattoirs with the hope of developing a testing and monitoring programme. The project has since stopped with some suggestions that the revised programme should include the inclusion of low throughput abattoirs and that certain body portions of retailed chickens such as neck skin should be sampled. A modified protocol and SOP have been developed and as soon as we receive approval, we will continue with the project. Approximately, three high and low throughput abattoirs each will be identified.

Disease updates


There has been a confirmed outbreak of Salmonella Gallinarum in pullets in the Western Cape Province. There were also three cases of Salmonella Enteritisdis confirmed during the egg project. A research and surveillance programme on Salmonella is in the pipeline to track it, because Salmonella species is considered to be frequent contaminants of chickens and have caused several foodborne outbreaks in humans. Discussions are still being held in this regard towards finalising the Salmonella movement control protocol with DAH-DAFF. We believed that this protocol will be treated with despatch and some sense of urgency.  

HAPPY HOLIDAYS……Until next year

Forging ahead with PDMA

It is only the beginning of 2015, and already at the Poultry Disease Management Agency, we have been hard at work following up on the projects from 2014 and starting new ones 2015. This is exciting for us since we will be able to provide you with the results from the work we initiated. Here follows an update on some of the projects.

Training of State Vets

The first group of 7 State Vets has already completed their training at Onderstepoort. As usual, they found the training to be beneficial and the feedback from them is that the knowledge will assist them when dealing with their day-to-day poultry matters. Another group of 7 will be going through training in February, taking the total number of vets trained to 54. We are looking at a specific programme for the newly employed state vets in the provinces. We would like to appeal to you to feedback to us whether your experiences when dealing with the State Vets in your areas have improved since we started with training. We also encourage you to consult the PDMA website for the list of all State Vets who have gone through the training programme, should you still encounter problems when dealing with the State Vet in your areas.

Poultry Vets Contact Session

In order to ensure that the trained State Vets continue to access more information on poultry, we organise the contact sessions between private and state vets. These sessions are also instrumental in getting the private and state vets to interact as colleagues, thereby making their future dealings with each other much easier.

A workshop on Surveillance and Risk Analysis is planned for 16 February 2015 to serve this purpose. The topics for discussion will be surveillance, outbreak investigations, epidemiological surveys, DAFF surveillance programmes, on-farm surveillance, and as introduction to risk analysis. A total of 45 veterinarians have confirmed their attendance.  On the 17 February 2015 a session will be held on new local development on Mycoplasma and also to establish and antimicrobial resistance working group in light of the outcomes of the Antimicrobial Resistance Summit that was hosted by the Department of Health in October 2014. Future plans for these two groups will be communicated in due course.

Microbial and Residue Monitoring Programmes

Significant progress has been made in this area. The testing of the broiler sampling protocol at 3 abattoirs has been completed. The data is being analysed and will be instrumental in drafting the minimum requirements for sampling of meat products of various production facilities. The DAFF VPH will be adopting this sampling and testing protocols for their own surveys. A study is planned for sampling of eggs at both formal commercial and informal commercial sectors. This study will aid in setting the national baseline for bacteria and antibiotics as well as the antibiotic resistance in eggs. The baseline will be used to determine the sampling protocol for eggs and the bacteria that need attention. This will assist with the DAFF National Monitoring programme for eggs. The study will be conducted in Gauteng to reduce the cost. The DAFF will be co-funding some of the tests, particularly the residues and the antimicrobial resistance tests.

Disease Reporting and mapping

This is an area of focus for the PDMA for 2015. In light of the current Avian Influenza outbreaks on almost all the continents, it is crucial for the industry to start taking disease reporting and monitoring seriously. There is no doubt that an outbreak for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza will be devastating to the industry. However, what will be even more devastating are delays in the detection of the virus and therefore the response to possible outbreak. The DAFF has placed a ban on poultry imports from the following countries: Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and United States of America. The PDMA will be working with the laboratories to start monitoring and mapping these diseases to be able to pick up any spikes in disease incidences and also to be able to alert the producers of possible risks in your areas. We really need your cooperation in this regard if we are to act swiftly in the unfortunate event that an outbreak hits the country. Not to be forgotten are the implications for exports, especially to those companies that export even to neighbouring countries. If an outbreak occurs in chickens, then the country can forget about any exports to other continents for a long while.

The ostrich case should be a good indicator of what the consequences are likely to be. We urge you please to be vigilant and investigate any unexplained high mortalities on farm. Also familiarise yourselves with your local State Vet office and how one would be required to interact with them should an outbreak occur.

Research Chair in Risk Analysis

As reported previously, funding has been secured to establish a Research Chair in SPS Risk Analysis. The DAFF and NRF have agreed to fund the basic amount for the Chair. The industries will be expected to provide funding for the ongoing projects to keep the chair going and also to fund students who will be trained under the Chair to build the national risk capabilities. It is a great opportunity for us as an industry to carry out work that has already been envisaged but could not be done due to high cost implication, such as work on imports, endemic diseases, zoonotic diseases, to name but a few.

By Dr Charlotte Nkuna

Beneficiary AI poultry disease discussion for State Vets  

There are 16 known Influenza A virus hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes (H1-H16) and nine neuraminidase (NA) subtypes (N1-N9).  Infection causes a wide spectrum of symptoms in birds, ranging from mild illness to a highly contagious and rapidly fatal diseases resulting in epidemics. The latter is known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). This form is characterised by sudden onset, severe illness and rapid death with mortality that can approach a 100%.

We the PDMA office, recently hosted a State Vets Poultry Mentorship follow discussion on the 11th October 2013. Many by now are aware that, the PDMA office hosts poultry diseases mentorship programmes training for state vets who are working and involved in poultry projects in their respective provinces, annually.  

Therefore, the focus of the discussion was the AI disease affecting the industry and state vets involved. A special thanks to our guest presenters/ speakers From GDARD (Dr. Deryn Petty), Avimune Company and Deltamune Laboratory.  

The case studies focused AI affecting a poultry breeder farm in South Africa.

Laying (Eggs)

How vets see or find AI in a period where is suspected.

What are the things they need to do, once it has been detected?

What need to be done first regarding any time-frame? e.g. considering the shedding period/expiring period.

What are other means of way to prevent diseases except for vaccination?

The SAPA PMDA had realised the importance of private and state vets (agriculture departments representatives) sharing knowledge. The office had demonstrated this by initiate in hosting training and mentorship programmes for State Veterinans focusing on poultry diseases affecting the industry. The (pdma) to realise the importance and act upon it, that great jester. 

We need to start developing more poultry disease experts.  Private and state vets of this country. As much as the disease is a threat to the industry. There will be no point of tackling or trying to solve the disease problem without a combination of state and private vets working together. 

In South Africa we have different poultry veterinary sectors, namely the public veterinary services (government) and private veterinary sector. Both of these sectors play a significant role in the country’s biggest and important sector in animal production, poultry. 

There have been concerns raised by the poultry national veterinary service, consumer groups, poultry producer groups that a gap of communication or lack of relationship between the public and private still exist. Due to such, many feel that the food safety, animal health and welfare might have been compromised. As a result the entire veterinary service may become if not already, weaker and smaller.

Since the establishment of Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), PDMA has taken upon itself the initiative role of developing a partnership relationship between the Public and Private sectors to combat poultry diseases, through the following:

  1. Training state veterinarians
  2. Hosting disease contact sessions for both state and private veterinarians
  3. Influencing government’s disease prevention policies and protocols with the involvement of both sectors etc.

In a meeting which was recently held between PDMA, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veterinarians officials, Private Veterinarians and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) at the AVI Africa 2014. It was discuss that the lacking and poorly developed monitoring and delivery of commercialised tasks still exist, which are namely:

  1. Protection of public health, food or animal inspection,
  2. Checking the health and certificates of imported and exported animals or products of animal origin
  3. Animal products or animals posing a risk of spreading animal diseases etc. which fairly undermines the service of the public interest.

Because of the mentioned issues surrounding the partnership relationship. I propose that a clear compartmentalisation plan must be drafted and put into place by looking at the functions of both sectors and formally linking them together which are:-

Functions of Public Veterinary Service:

  • Enforcement/ Control;
  • Policy Planning;
  • Policy Implementation;
  • Policy and legislative framework;
  • Quarantine (border and inland);
  • Surveillance of main contagious diseases;
  • Accreditation of drugs, quality control, destruction;
  • Disease data systems (Animal Resource Data and Information Systems)
  • Oversight of food safety, import and export inspection and certification according to international standards
  • Accreditation of personnel;

Functions of Private Veterinary Service:

  • To deliver preventive, curative and promotive services that largely benefit individual animals and their owners, i.e. to deliver private goods and services;
  • Parasitic disease control;
  • Animal Welfare;
  • Meat Retail sales;
  • Production diseases;
  • Clinical veterinary services;
  • Marketing of livestock products;
  • meat processing;

Then develop a clear concept of compartmentalisation of the two sectors for it to work by implementing the following steps:

  • The institution of a special transition team to plan and oversee the implementation of any restructuring process has been found useful;
  • This team should be guided by an advisory council with stakeholder representatives including members appointed from the national veterinary service, the national treasury, the pharmaceutical industry, livestock producer groups and consumer groups and advice should be sought from countries that have successfully gone through a similar transition process;
  • Determining which tasks should be commercialised;
  • Standardise and compartmentalisation of bio-security as a disease preventative method;
  • Safe trade based on scientific risk analysis;
  • Deliver high quality and effective services collectively;
  • Maintaining public support and funding;
  • Providing transparent reports to international bodies (OIE) and neighbouring countries collectively.

An overall objective of restructuring of veterinary services should be to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of animal health care delivery and, consequently disease free poultry productivity, safeguard public health, and contribute to national development. The end result should be a public veterinary service better able to carry out its redefined responsibilities, a functioning private sector and the necessary supporting personnel and infrastructure able to contribute to the overall objective.

There are only a few months left to the end of 2014. It seems however like January was only the other day and that there is still much to do before the end of the year. We have made some great strides in the work that was planned for this year. We most pleased with the progress made when it comes to food safety, in particular the Microbial and Residue monitoring programme. The objectives of setting up both National Microbial and Residue Monitoring programmes are very close to being realised.

With regards to the microbial monitoring programme, Prof Fosgate, an Epidemiologist based at Onderstepoort has successfully designed a sampling protocol for poultry meat that is in the process of being tested at three abattoirs around the country. So far, one abattoir has completed a month of testing and the other two are in progress. Once the testing is completed, the protocol will be revised and retested, taking into account the sizes of the various operations. The idea is to have a minimum standard that will every producer will be required to achieve. The larger operation will be able to build on the minimum standard based on the complexities of their operations. The same protocol will be used to collect samples for residue testing in poultry meat.

Eggs on the other hand have lagged behind meat a bit. We can report however that the egg work has started as well. Prof Fosgate is similarly looking at a sampling protocol for table eggs. In order to ensure that the correct sampling methods are used, the results of the monitoring programme run by DAFF will be used. This will enable us to determine the prevalence of various compounds and therefore be able to set standards that will monitor those compounds. Again here the aim is to have a minimum standard for all producers that the larger producers can build on. It is envisaged that over time, the industry will be able to guarantee the quality of the products sold to our consumers.

News to tell

DAFF hosted a workshop on Good Emergency Management Practice sponsored by the USDA and FAO. The aim of the workshop was to evaluate the state of South Africa to respond to disease outbreaks and emergencies. Following the workshop, DAFF will be looking at establishing the systems that will be required to ensure that there is a coordinated approach to emergency responses. Multidisciplinary teams will be formed and trained. These teams will include both government and private sector resources. Some of you may be called in to assist as experts in your field of work. We encourage you to support DAFF in this initiative because it will be beneficial to the country as a whole.

It is also with the greatest of pride to report back on some of the prestigious honours bestowed on Prof Celia Abolnik our Research Chair in Poultry Health and Production. The Chair delivered a keynote address at the South African Society for Animal Science’s 47th congress on 8 July 2014 entitled “Avian influenza and the South African poultry industry”. The Chair was invited to present the keynote address on Newcastle Disease at the WVPA congress to be hosted in Cape Town in 2015. She was also invited to deliver a keynote address at the Avian Influenza Symposium to be held in Georgia USA in 2015. We should also not forget Dr Adrian Knoetze of Rainbow Farms who received the WVPA Young Poultry Veterinarian Award at the WVPA Asia Meeting in Bangkok. This award is given to a poultry veterinarian under the age of 35 who has ‘not only displayed a commitment to bird health and customer care, but also a real passion for the poultry industry’.

Please note that an African Residue Congress will be held on the 25th and 26th November 2014. For more information please visit the congress site at or contact the secretariat at

As some of you may know, South Africa will be hosting the World Veterinary Poultry Congress in 2015 in Cape Town. For more information, please visit

Significance of Public Private Partnership

The public sector involvement in industries has been reducing over years due to limited resources, both human and financial. This is a global phenomenon that is necessitated by limited growth of the government tax coffers. There is a constant tug of war between various government priorities that make it difficult to make enough resources available to meet all priorities. It is for this reason that the private sector is getting more involved in activities that were previously delivered by the public sector. This is the case with veterinary services, where government used to provide most of the services free of charge to public. Services such as dipping, vaccinations, deworming and primary health care were delivered to the farmers free of charge.

Due to the progressively reducing resources, farmers are now sourcing these services from private veterinarians at their own cost. It is also true of controlled diseases, where commercial farmers are responsible for testing and control of these diseases in their livestock. Even in instances where eradication of diseases is required, the farmer takes the responsibility without any guarantees of realising compensation to the full value of his/her livestock.

The situation is the same for the poultry industry in South Africa which currently receives services from both private and public veterinarians. There is very little involvement of the state veterinarians in the day to day operations of the commercial producers. Unfortunately, there is also limited involvement of state veterinarians in the backyard and small scale poultry operations. There is therefore a large portion of poultry owners who do not receive any veterinary support due to the fact that they cannot afford private veterinarians and the state veterinarians have competing priorities.

The decline in resources has been happening at the back of increasing consumer awareness and demands. The consumer wants good quality food and affordable prices. To produce good quality food is costly. While the producers are not able to increase the prices in line with the increased costs because the animal products have to compete with other basic good that also on the rise resulting in limited affordability.

PDMA as a Public Private Initiative

Through the concerns that were raised, it was evident that a lack of co-regulating relationship between the public and private sectors still exist, resulting in the compromise of food safety, animal health and welfare. To address these problems, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) saw it fit to establish a veterinary component called the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) as link that would focus on the protection and health of the National Flock and also strengthen the relationship between the Public and Private veterinary services in addressing animal health issues collectively.

The existence of the PDMA frees government to focus on regulatory issues, without neglecting the producers. The government sets the rules and the business through the PDMA implements the rules. The PDMA ensures that all poultry producers, big and small can implement the rules set out by the government. A study by Martinez et al, (2007), demonstrated that there are various levels of government interventions (fig.1), from no intervention to direct command and control intervention. It is clear that doing nothing is never an option and that with decreasing government resources, direct command and control is also not possible. Many countries are opting for PPP to reach a level of government intervention that is somewhere in the middle.  The PDMA is such a PPP tool that the poultry industry has elected to use.

 Fig. 1. Options for public intervention. Source: Martinez et al, Food Policy 32 (2007) 299-314

The PDMA has outlined the following as areas of priority:

  1. Engage national and local government on issues of disease control in the South African poultry industry.
  2. Make use of the database of poultry farms in South Africa to assist DAFF with monitoring of notifiable disease such as Avian Influenza, Salmonella and Newcastle Disease, while using it to develop monitoring programmes for important disease such as Infectious Bronchitis.
  3. Appoint or designate veterinarians with expertise in poultry diseases in each Province who would be available to assist state veterinarians in the event of disease outbreaks in commercial, smallholder and subsistence poultry in those provinces.
  4. Investigate the role of the PDMA in training state veterinarians and/or Animal Health Technicians so as to improve the service delivered by the state in the event of disease outbreaks on poultry farms.
  5. Consider developing a residue monitoring programme for poultry products nationally, or at least a database of residue monitoring data which is available.
  6. Deliver improved technical and veterinary support to smallholder poultry farmers so that they can achieve greater production success in collaboration with State Veterinary services or through the PDMA’s own initiatives.
  7. Collaborate with the ostrich industry.

The success of the PDMA and its initiatives will aid in combating poultry diseases, improving the quality of poultry products, assisting with Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary Standards that improve access to markets, improved communication between public  and private entities, and making the poultry industry an inclusive industry where small scale producers have access to opportunities.

The value of the PDMA is evident in the interactions with the following government entities:

  1. Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries
    1. DAFF Animal Health
    1. DAFF Veterinary Public Health
    1. DAFF Food Safety and Quality Assurance
    1. DAFF Agriculture Inputs Control
    1. DAFF Animal Production
  2. The dti
  3. Department of Science and Technology
  4. Public and Private Laboratories
  5. Training Institutions
  6. Other animal products organisations and associations

In concluding

Given the threat posed by poultry infectious diseases such as Newcastle as well as other zoonotic diseases in South Africa. Co-regulation of veterinary services will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of animal health care delivery and, consequently disease free poultry productivity. It will also aid in safeguarding public health, and contribute to national poultry development. The end result should be a public veterinary service that is better positioned to carry out its regulatory responsibilities, a functioning private sector and the necessary supporting personnel and infrastructure able to contribute to the combined objectives.

Significance of Public Private Partnership

In South Africa there are two poultry veterinary sectors, namely the public veterinary services (government) and private veterinary sector. Both of these sectors play a significant role in the country’s biggest and important sector in animal production, poultry. 

In the past recent years there have been concerns raised by the national poultry veterinary service, consumer groups and poultry producer groups that:

  • The demand for quality meat from consumer has been an on-going challenge;
  • Preventing and combating diseases nationally has been impossible to do it;
  • The public veterinary services have shown their limitations in providing the comprehensive animal health services needed for poultry development and is unable to reach all areas;
  • There has been limitation of area access for private veterinary services to assist in disease prevention;
  • The private sector has been providing new technological services to commercial producers only;
  • There has been price hiking and fraud;
  • There has been absence of clear safe trade based on scientific risk analysis;
  • Worrisome of enormous poultry import which is a threat to veterinary public health.

Through the concerns that were raised, it was evident that a lack of co-regulating relationship between the public and private sectors still exist, resulting in the compromise of food safety, animal health and welfare.

To address these problems, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) saw it fit to establish a veterinary component called the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) as link that would focus on the protection and health of the National Flock and also strengthen the relationship between the Public and Private veterinary services in addressing animal health issues collectively, The following are the four main areas or focus for the PDMA:

  • Food Safety through protection of public health, food and animal inspection;
  • Animals or animal products posing risk of spreading diseases;
  • Disease control through training of state veterinarians;
  • Disease reporting and surveillance.

The successful establishment of PDMA and its initiative role of developing a partnership between the Public and Private sectors have managed to combat poultry diseases. A clear compartmentalisation has been developed to:

  • Promote efficiency by exposing business and services to greater possible    competition, to the benefit of the consumer;
  • Even regular legislation;
  • Shift the overload of work from public sector;
  • Obtain the best value for each industry or service the government sells;
  • Collectively surveillance the main contagious diseases and report it;
  • Legal and policy framework for supporting Public Private Partnership (PPP);
  • Providing transparent reports to international bodies (OIE) and neighbouring countries collectively;
  • Train state veterinarians;
  • Host disease contact sessions for both state and private veterinarians;
  • Influence public veterinary policy and protocols planning and implementation;
  • Deliver high quality and effective services collectively;
  • Maintaining public support and funding;
  • Nationally standardise and compartmentalisation of bio-security as a disease preventative method.

Given the threat posed by poultry infectious diseases such as Newcastle as well as other zoonotic diseases in South Africa. The aim of co-regulating veterinary services would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of animal health care delivery and, consequently disease free poultry productivity, safeguard public health, and contribute to national development. The end result should be a public veterinary service better able to carry out its redefined responsibilities, a functioning private sector and the necessary supporting personnel and infrastructure able to contribute to the overall objective.

Focus on biosecurity in backyard and small-scale chickens

South Africa’s poultry represents an important sector in animal production, with backyard flocks representing the majority among villagers and small-scale farmers. These communities raise poultry to meet household food demands and an additional source of income.

For many of these biosecurity is a “BIG” word that makes one think of government intrusion, regulations and policies. However, biosecurity is a basic and fundamental requirement that anyone rearing chickens should be aware of if they want to protect their flock.

With no or limited biosecurity implementation, a backyard or small-scale poultry producer is at a high risk of infectious diseases, such as Newcastle disease, salmonella, and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). 

To prevent and avoid these infectious poultry diseases some of which are also a threat to human health, national flock health and the economy, there is a need to implement basic biosecurity measures in small scale back-yard chickens. Biosecurity should be a regulated standard measure, implemented in all production facilities or places that rear poultry. It is the cheapest and most effective method of disease control in poultry.

What is biosecurity? Biosecurity is a measure (method) implemented in farms (mostly commercial farms) to prevent the introduction and persistence of infectious agents through control of traffic (both humans and vehicles) proper and adequate sanitation and isolation of flocks, particularly young chicks. Biosecurity literally means provision of safety to living things. “Bio” refers to life and “Security” means protection. 

A year ago I was invited to a broiler farmer’s day in Polokwane. This was a day to educate and share information with small scale farmers on broiler production, management and disease prevention. I was given the opportunity to do a presentation on biosecurity as a form of disease prevention to a broiler producer community located in Kga-Matlala rearing and producing 5500 birds per week, weighing between 370-400g at slaughter.

  • To demonstrate the low biosecurity measures in these flocks, the broiler houses were located and fenced with residential houses.
  • There was no entrance gate for human and vehicle traffic control and restriction of movement of vehicles.
  • There was no control or records of the visitors and, no farm safety clothes and shoes.
  • Cooking of poultry and other poultry products take place on the farm.
  • No rodents, wild birds and foreign animals’ isolation programme existed on farm.
  • A mortality pit was not available.
  • The community consumed and sold birds that had dies from unknown diseases to people in the same community. Feed and bedding was not stored in a secure place.
  • The above are some very simple basic biosecurity measures that need to be implemented by the community.

Because community members never understood how an operational biosecurity works on a farm, I gave them some few importance points on bio-security looking at the following points.


  • To prevent entry of pathogenic organism into the farm
  • To avoid profit losses due to diseases
  • To protect human health

Benefits of bio-security:

  • Helps keep out diseases
  • Protects human health
  • Limits the spread of diseases
  • Improves overall health of the flock
  • Reduces mortality
  • Improves profitability

Three major biosecurity measures required to control the spread of diseases:

  • Isolation of birds in different houses and far away from contact with ordinary people
  • Traffic Control of both people and vehicles
  • Sanitation

Record keeping as part of a disease prevention biosecurity plan:

  • Who was on the farm?
  • When were they on the farm?
  • What brought them onto the farm?
  • Have they been on another poultry facility?

What should we do? Given the current disease status at poultry farms in South Africa many may agree on the importance of shifting focus, investing time and standardising policies on implementing operational biosecurity measures to small-scale and backyard farms through educational programmes and practical training. This is an urgent matter due to the numerous reports of new castle disease outbreaks in the back-yard poultry flock. In 2013 an outbreak of Newcastle disease from backyard flock was reported to the Poultry Disease Management Agency office through our engagement with the State Veterinarians. One to a lack of reporting and co-ordination, the disease has spread into some commercial farms, affecting the industry’s economy and production. Once an outbreak of infectious diseases like Newcastle disease occurs and the diseases become established and endemic in the country, it is very difficult to eradicate these diseases from the farm and the control is both time consuming and money costly. 

Poultry Disease Management Agency can start by having discussions on running the biosecurity programme for small scale poultry farmers through engaging and liaising with government’s animal health technicians and agricultural advisors, who work directly with the small-scale producers and backyard chickens farmers, to eventually help these farmers and protect the national backyard flock.

Given the threat posed by poultry infectious diseases such as Newcastle as well as other zoonotic diseases in smallholder poultry flocks, a comprehensive plan or programme to identify simpler and adaptive methods/ways of implementing biosecurity measures in the smallholder poultry flocks and educate farmers is required.

The solely purpose is to protect the National Flock through education, monitoring and management of diseases which threaten the health of the flock and food security.

By Malesedi Mokgoatlheng

Poultry Diseases Surveillance in the spotlight

Since most of you will be reading this edition at Avi Africa, I could spend time sharing the achievements and the challenges faced by the PDMA in the last year. However, since there will be many other opportunities to do that, I would like to take this opportunities to discuss a matter that is very close to my heart. I would like us to reflect about what we are doing individually and collectively to understand the disease situation in the country and how we can work together to start reducing the national disease burden.

We have launched a few initiatives that you may well be aware of. We are also working very closely with DAFF to ensure consistency in the work and also to employ the limited resources in the most productive manner. We wish to have the producers as active participants in all these processes and hope that you will send your contributions to make sure that these processes stay relevant to your needs.

1. Establishing the farm locations

In order to effectively fight diseases, it is essential that we have a good idea of where our poultry farms are. This also helps to mobilise the appropriate resources in an event of a major disease outbreak. We would like to thank you for your participation and as you can see from the diagrams below, we have made great strides in this regard and it is through all your inputs and commitment.

Figure 1: Map of farm locations based of 2013 coordinates

We have moved from having farms in the ocean, Mozambique, Lesotho and even further north to farms being limited to within the South African borders. This is indeed a great achievement and it will help with further projects. Obviously we will continue to make improvements to the information and get it as accurate and is humanly possible.

Figure 2: Map of farm locations based of 2014 coordinates

2. AI Surveillance changes and improvements

It is now a known fact that in order to demonstrate our freedom from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, we have mandatory biannual testing to be done by all farmers. The government is responsible for the testing of backyard and smallholder farms. The commercial farmers are responsible for testing of their own flocks. Most of you who do business in other country know the importance of such testing to maintaining your businesses with the trading partners. The importance of this cannot be over emphasised.

In the past, the routine surveillance protocol was embedded in the AI contingency plan, which those of you who have seen it would agree it is quite a cumbersome document, but still very important document. Since routine testing is conducted twice a year, it was decided that the surveillance protocol would serve the industry better as a stand-alone easily accessible document. It is also important to point out that even though our potential trading partners are only interested in H5 and H7, in South Africa, all avian influenzas are controlled diseases. This means that any positive influenza result has to be reported to the state vets.

It is for this reason that we have in the new protocol highlighted the need to start testing with a screening ELISA and then typing any positive results into whatever influenza that it may be. The positive results again need to be reported to the state vets. This is essentially for your protection so that we can keep track of the influenza circulating in the environment, including the ones that can potentially destroy the industry. It is also important to note that all kinds of influenzas are routines isolated in wild birds, meaning the threat is never far away as evidenced by the ostrich situation.

We would like to encourage you to keep testing and also to submit your test results to the local state vet and also to SAPA for record keeping. If there are any of you who have problems with identifying your local state vet, please let us know and we will assist with the connections. Most provinces are good with data submission, but there are some who in spite of spending money testing their flocks never submit the results to the state. This unfortunately has a grave impact on not only the province but the country as a whole, including other industries.

3. Food-borne Diseases Surveillance Project

As part of our continued collaboration with the department, the PDMA is working with DAFF VPH to develop a protocol for surveying the food-borne diseases. DAFF VPH in collaboration with the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute is rolling out a project to test beef, pork and poultry products for food-borne bacteria. We are working with them to develop the poultry testing protocol that will be used by both parties. The Onderstepoort Epidemiology Professors have been engaged to draft this protocol. This protocol we help to standardise the work done by industry as well as government. It helps to make better use of the limited resources. It will help to produce meaningful reports that will help the strategy for improving food quality and producing safe food for both parties.

Once the product testing has been perfected, the focus with shift to the farm testing to limited the transfer of pathogens from the farms to the forks. This project has already started and we hope to conclude most of it during the course of 2014. The same protocol will be used to monitor the imported products and also the products intended for the export markets. It is also envisaged that the protocol will be accepted by the retailers so that one standard testing can be conducted to satisfy all the retailers.

4. Mycoplasma Surveillance Project

I think we are in agreement that Mycoplasmas are probably the most important group of diseases in poultry due to their resilience and tendencies to stick around despite all efforts made to eradicate them from farms. Most producers have accepted that they are going to have to farm with Mycoplasma and make the best of a very difficult situation.

As recognition of this, Prof Celia Abolnik gained funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to conduct research into the local mycoplasma situation and working towards finding solution to the problem. The first stage of the project is to collect circulation field strains and doing full genome sequencing to establish the various types of strains, how they related to the available vaccines and also how they differ from area to area. This project kicked-off in April 2014 and we are working through the veterinarians to get the information in. The target populations are the table egg layers as well as all types of breeders. All producers are encouraged to take part in the surveillance so that we can start to work towards finding some solutions to the problem.

This phase of the project will run from April to September 2014. If there are any of you who wish to participate but do not have the services of a consulting vet, please contact the PDMA and we can link you up with either a poultry-trained state vet or one of the consulting vets in your area. This project is very important to the fight against mycoplasma and we really encourage you to participate so that we can start to make meaningful progress in the fight against the disease.

5. Laboratory collaboration for disease reporting

In 2014 during the Newcastle Disease outbreak, the PDMA received numerous requests for updates on the disease and how it was moving around the country. Unfortunately at the moment the PDMA relies on the producers and the veterinarian to submit the information. This has not worked very well thus far. In an attempt to get some data coming in and reports going out, we are looking at working with the laboratories to access the information. We will be signing an agreement with the department, which will enable us as the PDMA to collect the information and produce reports for the benefit of the industry at large. We will also be working to further develop the disease reporting tools further.

We acknowledge that these are very difficult times for the industry and we plan to focus on those things that will help the industry save money and still move forward. We believe that reducing the disease burden will go a long way in assisting because the more birds that one can sell, the more money one is able to make. I urge you to continue providing feedback that will enable us to stay on track and also employ these scarce resources for maximum output and results.