Strange cattle disease ravages herds, butcheries fingered in contaminated beef trade

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By Anna Chibamu

SOME abattoirs and butcheries are alleged to be taking advantage of an outbreak of an unknown cattle disease in some parts of the country to buy affected animals, slaughtering them and later selling the beef to unsuspecting customers in urban areas.

Unusual cattle deaths have been reported in Mhondoro district, Mashonaland West, Chihota in Mashonaland East and Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central province.

The disease, which is yet to be identified, is said to be similar to malaria in humans but the veterinary services department is yet comment on the matter.

Reached for comment, Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri on Friday referred questions to one Dr Obatole Ushewekunze whose phone was not reachable.

A farmer in Bindura who spoke to this publication said the disease is scary and the situation is disastrous in Mt Darwin-Chakari area and in farms around the mining town.

“We are not sure what this disease is but, it is similar to malaria in human beings. We are worried that this might spread to humans through the sale of beef by those operating butcheries. Cattle prices have decreased from around RTGS$500 to as little as 100 RTGS$ cash or RTGS$75 hard cash per beast. It is a disaster I tell you,” said the A1 farmer who chose to remain anonymous.

A medical doctor based in Bindura town who owns a farm in the surrounding areas also confirmed the unknown disease had been noticed among some cattle herds but farmers are still to understand the disease.

Zimbabwean herds have mostly been affected by foot and mouth or anthrax in recent years leading to some countries like Botswana suspending trade on beef due to fear of the diseases spreading into its territory.