Department of Production Animal Studies partners with the Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA) in support of continued development in the poultry industry
Posted on 28 August 2012
The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science has partnered with the poultry industry in a two-pronged approach to supporting continued development in the poultry industry. The poultry industry is a major contributor to the South African economy as well as to national food security. Poultry production accounted for 22.2% of all agricultural production and 45.5% of animal products in 2011
It is by far the largest single segment of South African agriculture, approximately twice the size of the cattle industry, which contributes 11.7% and 24.0% respectively. The combined gross poultry farm income for 2011 was R32.7 billion, up from 2010 by 5.3%. It is therefore self-evident that the poultry industry is critical to achieving the ‘zero hunger’ objective.
The first objective, namely to boost the research and postgraduate training capabilities of the University, has been achieved with the establishment of the Chair in Poultry Health and Production funded by the Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA). We are privileged to have attracted the skills of Dr Celia Abolnik as the first incumbent of the Chair. Celia holds a PhD and is a NRF-rated researcher with impressive research credentials in poultry diseases.
SAPA has also channeled funds towards increasing the Faculty’s research and diagnostic infrastructure. To this end, equipment to the value of R960 000 has been donated and is housed mainly in the laboratories of the Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases.
The second main objective is to boost the protection of the national flock through disease surveillance. This led to the creation of the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA). The PDMA is headed by Dr Charlotte Nkuna, a veterinarian with extensive experience in the poultry industry. The Agency’s strategic location within the Faculty will provide it with the ideal environment to engage with government and industry, and enable it to draw on the expertise available in various departments and faculties at the University. Specific activities include supporting disease control at the national level; developing disease monitoring programmes based upon industry priorities (such as Avian Influenza and Salmonella currently); developing a residue monitoring programme; designating veterinarians in the provinces to be able to assist the state in the event of poultry disease outbreaks; implement training programmes for state veterinary staff as agreed upon with the State; and deliver technical support to small scale poultry farmers.
All of these developments are funded by the industry levy paid by producers, demonstrating excellent bang for their buck given that these structures will benefit the industry in perpetuity by means of the impact on the knowledge base and on veterinary graduates. Activities of the Chair and the PDMA are overseen by a Poultry Management and Advisory Committee, with representation from both Faculty and SAPA.
The Chair and PDMA will work alongside the Department of Production Animal Studies’s poultry section headed by Dr Peter Smith. The recruitment process for a senior lecturer to complete the academic and research staff complement is also at an advanced stage, as is reorganisation of teaching within the Department to better utilise the high level of expertise at our disposal.
Mr David Hughes of SAPA said that the industry has the responsibility to ensure that the Universities and other related institutions are supported in order to guarantee the sustainability of the poultry industry, especially in terms of its survival and growth.
These new developments place UP in a strong position to increase its’ national and international profile, and the vets of the future will have a better perspective on the importance of the poultry industry. It is envisaged that the section will also be a major contributor to the research done by the Institute for Food, Nutrition & Wellbeing and other IRT’s, thereby contributing to national economic growth and food security.
Prof Pete Irons, Head of the Department of Production Animal Studies, summarised as follows: ‘Given these developments, not only will we have something to crow about, but also a good vantage point to do it from!’