Safeguarding livestock during seasonal movements


In the heart of our changing seasons, a hidden threat emerges, one that poses significant risks to both livestock and human populations. During seasonal movements, animals embark on their journeys in search of water, grazing, or to be traded, an opportunity arises for the spread of transboundary animal diseases (TADs) such as foot and mouth disease, peste des petits ruminants, and Rift Valley fever. The intricate dance of animal migrations across vast landscapes creates a complex tapestry, where diseases find new routes to propagate and thrive. 

Livestock, comprising cattle, sheep, goats, and more, become unwitting carriers of these diseases, their movements unknowingly contributing to the dissemination of pathogens. Foot and mouth disease, notorious for its rapid transmission and severe impact on cloven-hoofed animals, takes advantage of this interplay between different species. Peste des petits ruminants, affecting sheep and goats, and Rift Valley fever, with its zoonotic potential, find opportunity in the convergence of animals at shared water points and bustling markets.

The very spaces that enable livelihoods also become channels for contagion. The sight of animals traversing vast landscapes might seem idyllic, yet it masks the invisible menace that these movements facilitate. 

The movement of livestock in changing climates and uncertain regions creates a perfect storm for disease transmission.

Dr Néo Mapitse,
Head of the Regional Activities Department,
World Organisation for Animal Health.

As climatic shifts and geopolitical instability alter traditional movement patterns, animals from different regions and health statuses converge in ways that can drastically amplify disease spread. 

Amidst this hidden threat, there is hope. By empowering ourselves with knowledge and fostering cooperation, we have the means to protect both our cherished animals and the communities that rely on them. The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and its dedicated partners are leading the charge to raise awareness about the risks posed by TADs during seasonal pastoral movements.

Prevention and preparedness are our strongest allies in this battle. With timely risk assessments, we can stay ahead of potential outbreaks, enhancing our readiness to counteract disease threats. Increased awareness campaigns among stakeholders and communities ensure that information flows freely, equipping individuals with the tools needed to make informed decisions about livestock during seasonal movements. 

Central to this effort is the surveillance of animal gathering points and transit locations. By closely monitoring these key areas, we can swiftly detect any signs of disease and take immediate action, mitigating the chances of further transmission. Additionally, stakeholders’ cooperation during outbreaks is crucial; adherence to movement restrictions and guidelines set by authorities minimises the risk of inadvertently accelerating the spread of diseases. 

The changing seasons bring with them a challenge that demands our attention and collaboration. The harmonious movements of livestock across diverse landscapes should not mask the hidden threat of disease propagation. So, let’s unite to safeguard our livestock, preserve our livelihoods, and secure our future. By embracing knowledge, practicing vigilance, and fostering cooperation, we can overcome the challenges presented by transboundary animal diseases during seasonal movements.