Whilst livestock production plays an increasingly important role in the economies of most nations, it remains vulnerable to diseases. Between 2008 and 2011 South Africa experienced episodes of Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreaks. Losses of animals especially, sheep were widespread in the Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape provinces. Despite the knowledge that the RVF outbreaks in 2010 affected farmers negatively, no previous quantitative assessment has been conducted to establish the extent of this impact on farmers’ herds. This paper evaluated the influence of 2010 RVF outbreaks on sheep numbers using data that were obtained from a 2014 field survey of 150 farms in the most severely affected districts of the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State provinces. Farmers were asked to indicate their herd size, offspring rate, mortality rate and weaning rate before, during and after the outbreaks. The average performance parameters were checked against the provincial livestock numbers reported by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2013. Sheep numbers declined from 7.5 million in 2008 to 7.3 million in 2010, 6.2 million to 6.1 million, and from 4.9 million to 4.8 million in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Free State, respectively. The total financial value of sheep losses incurred by farmers in the three provinces during the 2010 outbreaks was estimated at R203.4 m.
Key words: Animal losses, financial losses, Rift Valley fever, sheep numbers, South Africa.
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